For the past few weeks, a bloody sign has hung above Hamilton “Ham” Center’s dining area. It reads “Quarantine: Zombie Outbreak,” warning of the upcoming infection, marked by paranoia, that will inevitably run its course. Held every year before Halloween, NCF Zombies is essentially a week-long, intricately contrived game of tag. Throw in a series of checkpoints and story feats, a complicated point system, a bunch of predetermined safe zones, a creative story, and, yes, maybe even an army of zombie-killing commandos, and the campus erupts into a full-scale quarantine.
Apparently, according to game’s website, a shipment of night-blooming Moonlight Cacti arrived for a thesis project on Oct. 10. Those who opened the package were immediately sent to the Counseling and Wellness Center, but they were soon “mysteriously” released.
Sun., Oct. 26
Students had been conducting planning operations for days in order to prepare for what was about to happen. Various retailers sold out of spray bottles. Compact water guns found their way into mailboxes. Competitors exchanged life-expectancy bets.
It began at 3 a.m.
The first story feat, a way to gain extra points in the game, was titled “There When It Started.” A viewing party for the night-blooming cacti congregated at the Heiser Natural Sciences building. An uncontrollable frenzy erupted. And the game started.
By brunch in Ham, a swarm of zombies occupied a single table, hunting their prey. Some zombies strategized, tricking unlucky humans upon their entrance into the mailroom. In the afternoon hours, it was clear what the survivors were doing: hiding in their dorms.
But they could not hide for long. In order to stay in the game, humans are required to attend daily checkpoints throughout the week. “Angels in the Outfield,” fittingly held at the baseball fields, marked the first checkpoint. Of course, the zombies, who frantically ran throughout the surrounding open area, did not make it easy for the humans. The key to survival was safety in numbers. The second story feat, “Bones Ball,” proved a victory for humans, who had to defend first, second and third base from the charging zombies.
Mon., Oct. 27
“I slept in my car because all of the groups of people I was with died,” first-year Jace Johnson said. “I’ve had everything I need in my backpack so that I can literally sleep everywhere. Like I hopped between like two or three different rooms yesterday.”
The paranoia spread faster than the disease. The trek to classes is arguably the scariest aspect of NCF Zombies for humans. Even though classrooms are safe zones, once humans step outside of the fixed area, they are up for grabs.
“The pressure is kinda unreal,” Johnson continued.
Tues., Oct. 28 – Thurs., Oct. 30
Almost everyone stayed alive during the previous day’s story feat, “The Tower Defenders” at Z-Tower. However, the checkpoint “Blood Harvest” at the greenhouse took many human group leaders’ lives. Humans avoided returning to their dorms; zombies rampaged the overpass. Large operations on social media for both sides were keeping players interconnected at all times.
“The humans actually have a massive communication pathway through Snapchat and Facebook,” Johnson said. “I’ve become friends with so many random strangers at this school, like some of the people I’ve been surviving with I have never even seen before.”
The next three checkpoints, “Dead Air,” “Hellfire” and “Starved For Help,” and the next two story feats, “Crash Course” and “Never Roam Alone,” intensified the situation and took a toll on the human population.
Fri., Oct. 31
Halloween, and the last day of NCF Zombies, arrived. By this time, only six players, out of over 208, were still alive. The rest turned long ago.
The final checkpoint, “No Time Left,” was held at Caples Campus. Within the action, someone broke what seemed to be a foot but continued to play. A few lives were spared.
In the end, three humans survived. All of them were first-year students, including Johnson as the top human. The top zombie was Brendan Legel. By then the zombie population had swarmed the campus, successfully spreading the infection to almost every player.
“Zombies was something really special to me my first year. I wasn’t all that active socially since I didn’t party, but I was accepted to the game with open arms and it gave me a chance to really make some great friends. When I won, I was like… ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it. I think my passion for the game, or at least how I saw everything in my head, was what drove me to accept the responsibility of running it. I wanted everyone to see NCF Zombies the way I saw NCF Zombies. The hardest part of the position I think was being the referee and making calls regarding contestations- pretty much deciding a human’s fate by the information that was presented to me. The story, however, was definitely one of the most fun parts. I had a great time writing a plot to this year’s Zombies and I feel like it was generally well-received. Overall, I don’t regret it.
I really couldn’t be prouder of the game. We got over 208 people to sign their names and play, and I think at the end of the day everybody had a good time.”
-Second-year Kyle T. Johnson, Zombies Game Master
The overwhelming and constant nature of NCF Zombies inevitably causes controversy on campus every year. Unfortunately, there is always those few who are inconsiderate, breaking the rules, twisting the game and making it unfairly disruptive for non-players. In order to objectively address these concerns, here is a brief explanation of the game’s rules from information outlined on the website.
Gameplay: Humans wore red wristbands and zombies wore green wristbands. Zombies tagged humans to turn them into zombies and humans attempted to survive as long as possible. Wristbands must have been visibly displayed at all times in order to differentiate among players and non-players.
Main rules: Players were not supposed to use any type of transportation, motorized or not, to influence the game or endanger anyone. Basically, messing or interacting with cars during gameplay, 15 minutes before and after a story feat, and 30 minutes before and after a checkpoint was not allowed. No one should have, obviously, broke the law, which entailed entering someone’s room without permission or entering illegal areas (the construction zone). Staying away from high places, and not harming a single, real human being was required. Metagaming and “being an ass” was also not authorized.
Safe zones: “Safe zones are essentially in another universe in which Zombies is not taking place.” These were areas where gameplay could not occur. The list of safe zones were as follows: Hamilton “Ham” Center dining area (during serving hours), the convenience store, the band room, the NCSA office, the Blackbox, Sudakoff, Sainer, “inside any building in which classes are taught at any time,” all of the library, the mac lab, offices and administrative buildings, town meetings, Four Winds, Fitness Center and pool, the overpass and ramps, players’ workplaces, active checkpoints, and blood drives/STD testing. “A safe zone is considered any place in which playing Zombies interrupts the fundamental purpose of New College.”
Weapons: Humans used squirt guns that never held anything but water, looked nothing like a firearm, could not hurt someone, shot water, had no pumping mechanism, and had water within the actual apparatuses, such as no hoses, to defend themselves. Spraying non-players was NOT permitted. Zombies could merely use their hands.
Perspective players under 18 had to sign a liability waiver. If found breaking a rule, a player was disqualified.
Conclusively, the take-away is that the rules are set-up to not infringe on non-players; however, it is difficult to control those few who decide to ignore those rules.
Information for this article was taken from ncfzombies.tumblr.com.