Humans vs. Zombies vs. suits
By Emily L. Mross
INDIANA - On March 21, 2009, scores of students wearing headbands bearing the letters "HvZ" wandered the campus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. They were playing a game called Humans vs. Zombies.
Erica D. Ritenour, 20, a junior English major and IUP HvZ secretary, said 77 students participated in that first run of the game on IUP campus.
"I saw a Facebook group about HvZ that my friends created," said Ritenour during a March 29 interview in the lounge of Leonard Hall. "It looked cool, so I decided to find out more."
Ritenour said Brittany A. Viens, a sophomore English major and IUP HvZ president, started the first game after seeing the official HvZ Web site.
IUP HvZ's problems began when two players in the first game broke a rule against entering campus buildings.
"A human player tried to escape a zombie player in Foster," said Ritenour.
The players ran into the kitchen of the campus dining hall and then to the basement, said Ritenour. Things got knocked over. Staff members were disrupted.
University police were called. No one was arrested, Ritenour said. But university administrators asked them to stop playing HvZ.
In fall 2009, players decided to make HvZ an official student organization on campus, said Ritenour. If HvZ became a club and the university had a say in the rules, they might be able to play again.
"We met with administration and university police," said Ritenour. "Our group has been approved. But we can't do things."
The main thing that HvZ can't do is actually play the game. While not banned, the game cannot resume on campus until administrators approve new rules, according to Michael K. Nelsen, a sophomore political science major and IUP HvZ vice president.
Club officers and a few players met with Terry Appolonia, associate vice president for student development and dean of students, on Feb. 24.
"He suggested we play off-campus during the week, and said maybe we could have weekend games in the Oak Grove," Ritenour said.
HvZ is receiving guidance from faculty and administrators to improve the rules for IUP, said Nelsen.
"The university wants a method of trial and feedback on the game," said Heather H. Powers, HvZ adviser and English professor, during an April 12 interview in her Keith Hall office.
She said the process of getting the game running again was a teaching experience.
"I want them to learn how to fight for what they want productively," Powers said.
Appolonia, via e-mail March 31, declined to comment on HvZ at IUP.
Kate Linder, associate dean of Students for Student Life and Community Engagement, said she met with HvZ student executives in the spring and fall of 2009.
"The message was not, 'You absolutely cannot play the game,'" said Linder during an April 15 phone interview. "There are things that need to be addressed for safety."
Student safety and the limitation of disruption are two main issues for administrators, said Linder.
"At other universities, the game spans several days and does not have a limitation on location," Linder said. "That has the potential for disruption to others on campus."
Another university concern involves tagging methods.
In the official rules, NERF guns may be used by human players. But Linder said no lookalike weapons are allowed on campus.
"If they have a NERF gun that says HvZ on it, you would think no one would confuse that with a real gun," said Linder. "But that is just the culture we live in."
Linder said the group members are enthusiastic about finding a common ground between safety and fun so that the game can be played.
"They are passionate," said Linder. "And I appreciate that."
Linder also said all contact with HvZ has been "respectful, civil dialogue."
"They were very regretful of the dining hall incident. They said, 'That shouldn't have happened.'"
Courtesy and civility have been priorities for the players and their adviser.
"I remind them to keep calm and keep a positive attitude," said Powers. "But is this being done to discourage them? It's hard to tell."
The players are not discouraged.
Student support for the game is found on Facebook. Roberto A. Rodriguez, a sophomore criminology major who played in the first IUP run, created a group, Students for the Approval of HvZ at IUP, in February before the meeting with Appolonia.
Players see no reason why HvZ cannot work at IUP.
"The game operates on dozens of campuses without incident," said Nelsen. "I'm disappointed that one bad thing left a bad taste in the administration's mouth. They want to keep the game as contained as possible."
Nelsen said he is in charge of public relations for the group. He has been interviewed on IUP-TV and in the campus newspaper The Penn. He said he hoped the publicity will help people see the game for what it is -- fun.
"College is really the last time you can behave like this and blow off steam," said Nelsen. "It's childish crap. The best kind of it."
Ritenour said she hopes to have a full-day game at Mack Park, an off-campus recreation area between Carter Avenue and North Sixth Street, though no date is set. She said up to 300 people could play in that run.
Nelsen said he thinks a zombie walk, an event where people dress and behave like zombies while traveling between two predetermined destinations, would be good for sparking interest in IUP HvZ.
But officers remain unsure of what the future holds for IUP HvZ.
"It's up in the air right now," Nelsen said.
Emily L. Mross, a junior majoring in journalism and English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Bartonsville.
Sidebar: For More Information
For more information on this story, contact the following sources:
IUP Humans vs. Zombies
A group of students who play the tag-style game Humans vs. Zombies. Check in with the group at its Facebook page, Students for the Approval of HvZ at IUP
Brittany A. Viens, HvZ president
Mike K. Nelsen, HvZ vice president
Erica D. Ritenour, HvZ secretary
Heather H. Powers, HvZ adviser
Center for Student Life
Vice president for student affairs
Associate dean of students for student life and community engagement
307 Pratt Hall
Sidebar: To Get Involved
Center for Student Life
The Center for Student Life is a main point of contact for student organizations.
Pratt Hall, Room 303
201 Pratt Drive
Indiana, PA 15705
Student Government Association
All student organizations must be approved by SGA to receive financial support from student-activity-fee revenues.
212A Hadley Union Building