By Tyler Hersko
The tall blond man I had met earlier waved me over during a brief lull in the zombie apocalypse. He was surprised to see that I was still standing. I never had a chance to catch the student’s name — there was a war going on, after all.
“Thanks man, so it seems like we have a minute to catch our breath,” I said. “Like I mentioned before, I’m with the student newspaper and was wondering how you think the event is going?“
“Oh wow, you were actually being serious?” the man said. “I totally thought that you were joking and were just going to use that to survive the night. Like, you’d tell zombies you were just an innocent reporter or something.”
My response was cut off by Taylor Krabiel, the treasurer of the campus’ Nerf Club of Reno, who began screaming for everyone’s attention so he could announce the night’s next mission.
Moments later, the students ran off to fulfill their various objectives.
The University of Nevada, Reno’s DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library turned into a student-run warzone Friday night. Participants armed to the teeth with Nerf blasters were pitted against an ever-growing horde of student “zombies” during the library’s first “Humans vs Zombies” event of the semester.
Throughout the night, the human players were tasked with completing a variety of goals throughout the library. The tasks, which ranged from simply boiling a pot of water to escorting survivors out of the library while fending off dozens of zombified students, were designed to showcase the library’s various features and kick-start a comeback of sorts for the campus’ Nerf organizations.
According to Nerf Club of Reno president Dane Bottenberg, the campus’ Nerf culture has faced its fair share of trials and tribulations over the last several years. Although he wasn’t a founding member of the original Humans vs Zombies Nerf club that formed around three years ago, he joined the rapidly expanding organization shortly after its inception.
“It started as a handful of kids who wanted to play Humans vs Zombies on campus,” Bottenberg said. “As it turns out, people like Nerf. We had 400 people signed up, it was crazy big.”
Soon, the club was hosting Nerf events that spanned the entire university. The Humans vs Zombies club enjoyed enough success for the Associated Students of Nevada to give the fledging organization the “Best New Club of the Year” award in 2012.
Unfortunately, growing pains quickly became apparent.
Several incidents, specifically with passerby mistaking Nerf blasters for real weapons, ultimately led to the club’s downfall. One night, the issues reached a boiling point.
“During a night game a student wore a gillie suit, had a Nerf blaster spraypainted black and hid in a bush,” Bottenberg said. “Some people passed by and he jumped out because he thought they were playing. They called the police.”
Shortly after, the Humans vs Zombies club was forced to disband, mere weeks after receiving the aforementioned distinction from ASUN.
As time passed, Bottenberg saw that many students missed playing Humans vs Zombies and aspired to recreate the club. After signing numerous forms and attending a number of meetings with the campus police, ASUN and other university officials, the Nerf Club of Reno was born.
Although the Nerf Club of Reno did not host Friday’s game at the DeLaMare Library, nor was it the first game of its kind since the club’s inception last fall, it was attended by many of the club’s members, several of whom, such as Krabiel, served as moderators for the event.
For Krabiel, the DeLaMare Library’s hands-on environment and supportive staff made for the building the perfect host for a Nerf event. He was ecstatic about the event’s turnout, which totaled around 70 attendees, and acknowledged the appreciative nature of those involved.
“This library is fun, interactive and more about student involvement than it is about studying,” Krabiel said. “The last time we had a turnout was 20 to 30 people, so this was more than double what I had dealt with before. I was exuberant.”
Krabiel noted that the event could have been improved various ways, and plans on working out the logistical issues such as mission variety and Nerf gun supplies in time for the club’s first official event in the Joe Crowley Student Union’s Glick Ballrooms on Oct. 10.
In addition to serving as an effective recruiting tool for the Nerf Club of Reno, Friday’s Humans vs Zombies event shined a spotlight on the DeLaMare Library and its multitude of features. According to Tod Colvegrove, Head of DeLaMare Library, unorthodox activities such as Nerf battles can cause students to get more involved with their education.
“We had a MaKey MaKey kit, sort of an introduction to electronic circuits,” Colegrove said. “You’d probably never want to check it out of it was homework, but if it seems like it’s part of something fun and it’s associated with that game … You might play with that.”
Although both Bottenberg and Colegrove said that nerf culture may appear odd to the uninitiated, they stressed that events such as Humans vs Zombies offered students an opportunity to take part in an exciting, inclusive and stress-free competition.
“It’s part of what it means to be alive here, getting your education and getting engaged,” Colegrove said. “It doesn’t get a whole heck of a lot more engaged than what you saw [Friday] night.”
Tyler Hersko can be reached at email@example.com.