Campus ministers – I have an event idea for you that will cause your university administration to get lots and lots of complaints.
“Why in the world would I be interested in hosting an event that garners lots of complaints?!?” you ask.
Trust me, you want the complaints – the more the merrier. The complaints are your friend.
What event idea am I talking about? A campus-wide game known as Humans vs. Zombies (or HvZ for short)- that’s what I’m talking about.
Humans vs. Zombies is a phenomena currently sweeping the nation’s college campuses (check out Bobby Ross Jr’s blog about it and this story from The Washington Post). It’s basically a gigantic game of tag made up of hundreds of participants (i.e. college students).
The rules are simple: in order to play, students must register by the deadline on the local game organizer’s custom website (provided by the national HzV organization). Registrants are then assigned a number that they’re required to right down and hold on to. As soon as the registration deadline is passed, the game starts.
The organizers (which you could be) are tasked with selecting a small number of registrants (2 or 3) to act as “OZs,” or “Original Zombies.” Everyone else starts out as a “human.” Once the game starts, humans are required to identify themselves by wearing a red bandana tied around their arm, and the zombies’ objective is to turn the humans into zombies by “feeding” on them (all they have to do to “feed” is tag them).
The original zombies have an advantage in the beginning of the game because nobody knows who they are when the game starts (they don’t have to identify themselves for the first hour or two of the game). Once a human becomes a zombie by being tagged, they have to stop wearing their bandanna on their arm instead wearing it on their head Rambo-style to identify themselves as a zombie (the OZs also have to wear a bandanna on their head after the first couple of hours when their covert time runs out).
But wait … it gets better. Humans have the ability to defend themselves if they’re carrying a “weapon.” If a zombie is coming after them, they can throw a wadded up pair of socks (i.e. a zombie grenade) at them, or shoot them with a nerf gun (if school administration says nerf guns are okay to use). If they score a hit, the zombie is out for fifteen minutes giving the human time to run away.
Zombies must “feed” – that is, tag a human – every 48 hours or they “starve” and are permenantly out of the game (zombies tend to be very motivated to tag humans because of this).
When a zombie “kills” a human (tags them), they’re required to take the registration number from the human they’ve tagged and enter it in to the host’s HvZ website. Once the kill is registered, the tagged person’s status goes from “human” to “zombie” on the website (so everyone knows who’s who – this game is much too large for the honor system).
Game organizers have the ability to determine where the game can be played and what areas are off limits. The game is always limited to the college campus – off campus is considered out of bounds – but certain areas on campus can be designated as safe zones (for instance, the inside of campus buildings can be designated as safe zones, but anywhere outside on campus is a play zone – game moderators determine this ahead of time).
I know what you’re thinking … “Yeah, that sounds like fun, Wes, but an afternoon game of tag can’t be that cool!”
Yeah, maybe an afternoon game of tag wouldn’t be that cool, but this is far from an afternoon game of tag … an HvZ game normally lasts for 4 to 7 days – 24 HOURS A DAY – an often starts at midnight on the first day.
That’s right – if you’re a human and decide to venture outside of your dorm room at 4am to wash your stinky undershorts, there may be a zombie lurking in the bushes just waiting to jump out and and “eat” you. You’d better go to the laundry room armed! Better yet, you’d better take some buddies who are still human with you, and they’d better have their zombie grenades and nerf guns on them because outside is dangerous!
Seriously though – normal, everyday campus life turns into an adventure when you’re playing HvZ.
It’s not uncommon to see groups of twenty or so humans roaming campus in the middle of the night with their nerf guns and wadded up socks “zombie hunting,” and it’s also not uncommon to see a human getting chased across the quad in the middle of the day by a group of a dozen zombies. It’s unsafe for humans and zombies alike to venture out alone!
During the play time organizers can create special missions, add corresponding events, whatever – organizers are encouraged to get creative with this.
