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HUMANITY AT RISK IN ATHENS:

Citizens of Athens, beware. The zombie invasion has begun.

Today about 600 Ohio University students wielding multicolored NERF guns and bandannas will celebrate National Zombie Day and the third day in a weeklong strategy game, Humans vs. Zombies.

So you want to be a zombie?

Not easily categorized, Humans vs. Zombies combines the strategies of chess with the principles of hide-and-seek and tag.Players are divided into two groups: humans and zombies. Zombies, who wear bandannas on their heads, try to take bandannas off the humans' arms. Once the bandanna is removed, the person becomes a zombie.

Humans must shoot the zombies with NERF guns or sock balls. Once zombies are shot, they are out of the game for a specified time. The goal is to be one of the last humans with your bandanna on the final day.

Battles are scheduled for today on Morton Hill, and the week will culminate with a battle on Halloween at midnight on College Green, said sophomore Lisa Gumerman. About 30 zombies and 100 humans played in last year's mid-way battle on Jefferson Hill, Gumerman said.

The game runs 24 hours a day until Halloween, but some locations are off limits. University and business buildings are restricted, as are residence hall rooms and bathrooms. The hallways are fair game unless quiet hours are in effect, according to the game's Facebook page.

No melee weapons, such as swords or realistic guns, are allowed in game play.

Junior Matt Johnson said zombies will become more prevalent by the end of the game. Last year, four to seven humans survived without losing their bandanna.

Although the rules are outlined on the Facebook page, the players adjust them as needed during the game, said senior Audrey Kisilewicz.

We err on the side of fun

she said.

Johnson was the first human to be turned into a zombie this year, attacked by Kisilewicz on the way to his residence hall, but said he wasn't too broken up about it.

Being a human was lame Johnson said.

Junior Chris King said he spent $200 on NERF guns, tents and camping equipment for the week's game.

Gumerman's boyfriend is playing in the game as a human, but she said they have a pact not to seek each other out for attack. If they happen to meet in battle, though, all bets are off, Gumerman said.

Her boyfriend has made a cardboard tank and allows students not playing the game to tour the battleground in the vehicle as part of his undead safari Gumerman said.

'Not on the same page'

A group of humans seeking a refuge and a strategic vantage point on College Green transformed the West Portico of Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium into a base camp Tuesday.

Sentinels clad in war paint and cloaks took turns guarding the stairways. Many students planned to camp out all week, King said.

But the Humans vs. Zombies camp-out was not to last.

OU Police Department officers told students to vacate their camp at MemAud yesterday because camping is illegal on campus grounds and their set-up was blocking emergency exits, Lt. Steve Noftz said.

Students now are working on reserving a different space through the university, he said.

Game organizers did not meet with OUPD until two days after the game began, Noftz said.

It's not like everyone's on the same page

he said.

If students are reported for sneaking around campus, that will take officers away from covering actual crimes, Noftz said, adding that students should let bystanders know they are playing a game and avoid wearing dark colors at night.

Despite safety risks, many police officers have been receptive to the game, Gumerman said. It keeps students from drinking and getting into trouble on Halloween weekend.

H v. Z is the anti-drug

she said.

Humble beginnings

The idea for the game came to OU during the Sept. 13, 2006, blackout when three then-freshman ' Kevin Ley, Josh Beebe and Matt Pecikonis ' decided to host a campuswide game of hide-and-seek.

Although that game did not get off the ground, they started to research other game ideas on the Internet, Beebe said. The game most likely started at Bowling Green State University last year and is now played at universities from Cornell to Ball State, Ley said.

BGSU police stopped the game a few hours after it began and passed out several disorderly conduct citations to students, said Sgt. Tim James of the BGSU police.

The police allowed students to continue with the game three or four days later after sitting down with organizers and compiling a list of safety rules and registering the group as a student organization, Jones said.Humans vs. Zombies is not a registered student organization at OU.

Humans and zombies are more organized this year, Johnson said. Players use radios, cell phones, whistles and cardboard tanks to fight the opposing side and triangulate strategies.

It's like hunting terrorists

he said.

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