By Elizabeth Zakaim
It’s mid-April, and spring is in the air –– but that’s not all. Students dodged Nerf darts flying through the sky and crowds of zombies skirted around campus as products of TCNJ Manhunt’s various shenanigans.
On Saturday, April 21, Manhunt held its annual day-long Humans vs. Zombies event throughout the College’s campus. The event was open to students, people from other colleges and residents of the greater Philadelphia area.
Two men, John Barrineau Jr. and A.J. Shepard, both from Philadelphia, were excited to participate in this year’s games.
“We just generally enjoy having a lot of fun with Nerf,” Barrineau said.
Both Barrineau and Shepard are part of a Nerf group called ‘PhilaNerfia.’
“It’s a lot more fun than sitting at home playing Xbox,” Barrineau said.
Shepard was also happy to include some physical activity into his daily routine.
“We like to get out and exercise outside, so that it’s not all sitting in the house,” Shepard said.
Exercise and fun were the two aspects most students were looking forward to, and was what made Maggie Paragian, a junior communication studies major and president of TCNJ Manhunt, excited about organizing the event.
“This event is meant to bring together people who normally wouldn’t interact with Nerf and varying themes,” Paragian said. “We designed about five or six missions with the capacity to change them while in the game.”
The object of the game is for the humans to defeat the zombies and survive. Humans can “stun” zombies by shooting them with Nerf guns or hitting them with sock flails, and if a zombie gets “stunned,” they must stay frozen for a designated period of time before continuing to tag more humans. However, if a human was tagged by a zombie (who were made known by the bright orange band around their arms), they had only a few seconds before they were turned into the brain-eating monsters themselves.
Only four students were assigned to be zombies at the beginning of the game, but their numbers grew quickly as they tagged humans struggling to make it out of each mission alive.
Sam Brandt and her girlfriend Sarah VanClef, both graduates of Fairleigh Dickinson University, visited the campus to take part in the day’s events. Brandt helped VanClef arm herself with bands and weapons before the game started.
While it was VanClef’s first time participating in Manhunt, she was glad to be a part of a community that Brandt loves so much.
“I’m nervous and terrified, but (Brandt’s) a big deal in the Nerf community … so I was like ‘I can’t knock it until I try it,’” VanClef said.
Brandt, whose gameplayer name is Archer, is a long-time Manhunt player. As founder and president of Women of Nerf, an all-female Nerfing community, she’s traveled to different states and taken part in all sorts of Manhunt-style games.
“I’ve been doing this for five years,” Brandt said. “There are events all over.”
The humans’ first mission, set in western Siberia, required the humans, members of the U.N. peacekeeping force, be vigilant of any “skirmishes” or suspicious activity. A few fellow humans on their patrol have vanished, and the group has been confronted by confusing intel from Command –– something was coming for them, but they didn’t know what it was. They gripped their Nerf guns and added more sock flails to their arsenal.
The humans had to gather food rations, ammunition and blood samples from the area before they were put into any more danger. The team of humans scuttled across the cold plains of Siberia (the lawn in front of the Music Building) locating what supplies they could, but many fell victim to the imminent attack of their howling zombie counterparts. The first mission ended in less than 10 minutes and the zombies had already doubled in number.
“The increase of zombies makes it easier to make formations and more tactics,” said Brandon Unda, a former student at FDU. “But now that we have a decent squad, ambushes are a thing now.”
The team of humans had little time to rest before returning to their base, the Physics Building Room 101, to discuss the terms of their second mission. The peacekeeping group had moved to Kiev, Ukraine where they were having trouble receiving audible radio transmission from Command. They needed to fix their radio before the zombies got too hungry.
The humans that survived a zombie ambush fixed the radio, but were then confronted by an alarming bit of transmission –– according to Command, two humans in their group were suspected of carrying the deadly zombie virus. They had to choose –– end them now, or keep them alive to use their special set of weaponry later on. The group decided to push their luck and let them live for as long as they could.
After a long day of dodging Nerf darts and surviving harrowing missions, the humans eventually succumbed to the ever-growing number of zombies, as they do every year. But the students who play don’t mind the repetitive outcome –– they’re here to have fun, decompress during a stressful semester and spend time together.
“I’m most looking forward to spending the day with my girlfriend,” VanClef said. “She really loves this community, it’s a really big part of her life and I’m really happy that I’m here.”