Now you’re saying, “Okay Wes, that sounds pretty cool, but let’s go back to what you said in the beginning … you said this game will cause my school’s administration to get all kinds of complaints! Why would I be interested in a game that will cause the administration to get hassled?!?”
Good question, but as my friends who’ve hosted the game have told me, the complaints are nothing but a good thing. Why? Because the complaints won’t come from people annoyed you’re playing HvZ on campus – no siree. The complaints will come from people who really, really want to play HvZ (after they see how much fun it is) but missed the deadline to register and aren’t allowed!
I’m serious – this has already happened to two college minister friends of mine (Clint Hill – CIA Corpus Christi, TX; Lynn Stringfellow – CIA Tampa, FL) who hosted this game on their campuses. Their school administrators were flooded with complaints from people upset they weren’t allowed to play!
The result in both instances? The school admins asked each campus ministry leader to organize another round of this game later in the year and offered to pay to advertise it so everyone on campus would know about it and be able to register in time. Honest – this happened on two campuses independent of each other!
Both ministries had several hundred students participate in HvZ with them the first time, but they’re expecting more like a couple of thousand in the future with their school administrations’ help!
As they put it, hosting this event has been the best advertisement for their campus ministry they’ve ever had. One minister said 25 visitors showed up to his weekly campus Bible study because the students learned about their ministry and made friends with ministry members through playing HvZ. This game has also lead to individual Bible studies, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether playing a game where people pretend to be zombies that can lead to Bible studies is a good thing or a bad thing. :p
If you’re a campus minister blessed with a student organization, I encourage you to arrange for your club to host HvZ on your campus. Use it as a tool for your ministry members to build relationships with the students you interact with through the game. It may sound silly, but it’s really bearing fruit for those that have (check out this article written for The University of South Florida’s school paper – good ink).
If you’re interested in hosting a game, go here to get the details about what’s involved, and if you’re a campus minister who would like to talk to my friends who’ve already hosted this game, leave a comment expressing your desire to speak with them and I’ll see about putting you in touch.
It’s all about connecting people with Jesus, folks. We oughta use whatever tools available to us within reason to connect people to Him – even silly games like this one.
We had 463 play and it lasted 5 days. Ended with a “Root Beer Kegger/Sumo Wrestling” event where we held a giant war at the end. We put the remaining “Humans” in the middle of the field and the “Zombies” surrounded them and had at it for 10 min. This is the best thing we have ever done on campus.
Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama played a very similar game from 98-01…soooo much fun…but your students will fail to win the game.
We did an interesting take on this back when I was in school, in a Christian fraternity that (at the time) was running about 400 members and pledges. (This game has old roots, I believe, and may “officially” be called “Assassins” or something like that. Can’t remember.) We called it “Termination.”
Instead of having 2 teams, it was every man for himself. At the start, each player got the name of another player (and each name was used only once). Your “job” was to “kill” that person (hit ’em with a sock), at which point you got their target (and they were out of the game for good).
Ultimately, you’d only have 2 guys, each with each other’s names.
And we built in a “Grace and Peace to you” clause – if you saw a fellow frat brother and said that, and they returned it, nobody could kill each other. Because, of course, it would be a bummer if nobody in our fraternity ever wanted to talk to each other.
The differences from HvZ point to different purposes – the main one being that we did it to get to know some of the other guys in our humongous campus ministry. Often you would receive the name of someone you didn’t know, so you had to “get to know them” by name and sight (and class schedule or any other move that gave you their location).
Thanks a bunch for sharing this game, though, and for pointing to its fruitfulness.
[…] engaging students in play: Wes Woodell gives detailed instructions for playing “Humans vs. Zombies” – an interesting way to draw people to your group and have a good time, […]
HvZ: Now against the law at Kansas State Univeristy.
Aww … that stinks man 😐
[…] ministries have seen benefit from it, too, apparently! I blogged about it back in March, linking to Wes Woodell’s article about it. (I ran into RUF using it at OU this past semester, […]