Three zombies surrounded Dylan Schnitker. He did not want to spend money on a gun, so his only weapons were balled-up socks in both fists. It was nighttime and he needed to get home, but he was trapped.
“I want to get by,” Schnitker, a junior film production major, told the zombies.
“Well, we’re going to get you,” replied one of the zombies.
Schnitker pelted socks at the zombies, successfully striking, and therefore stunning, all three. He safely survived another night during his first game of Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) as a freshman spring 2011.
“I just ran around using socks the rest of the game and everybody thought it was funny,” Schnitker said. “(Socks) turned out to be very successful.”
Since his first foray as a sock-wielding human in HvZ, Schnitker has continued to not just play the game, but also lead others in the charge — whether it be defending the lives of humans or trying to take them as a zombie.
As a human, Schnitker usually leads a “Rogue Squad,” a pack of seven other humans who are primarily focused on their own survival.
Forest Wharton, a junior film production major, joined Schnitker’s squad during last spring’s game of HvZ.
“We’re going to go off and do our own thing and survive, rather than trying to work with a mass group of humans, which Dylan says is a bad idea because you’re just going to get picked off one by one,” Wharton said.
Though their top priority is their own safety, the Rogue Squad still watches out for the survival of other humans.
“There were two or three missions in the spring where if Dylan and the Rogue Squad
hadn’t shown up, the humans would have lost,” Wharton said.
After Schnitker gets tagged, or “turned,” by a zombie, he steps higher into a leadership role, as the ringleader of the zombie horde.
“Every time I get tagged, I really enjoy it, because I go over to the zombies,” Schnitker said. “Helping to lead the zombies is a lot different. I never get any tags because I’m more so just kind of orchestrating and running some really interesting setups, ambushes and stuff. It turns into a chess game at that point.”
Schnitker recalled a tactic he used as the leader of the zombies last spring. A tent was set up on the Quad that had items humans could purchase with specially-earned coins. The tent was open from midnight to 3 a.m. Schnitker arranged the zombie horde in a ring around the tent, encircling it two to three zombies deep. He equipped the horde with Maglites — powerful flashlights — to survey the Quad.
“They looked like these prison spotlights, shining around the edge of the Quad,” Schnitker said. “The spotlights actually got a bunch of people a few times. They were creeping up over the edge, and the spotlight caught them, and they freaked out when they saw how many of us there were. And they just ran back to the dorm and we never saw them again.”
Despite this defense, a human was able to infiltrate. That human was Logan Landolt, a junior education major and friend of Schnitker’s, who bluffed the zombie horde with a fake talisman to gain entry to the tent.
“He was holding something in his hand and everybody (the zombie horde) was getting ready as he was coming close,” Schnitker said. “He was just saying out loud, ‘I wouldn’t tag me if I were you, I wouldn’t tag me if I were you,’ holding it up in his hands. And everybody was confused and they were backing up like, ‘Well, wait, should we tag him? Should we tag him?’ And I’m like, ‘Tag him, tag him! Don’t listen, tag him!’ They backed up and right as soon as he got close, he just jumped and dove into the circle.”
Landolt has played with Schnitker since the two first began participating in 2011.
“He definitely is the best when it comes to leading the zombies,” Landolt said.“The coolest thing is that they all look to him as a leader and they’ll listen to him.”
Schnitker first played HvZ his freshman year, after he and a friend both agreed to give it a shot.
“I loved running around, playing with guns and playing tag when I was little,” Schnitker said. “I hate the idea not to have that anymore, because it was fun and it would be fucking stupid if we think, ‘Oh, you know, I guess now that I have reached 20 years of age I’m no longer allowed to have fun anymore.’ I think that’s a really pretentious idea. I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s keep playing and having fun, because to not do that because we’re old is fucking stupid.’”
Schnitker admitted that during HvZ week, his schoolwork suffers. He said he once fell asleep in a video-editing lab after going 48 hours without sleep during HvZ.
“I nerd-out a little too much,” Schnitker said. “You remember how much fun you had when you were little and you got to go outside and play and have fun. It’s not like Mom is going to come outside and be like, ‘Come inside, dinner!’ It’s like ‘Dude, you’re 20 and you get to fucking do it for 48 hours straight if you want to.’”
This year, Schnitker plans on sticking with his Rogue Squad, which will consist of Schnitker, Tony Burgesen, Scott Pinkston, Katie Ploesser, Patrik Coyne, Emily Holmead, Wes Schnitker and Forest Wharton.
Rogue Squad member Scott Pinkston, who Schnitker described as a “genius engineer guy,” has fabricated new weapons for the Squad.
“A big thing in HvZ is using PVC pipe to make the guns do things they shouldn’t do,” Schnitker said. “We recently went to Ace Hardware and blew $40 on PVC pipe and all sorts of other neat stuff.”
One of Pinkston’s new inventions this year is a five-foot-long Nerf dart blowgun.
“It’s a gun. But instead of pumping it or springing it, you use your lungs, which is more powerful than any toy pump,” Schnitker said. “It’s like a fucking tribal blowgun. It’s ridiculous. And they’re silent.”
Schnitker said he enjoys the community aspect of the game because it brings students from many different backgrounds and majors together.
“What’s so cool is how much everybody on campus gets involved,” Schnitker said. “You’ve got everybody from track kids to film kids, or you’ve got animation students or music students. Everybody gets in on it and plays.”