Once a semester, the Claremont Colleges enter the zombie apocalypse. Humans who wear bright orange bandanas around their arms flee from zombies, who sport the same bandanas around their heads. The human-hungry zombies attempt to tag — and thus infect — every remaining human, while the humans run for their lives.
Claremont Humans versus Zombies was a popular game that occurred every semester on campus, sometimes drawing upwards of 650 people, according to Santiago Rodriguez HM ’22, a Humans versus Zombies moderator this year. For one week, players would complete scavenger hunts, solve puzzles and, of course, run from zombies or tag humans.
For Rodriguez, it was always one of the highlights of his semester.
“You got to see so many people just engaged in the same thing as you, and it really added a nice break to just the normal school year,” he said.
Once school went online, the Humans versus Zombies moderators had to make a tough decision. Running the game virtually would be difficult because the in-person format did not easily translate online. However, the moderators still wanted to build and maintain the sense of community that the game created in person.
“We thought right now people could probably really use something where they could get to know each other, especially the [first-years] because they haven’t had this experience of being with people, getting to make friends,” Rodriguez said.
The moderators were still unsure whether an online event would be successful, but they decided they were game.
“We wanted to give the player base and new students something to look forward to over the weird times we’ve been experiencing throughout the online semesters,” Ryan Edmonds HM ’22, another Humans versus Zombies moderator, said. “We wanted to just put on some events to allow people to just hang out and have a good time and forget about classes for a bit.”
“We wanted to give the player base and new students something to look forward to over the weird times we’ve been experiencing throughout the online semesters.” —Ryan Edmonds HM ’22
The online version of Humans versus Zombies was a two-week-long “Olympiad” of online games run on Discord that ran from March 21 to April 3. Instead of focusing on survival, players tried to gain as many points for their team as possible. Every other day brought a night mission that consisted of synchronous games. On the days in between, players completed an asynchronous day mission and submitted their scores.
Before starting the game, the moderators correctly predicted they would have fewer players than they usually had due to factors such as Zoom fatigue. Additionally, for some students, such as player John Paul Ferrantino PO ’24, the timing of the night games conflicted with their schedules.
“The Zooms were always just times when I would stop procrastinating and finally start working on my homework, so it was just a bad time, but I know some people who went who had a good time,” Ferrantino said.
However, the moderators still felt pleased with the turnout for the game and how the game went overall. According to Edmonds, they met their goal of getting people to participate enthusiastically. Players such as Ferrantino echoed the moderators’ sentiments.
“I think it was a pretty good success; I mean it wasn’t perfect … but I think it was still a fun activity and definitely broke up the monotony and stress of online college life,” Ferrantino said.
Previous players, such as Aditya Ketan Khant HM ’21, also enjoyed the flexibility that the format offered them, especially compared to the in-person game.
“If you’re a human, you were kind of supposed to be in the [in-person] game like always, and sometimes with the schedule, it usually happens around midterm season,” Khant said. “Having the flexibility online to just join whenever I have the time … is really nice.”
Since the games were accessible and ran smoothly, players found that anyone who wanted to play could.
“[The moderators] made sure that none of the online games required special software or paying anything. They all gave very clear instructions on how to participate,” Ferrantino said. “I think that they actually took great pains to make sure that the competition was as inclusive and accessible as possible.”
Although the moderators are hoping to see a return to the in-person version of the game, the success of the online game also allowed them to explore potential additions to the game.
“There’s definitely an element of that [Humans versus Zombies] competitiveness that you couldn’t see in an online rendition, but I think that we’ve learned through the online format the fact that people do get excited about it. I think that gives us a chance to host events outside of the normal run time,” Edmonds said.
At the end of the two weeks, the game finished. The zombies won, keeping their 11-year streak.
“Props to the people who put it together … I appreciate the work that the mods put into making it work,” Ferrantino said. “Obviously, it wasn’t easy, and even though it wasn’t perfect, I think they still tried their utmost to make it a good time for everybody.”