Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Humans vs. Zombies game impacted by banning of NERF blasters at UMass

By Stuart Foster

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(Katelyn Dube/Daily Collegian)

(Katelyn Dube/Daily Collegian)

Mass Games, a Residential Student Organization that organizes large scale role-playing games at the University of Massachusetts, was affected by the administration’s banning of NERF blasters.

The blasters, plastic toys which fire foam projectiles and have previously been used in Mass Games’ biannual Humans vs. Zombies games, were banned after being defined by the administration as an object which could be confused for a firearm. These types of objects, called weapons facsimiles, are banned under the UMass Code of Student Conduct.

“Banning NERF blasters, a children’s toy, from campus is only contributing to this ever-growing fear culture among Americans,” said Matt Brown, a senior majoring in history who is the vice president of Mass Games.

Enku Gelaye, the vice chancellor of student affairs and campus life, said the NERF blasters had been defined as a weapons facsimile in a reaction to “on-going campus-based gun violence.”

“It’s a conflation of a number of issues, including what’s happening nationally,” Gelaye said.

The Humans vs. Zombies game takes place over two weeks each semester and players in the game pretend to be either humans defending themselves from zombies or zombies attempting to infect humans.

Zombies infect humans by tagging them, although humans in the game can resist by methods such as throwing rolled up socks or marshmallows at them or, most popularly, defending themselves with NERF blasters. Brown said that average games typically have around 300 players.

Brown said that most players prefer to use NERF blasters. Brown added that Mass Games does not allow players to refer to the blasters as “guns,” that participants cannot paint their blasters other colors and that NERF blasters passed a federal test for weapons facsimiles.

The UMass administration’s classification of weapons facsimiles is not identical to the federal test and is up to the discretion of administrators.

Brown said that the Mass Games RSO received an email informing them of the new policy only days before the game was scheduled to begin and that Mass Games immediately had to postpone Humans vs. Zombies.

“The worst part of it all was how quickly it came about,” he said.

Gelaye said that the recent trend of campus violence made it important to look at the issues presented by having weapons facsimiles on campus and that the administration was acting sensitively in response.

“It’s less about bans than our commitment to work together,” she said.

Gelaye also said that the communication made between the administration and the advisors of student activities groups, like Mass Games, was done directly and that she was unsure how much of it was in writing.

“We moved toward encouraging the game without anything that folks could interpret as a weapon,” she said.

Brown said the Humans vs. Zombies game was completed for the semester without the use of NERF blasters and that significantly fewer people participated in the game.

He added that during the second Monday of the game, participants were encouraged to bring in non-perishable food and house supplies to donate to a nearby shelter in Amherst and that they had brought in over 700 pounds the previous semester.

“But this year, as a result of the hit on our numbers, it fell drastically,” he said.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.

1 Comment

One Response to “Humans vs. Zombies game impacted by banning of NERF blasters at UMass”

  1. Rob on November 18th, 2015 5:26 pm

    That so ridiculous, I’m starting to think the Collegian is a parody site like the Onion.

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