No, this post is not about the effects of sleep deprivation on the college life. It is not a metaphor in any way. I am being dead (ho ho) serious.
On the other hand, the dead at Oberlin are not, so far as I know, walking. The title refers to a game--a game involving courage, strength, cunning, and lots and lots of Nerf guns.
Every September, Oberlin puts on a collection of activities designed to improve student fitness and awareness about Oberlin's resources in that area. Some of them are pretty basic--weight room orientation, open swim, yoga sessions, and so on--but there are also some very clever ones. Certain events may be suggested or sponsored by various student organizations, including theme halls, which explains why I found this on the schedule of events:
7:30-9:00p, Philips Main Gym
Humans v Zombies - Join Sci-Fi Hall in a game of Humans vs. Zombies. It's a battle between two teams, one with weapons and one without. The team without weapons consists of zombies who attempt to tag members of the other team. The armed team consists of humans who, when tagged, become zombies. When a human shoots a zombie, the zombie must return to their side to re-spawn before they can attack again. Generally, at the beginning, there are about five humans to every zombie. The game ends when all the humans have been turned.
The "weapons" this blurb mentions are of course Nerf guns. Lots of people on Sci-Fi Hall have their own Nerf arsenals, ranging in size from my two tiny one-shot pistols to Kevin's stock of five or six full-sized weapons (which has to be transported in a laundry basket) to Connor's cache of various sizes and styles (stored in a midsized athletic bag and a cardboard box). There is also a more-or-less communal supply of darts. ResEd actually supplied several new Nerf guns for the purposes of this game.
On the night of the game, I prepared myself for battle, both in terms of fighting and in terms of documenting the fight.
My guns--told you they were tiny!
In my hand for size-comparison purposes.
Above is my Nerf outfit. The shorts are actually men's running shorts that I usually wear while lifeguarding. They are lightweight, cool, and dry quickly, which is why they're great around water. What makes them also ideal for Nerf is that they are lightweight, cool, and have enormous pockets for carrying ammo and small backup weapons.
I wandered through the halls of Philips until I met this lovely sight:
Nerf isn't usually held in a big room (like the gym itself would be); there's no cover and, conversely, it's too much space--you're not terribly likely to hit anyone. Hallways are good. This particular hallway was especially interesting. There are racquetball courts behind the tiny doors you see in some of these photos. On the second story, over our heads, is another hallway from which one can look down into the courts. We could access this second story from either end of the hallway, meaning one can sneak up behind the other team or see if they're hiding in the courts themselves. Once we started playing Zombies, we tried to hide a cache of weapons in some of the courts; they're a good place to fall back to once there are only a few survivors.
About those weapons . . . .
You can see my little guns on the far right; next to them are many, many Mavericks, the eight-dart revolvers that are the most reliable workhorses of any Nerf arsenal; behind my guns are (I think) two Long Strikes. Behind them are other guns whose models I don't know. Some of them have been painted. We take our Nerf very seriously at Oberlin.
Then I figured out how to make my camera stop making things look yellow, and Kevin tried to be fierce.
Kevin is a chronically friendly Oberlin native. Fierce does not come naturally to him.
There we go.
More pictures of Nerf guns. The two big ones, Vulcans, are battery-powered. (I donated some of the batteries.) The blue one to the right of the net is a Raider.
Chris in a badass pose.
I include this shot only because it looks awesome. Kevin is insubstantial!
We didn't want to jump straight into Zombies, so we started with a round of Death Match (basically dodgeball with Nerf guns). People double-check their weapons and lift them in the air to show what they've got. The team captains pick accordingly. This assures that the teams will be fairly balanced in terms of firepower. In some versions, you get a limited number of "respawns": when you get hit, you can go back to your starting end, slap that wall, and get a new life, up to three or five or whatever-number-you-chose respawns. You often don't feel it when you get hit (unless it's at really close quarters), so we play on the honor system: people call their shots, and if someone says you're down, you're down. Hits on the hand and gun don't count. Hits to the face, unfortunately, do (I say "unfortunately" because I have a habit of catching darts to the cheek).
I sat the first round out and played war correspondent, meaning I scrambled around taking pictures and trying not to get in the way of people's shots, and they tried not to hit me.
Kevin and David, team captains.
The captain who did not get first pick gets to choose which side of the hallway they want to start at. This makes more of a difference in some hallways than others. In this one, it didn't really matter.
The teams (slightly blurred and pixillated, unfortunately):
Pictures from the action follow.
Being able to pop out of the racquetball courts was an interesting twist. So were the big rolls of canvas, which provided some shelter.
Then we settled down to the serious business of playing Zombies. I don't have many photos of that, since I was actually playing, but here are a few of the preparations:
When there are zombies coming at you, you don't have much time to reload. Before you start, then, it is essential to have all your weapons loaded, cocked, and ready to fire, and all your extra drums and magazines filled with darts.
Connor as starting zombie. "Oh s**t" is a reasonable response here.
I don't remember this guy's name (sorry!) but he is ready to take those brain-eaters DOWN. Actually, we didn't use the Vulcans until the very end, when there are one or two humans left; they're good for dramatic last stands.
It takes a long time for the zombies to get their first victim, because you can have several people guarding every avenue of approach and tagging them when they get close. Strategy tip: don't fire until they're close enough to hit easily and call it if you're going to fire so not everyone does; you conserve ammo this way.
Once the zombies get people, of course, the ratios begin to change dramatically: not only is there one fewer human, there is one more zombie, and you are all that much closer to being screwed. If you have melee weapons (Nerf swords or axes), you can use those when you're down to two or three survivors; they keep the zombies at bay better than guns do, because one bullet can't stop an entire swarm, but flailing with a sword can, at least for a little while. One time, through very good hiding skills and letting the bolder people get caught first, I became last person standing. The last person standing becomes the first zombie in the next round. I wasn't as good at that because hiding skills don't help you capture people standing in a circle in a well-defended area.
This was our last survivor. He holed up in one of the racquetball courts with a Vulcan and held us off for one attack wave. Then we came in a conga line and overwhelmed him. It was dramatic, tragic, and silly.
Cue the sorrowful violin solo.
Then he became our starting zombie and we played again. David was the last survivor that time. His last stand was a charge down the hallway with the Vulcan, spraying a hail of darts everywhere. Somehow they all missed me and I (a zombie, of course) reached out and grabbed him as he went by. Later he said it must have been meant to be, an act of God, because I should've been nailed before he got that close. I think it's more because he was shooting at the people in front of me. Either way, his doom was inevitable: the zombies always, always win in the end.
After the game, we cleaned up all the spent darts, separated out the arsenal into each person's possessions, and carried it all back to Sci-Fi Hall--and I went online and bought a high-power, one-shot gun called the Nite Finder. Next on my list is an Alpha Trooper. And then I'll need extra clips--or better yet, drums--for it . . . .
Nerf mania is even harder to stop than zombies.