Oberlin Blogs

Zombies on campus

September 17, 2011

Tess Yanisch ’13

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.

Nerf guns
My guns--told you they were tiny!
NErf gun the size of a hand
In my hand for size-comparison purposes.
Tanktop, shorts, and nerf guns

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 guns on a ping pong table


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 . . . .

The guns fill the entire table

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.

Someone plays the guitar next to the table

Then I figured out how to make my camera stop making things look yellow, and Kevin tried to be fierce.

The guitar player close up
Kevin is a chronically friendly Oberlin native. Fierce does not come naturally to him.
The guitar player poses with the guitar
There we go.
Side view of table

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.

A student poses with a nerf gun
Chris in a badass pose.


A nerf gun on the ground


Weapons ready.




A student looks at a nerf gun


I include this shot only because it looks awesome. Kevin is insubstantial!



Students inspect nerf guns

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.

Two students hold nerf guns
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):

Students hold guns in a hallway



Students hold nerf guns in a hallwa




Pictures from the action follow.

A student shoots a nerf gun


 student hides behind a trash bin


A student dodging a bullet


 student shoots the gun


A student shoots a nerf gun

Being able to pop out of the racquetball courts was an interesting twist. So were the big rolls of canvas, which provided some shelter.

A student hides


A student hides


A student hides


Nerf bullets litter the floor
The aftermath.

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:

Nerf guns on a ping pong table

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.

A shirtless student with a mask on


Connor as starting zombie. "Oh s**t" is a reasonable response here.


A student holds two nerf guns

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.

A student plays dead on the ground

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.

The student playing dead in a corner
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.

Responses to this Entry

The fellow who's name you can't remember is named Simon. Nice pictures. Sad I missed the zombie conga line.

Posted by: Your RA on September 17, 2011 7:16 PM

Oh right! Dangit, I knew that. >_

Posted by: Tess on September 17, 2011 8:14 PM

Is that an extremely long scope on pictures 10,16,17,18,or something else?

Your loving(not)brother,

Posted by: Blake on September 17, 2011 10:24 PM

Actually, I believe it's a blow gun attached to the weapon. Cool, eh?

Posted by: Tess on September 18, 2011 12:25 AM

Oh, wait, I see. it's a blowgun, right?


Posted by: Blake on September 18, 2011 12:29 AM

Typical. Just typical. I spend ages figuring it out, and while I'm writing, you have to respond. I'll say it again. Typical


Posted by: Blake on September 18, 2011 12:32 AM

Sorry, kiddo. ;)

Posted by: Tess on September 18, 2011 12:53 AM

That's Sir Kiddo to you.

Posted by: Blake on September 18, 2011 3:06 PM

Then that's "Oh Most Wonderful Sibling Who Regales Me With Tales of College Splendor and Teaches Me Nerf Lore and For Whom I Shall Bake Many Cookies When Next She Honors Me With Her Presence" to you, good Sir Kiddo. ;)

Posted by: Tess on September 18, 2011 3:12 PM

Oh, Shut up.

Posted by: Blake on September 18, 2011 4:10 PM


Posted by: Tess on September 18, 2011 5:23 PM

I can't decide whether I like the blog post or the comment banter more. You guys are adorable.
(Waaaah, I wish MY brother would comment on my blogs.)

Posted by: Ida on September 19, 2011 10:00 AM

Show him this! Goad him into teasing you publicly on the Internet. :)

Posted by: Tess on September 19, 2011 10:43 AM

Yesssss nerf finally made it onto the blogs. Wild success!

I also agree with Ida that this comment banter is awesome :D

Posted by: Ma'ayan on September 19, 2011 3:52 PM

Nerf is the best!

You hear that, Blake? We make a good team. :D

Posted by: Tess on September 19, 2011 4:12 PM

Yes, I heard(or rather, saw), Oh Most Awful Sibling Who Totally Bores Me With Tales of College Idiocy and Teaches Me Dumb Stuff and For Whom I Shall Not Bake Any Cookies When Next She Defiles Me With Her Disgusting Presence.


