Maryville Humans vs. Zombie disbanded from campus

Freshman Ashlyn Kralik (right) stretches out to tag a survivor as he makes reacts with an attempt to dodge the tag by throwing foam darts at her during Maryville’s Human vs. Zombies “Thunderdome” promotional preseason game Sept. 13.

Northwest’s branch of Humans vs. Zombies is being disbanded due to continuous issues with membership numbers.

Humans vs. Zombies is a game played globally that simulates a zombie apocalypse. According to the Humans vs. Zombies website, the game starts with one zombie who has 24 hours to tag as many humans as possible. Humans are equipped with Nerf guns, socks or marshmallow launchers they use for protection.

Northwest Humans vs. Zombies was founded in 2011 and began to see issues in 2013 when the University changed its policy on the use of Nerf guns on campus and banned the use of Nerf Blasters.

University police chief Clarence Green said the decision to ban Nerf Blasters on campus was in part fueled by an increase in mass shootings.

“They carry what they would call Blasters, Nerf guns, we didn’t allow them with all the mass shootings that are going on around the country and it (the ban) was at the same time that those were increasing and we were seeing more at schools and in higher education settings,“ Green said.

Green said the weapons were also causing issues on campus as they gave off the imagery of a possible mass shooting.

“It was creating a dangerous situation because we would have people jumping down behind cars when they would see the students running around campus with the Blasters,” Green said. “We had folks dodging them. Just a lot of panic over those incidents.”

Humans vs. Zombies President and senior Philip Kendall said the decision to disband was due to two main issues, membership and the ban. Kendall said the issue with membership is not a new one, but numbers got so low there was no way for the club to continue to function.

“We've been struggling to keep our numbers up for a couple years now, and if we don't have enough people that sign up, we can't really run our club properly,” Kendall said. “We've been kind of riding the line in the last few years and this year we for sure did not have enough, I just decided it would be better for us to just end it.”

Kendall said part of this low membership was due to the ban of Nerf Blasters.

“HvZ on other campuses can run numbers up to like 300 to 500,” Kendall said. “Our missions used to go to Iowa State and they had 500 members at one point and then their campus police band Blasters like they did here and then in less than a year the numbers dropped to 60. So ours happened on a much smaller scale over a little bit longer period of time, but eventually, it just got to the point where nobody was interested in playing if we didn't have Nerf Blasters.”

There were attempts to recruit members, Kendall said people often did not want or have the time to join the club.

“People know what we are. People have heard of HvZ, but just whenever you ask somebody if they want to play or not, it's always ‘If you don't have blasters, no,’” Kendall said.

“Or, ‘No, I don't have time for that.’ Or, ‘That sounds really cool, but I don't think I would do it,’ you know, just some excuse every time as to why they just didn't want to always happened.”

Humans vs. Zombies Safety Officer and junior Rachel Francisco said she has made a lot of relationships through the club and is going to miss having that ability to connect with people.

“It's something that we considered a rite of passage for freshmen to go through and experience because it's something that is a way to let loose," Francisco said. “That was kind of lost over the years because of everything. But meeting those people and gaining those friendships is what I'm going to miss probably most.”

Kendall said it would be difficult for the club to come back at this point.

“Not unless they lift the ban on Blasters, because it was hard enough to continue going when we already had a player base and our name was out there, but now if they tried to come back from nothing it would be a big task,” Kendall said. “They would have their work cut out for them for sure.”

The University Police Department and Humans vs Zombies did work together but Green said, in the end, there was no way they could go on allowing Blasters on campus.

“They have reached out to us and we tried to work it out,” Green said. “But, there was limited room for negotiation because we have to look out for the safety and security of the entire campus. Having folks with bulk items running around campus was not good. You can call them Blasters, but they have the imagery of weaponry and that was creating a phobic type of response in our community, and it just wasn’t worth it.”

Francisco agreed with Kendall saying that it would be hard for the group to come back because they have done everything they can to keep the group up and running.

“It's very unlikely we have tried everything imaginable,” Francisco said. “I mean it has been a long fought battle to try and get Blasters back on campus. We've probably seen almost antagonistic towards the UPD because we just kept trying and trying to push this. But, the stories kept changing about why they had put this ban in place and it's just, it's a mess, so we decided to let the battle go.”

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