For most of my adult life, I’d lived with the belief that when it all happened…when the Zombie Apocalypse hit, I’d know what to do. “Stay Calm”, I’d tell myself before figuring out who to stick with and who to sacrifice. Mum and Dad, you’re gone. Not only are you too slow and well beyond the peak of your fitness but I can’t possibly risk my life – and potentially the future of the human race- for two people who think The Corrs are trendy. Boyfriend- you’re gone too. I like your face and everything, but there’s no room for foibles of the heart in my survival-based future. It’s all protein shakes and platonic mates, you hear? This leaves me with Dane Swan for his fitness and camouflage ability (see, the tattoos WERE a good idea) and Rob Mills. Not because I like him, but because if everything goes pear shaped I can get my head around the notion of eating him.
Next: The safe house. I’d decided I needed somewhere above sea level with sturdy walls and lots of food, making that upstairs bit at Koko Black in The Strand Arcade perfect! Not only is the place brilliantly fortified, but the chocolate will give me the vital chocolate-based vitamins I need to get by.
Finally: Strategy. Mine involves sitting it out whilst watching every episode of The West Wing back to back so that when I emerge into our Brave New World, I would have the political knowledge necessary to lead and eventually overthrow the surviving dregs of humanity.
See, I had it all down pat.
So you can imagine how confused I was to discover that when the Zombie Apocalypse did actually hit, not only was I stuck on the grounds of Sydney University, a long way from my trusty Melbourne, but that I was surrounded not by Footballers and c-grade celebrities, but by students. Filthy, stinking, students!
Welcome to Zedtown, “a giant zombie themed game of tag”. In the third iteration of this fabulous concept, 500 people would find themselves running around the grounds of Sydney Uni trying to escape the Zombie plague or, in failing that, become a Zombie themselves. “Zedtown”, the official site tells me, “is a truly interactive event that empowers players to create their own action and tell their own stories”, not to mention play with Nerf guns. The whole thing reminded me of my glory-days playing ‘Laser Tag’ in Melbourne’s outer-suburbs. And for a girl that lists Ellen Ripley as her all-time favorite character, the event had all the ingredients I enjoy.
I rocked up to Herman’s Bar, inadequately named given they weren’t serving drinks, keenly anticipating this opportunity to run around being a knob for a few hours. However, I instantly deflated when I saw what has so often in the past ruined these sorts of events for me: the takes-it-too-far nerd. From sweaty commandos to nerf-wielding wizards, this was the worst of the worst celebrating their version of Christmas. I realized that the concept of having a little bit of silly fun had obviously fucked off, as I witnessed several green-haired men with go-pros syncing up their walkie-talkies and discussing war tactics as if lives, or perhaps the life of their favorite games consoles were on the line. These guys meant business, and that business wasn’t getting laid.
There was even one guy who rocked up as the famous gun-slinger himself, Oscar Pistorious, with blade-runner mechanisms attached to his legs. I made a mental note not to use the bathrooms if he was around.
Instead of standing around with these guys, all I wanted was for the game to start. And this is unfortunately where my biggest criticism of the day came in. Although registration was at 1pm, the game itself didn’t start until 4. In the meantime, you could take part in loose “training sessions” or grab a quick bite at the BBQ, but when all you want is to blast some nerd with a foam bullet, or at the very least throw sticks at his face, a three hour wait can be quite tedious.
Eventually it was time to go. I stood in front of a stage only half listening as Maxwell Fight Master addressed the five hundred strong crowd, informing everyone that some of the survivors may in fact already be infected. My crew of 4 made plans. As soon as the game started, we were to bolt off to the right and find cover.
The game started. They ran left.
A Zedtown 'resident' took it upon himself to document the carnage
We eventually convened in a corner and already I could see the event taking shape. A bunch of dorks in camouflage-gear using the game to appease the fact that they weren’t cadets in their youth had taken control of the stairs. We went to climb past them and instantly their guns were on us.
“You can step the fuck right back, ma’am.”
I’m sorry, what?
“Don’t come any closer!”
They didn’t trust us, despite our yellow armbands indicating that we were friendly. This theme of allies and distrust only grew as the Zombie hoards intensified. At one point, another of the “takes-it-too-far” nerds stopped me crossing a particular road he’d cordoned off. When I refused to listen to his barking orders, the little prick shot me in the boob. I tossed a fruit box in his direction, showing him who the real boss was.
But aside from the occasional few who did nothing other than highlight how deeply unappreciated their input would be in genuine times of war, I found most players quite wonderful to interact with. For as the day rolled on, the storyline became more complicated and soon you’d be chasing after other survivors to garner information, share sightings of Zombies or perhaps this rumored “white Witch”, and try to ascertain whether ‘The Temple’ really was “the last safe place on Earth”.
A personal highlight of the day occurred when my small posse and myself decided to steal an important looking package from the aforementioned Temple and use it to barter for safety. Crouched down in some bushes, we’d decided that I’d be the one to grab the package, while the other two served as distractions. The plan worked a treat, and finally when we’d snatched our trophy and created enough distance between the Temple and ourselves, I yelled out “Run, Run Run!” and felt like a motherfucking God!
It was 60 minutes later that it happened. The sun had nearly set and my guard was foolishly down. We were ambushed…my men and I…and torn from this mortal coil to join the undead in their unyielding search for blood. I thought death would hurt, or at the very least feel uncomfortable. Instead, it involved me screaming like a big ol’ girl as some guy with awkward hair and paint smooshed on his face apologized profusely and removed my game-issued dog tags.
From this point, I was to head back to Herman’s Bar where my metamorphosis into a Zombie was meant to begin. However as I went to cross the road out of the game, I suddenly felt my hand raising itself up into the air hailing a cab, my body shifting into the backseat, and then my mouth asking the driver to take me to Maya Da Dhaba on Cleveland Street for braaaaains (and their amazing butter chicken).
Ok, so in the end I piked and left the game early. I was tired, and unlike all the dicks in camouflage gear, I hadn’t packed supplies like fruit, muesli bars or even water. Hell, I hadn’t even worn appropriate shoes. Zedtown turned out to be a whole lot bigger, more intense and emotionally engulfing than I’d ever anticipated. The organizers really have created something truly wonderful, and although I believe that there are still a few kinks to be ironed out, I’m also willing to concede that perhaps I’m not the exact target audience for this sort of adventure. Regardless of all that though, I can only hope that Zedtown does come back, perhaps even down to Melbourne where I know for a fact it would be warmly received. And should it make the journey south, I know I for one will go again. I might even get Rob Mills to come with me.
For more info on Zedtown check out their website
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