Humans, zombies under fire after Nerf shootout in Harper

The role-playing game caught flak during its regular “Nerf war” in Harper Memorial Library for property damage.

By Ankit Jain

During this year’s fight against an undead apocalypse, the popular Humans vs. Zombies game ran afoul of administrators and the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD).

In one incident, administrators were shocked to discover scuffed floors and broken furniture after the February 25 “Nerf war” component of the game, in which Harper Library became a temporary battleground for roughly 50 students. Administrators also alleged that students attempted to break into deans’ offices on the second floor, an accusation that the group denies.

The day before, a participant who was inside the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) with his Nerf gun was stopped by a UCPD officer and questioned, leading UCPD to reach out to the game’s organizers about gun safety.

Humans vs. Zombies is put on twice a year by the Zombie Readiness Task Force (ZRTF), an RSO. All players, except for one “original zombie,” start out as humans, and the point is to stave off “infection” for as long as possible.

The “Nerf war,” is a regular part of Humans vs. Zombies. All of Harper is made available to players, who book the space through the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities according to specific University rules. Most pertinently, RSOs which book University buildings are responsible for covering any damage.

Floors were scuffed and furniture was broken when students dragged tables and chairs out of classrooms and flipped them onto their sides to form barricades.

Administrators told organizers that they were reconsidering letting the group book Harper in the future. The RSO also has agreed to pay for the damage it caused.

In a statement, ZRTF took responsibility for the damage. The group declined to comment on how much the repairs will cost or how the RSO plans to pay for them.

ZRTF organizer and second-year Jim Duehr was stopped and questioned the morning of February 24, when he was in the UCMC with his Nerf gun for an appointment. After consulting his superiors, the officer took down Duehr’s information and released him.

“He thought that the situation was kind of hilarious,” Duehr said. The UCPD officer was unable to be reached for comment.

Afterwards, the UCPD contacted the group with safety concerns about the number of students wielding toy guns on campus.

In response, ZRTF has instituted a rule requiring that guns be in highly visible, neon colors, according to second-year and ZRTF board-member Christopher Dewing.

“Just as individual members of the University community are responsible for their actions, RSOs as groups have responsibility for their collective actions and the condition of campus spaces they use,” Assistant Vice President for Campus Life Eleanor Daugherty said in an e-mail.

ZRTF administrator second-year Edward Warden hopes that the RSO can put the incidents behind it.

“We want this game to be purely fun and entertaining and enjoyable for everybody involved,” he said. “The last thing we’re seeking to do is put ourselves in a situation where we’re at odds with anybody.”