Posted by: Blake on September 20, 2011 2:08 PM

Oh, it is ON, squirt. It is ON.

--The Wonderful, Incredibly Tolerant, Goddess-Like Sister Who Bequeaths to You All The Necessary Skills and Equipment for Being An Awesome Kid Such as Spy Motion Detectors and Klutz Books, Who Has an Anti-Water-Balloon Forcefield You Cannot Hope to Rival, and Who You Know Deep in Your Heart You Actually Like A Lot And Who You Know Likes You, And For Whom You WILL In Fact Bake Cookies When Next She Enters Your Time Zone.

Posted by: Tess on September 20, 2011 2:31 PM

Bring it!!

The Wonderfully, Incredibly Intolerant,Non-Goddess-Like Sister Who Thinks You Beneath Her Who Teaches You Unnecessary Skills and Gives You Excruciatingly Painful Equipment Be An Annoying Kid(which I don't want to be, by the way) Such as Spy Motion Detectors(hey, I bought those with my own money, you have no legal claim to them) and Klutz(yup, that's my sister all right)Books, Who Has an Anti-Water-Balloon Forcefield You Can Totally Rival By Rolling On The Ground(true, by the way) and Who You Know Way Up At The Top Of Your Heart You Dislike A Lot And Who You Know Dislikes You, And For Whom You WILL NOT In Fact Bake Cookies When Next She Enters Your Time Zone.

Posted by: Blake on September 20, 2011 3:56 PM

*shakes head* Blake, Blake, Blake. Your response is very muddled. You're editing my signature and adding on to it yourself and it's very difficult to tell from whose point of view it's supposed to be written. I expected better of you, truly I did. But perhaps that is a failure in my training of you. Null point.

If the equipment is painful for you to use, you clearly aren't using it right and are unworthy to be the heir to my knowledge. Also, that phrase just doesn't make sense. Point to me.

The motion detectors that beep--the three in the one kit, with the central controller that shows which one is going off--those were originally mine. Then I generously bequeathed them to you because I was running out of closet space. The ones that fire darts are cool, but do not have a master computer. Point to me, plus a penalty to you for not remembering what is whose.

I was referring to the Klutz line of books, as you know full well, including the one with the paper popper instructions and How to Sneak Around. You can't claim you don't like it; you've used it far too much for that. Point to me.

Saying we dislike each other is just mean. Keep it funny or there's no art in it, honestly. You're the tease-master; I know you can do better. Unless, by resorting to cruelty, you are admitting defeat?

Of course, if you stay in this battle of wits, you stand to win a great prize: the great honor of baking me chocolate-mint-chocolate-chip cookies when I come home next.

*innocently bats eyelashes*

--Hey, everyone else? We really don't hate each other. This is how we show affection. Honest.

Posted by: Tess on September 20, 2011 4:47 PM


1. Fallacious arguments abound, I see. Sad it is that Oberlin has not well taught you.

2. Spy equipment bequeathed to Blake is ipso facto Blake's spy equipment.

3. Klutz is as Klutz does.

4. I get ALL the cookies.

--The High Goddess of Boggle

Posted by: Anonymous on September 20, 2011 8:40 PM

Oh Great Goddess, to Whom I am but a minor deity and Who is of course right in all things She says, especially about ownership of spy equipment and my own klutziness--and Whom I have beaten at Boggle occasionally but Who, of course, retains her title over utter whompage in overall game scores--

Might I have at least one of the cookies?

Posted by: Tess on September 20, 2011 10:02 PM

lsakdjfsfdjsk this comment thread is the best

Posted by: Ida on September 22, 2011 12:00 PM

Thanks, Beth! I think you'd like Sci-Fi Hall (and vice versa).

Posted by: Tess on October 5, 2011 9:00 AM

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