My HVZ career started in the year 2009, when I was enrolled in Hocking College as a student. My dorm was on the other side of the Hocking River from the main campus where my high school friends' dorm sat. Although, having been at Eastland Career Center for my last two years, there was already distance between us, so it didn't bother us. They were always more my twin brother's friends, and mine through osmosis, I suppose. Thus the first time they went to Athens in 2008, it slipped their mind to invite me. However, after learning a valuable lesson, that being atop a defensible staircase leading into a building doesn't protect you from the guy who jumps out the door, they had already realized that they were going to need someone else to watch their backs. Someone with... One of those new blasters on the market that held 35 rounds per barrel. 6 clips didn't do them many favors. So, after hearing stories of this game for about a year, when they approached me to remind me that the day was near, I ran out to wallmart to gear up. Taking their recommendation, I purchased a CS Raider, and an extra pair of streamline nerf darts. I also brought along a sock. Why the sock? Because they could be used as throwing weapons, and at the time, Raiders were notorious for jamming. As a joke, I bought an old duster from a thrift store for 4 dollars so that I could come off as campy as possible. A decision that... Kinda stuck with me for many years to come, as my kit nowadays has changed very little since my first game.
Now if you want to know why I was taking preparation with this game so seriously, the fact is, I grew up shooting nerf darts at my brother and friends. So it was well in my blood. Though my confidence was shattered after a humiliating loss in senior tag, when a friend betrayed me to some jock in the track team in his own home. I never got to fire a single shot. Eleminated in the first round. After walking home in the shame of defeat, with the taste of betrayal in my mouth, that same jock drove by in a pick up truck with his friends, and as was customary in 2007, he called me a faggot while speeding off, hooting and hollering. It had been two years since then. But I needed a win.
There was no sign up sheet or anything. All we needed was to glance over the rules at HVZathens.com, then grab a bandana and socks or a nerf blaster, then drop in. Tag rules were very different back then. Heck the tag rules had changed since the year before I joined. Originally, zombies had to remove the bandana from your arm, so humans would tie them really tight. This resulted into a lot of zombies grabbing and dragging human players down dark alleys, or throwing them into the back of a creepy blood red van. I heard the stories from those days, and very trustworthy sources have affirmed a lot of them as true. It was the wild west back then. However, in those times, all they had was single shots and six clips. But in 2008, the introduction of the raider had changed how the game had to be played, as a single man could take out a group of 20 if he only had to worry about a single direction. So, zombie respawns were changed to every our on the hour, and now all they had to do was grip the bandana firmly. However, I never got the memo. I just assumed it was still on bandana removal. And for an idea of how last minute this was for me, we were dropping in on the second to last night. Not being OU students, Geoff, Brandon and Chauncy didn't want to drive back and forth between Athens and Nelsonville every day, so they timed their arrival to drop in when the game was at its most intense.
Our team and load out was looking something like this:
Me: A stock nerf raider and sock.
Geoff: My twin brother, with a stock nerf longshot.
Brandon: I actually completely forget what his nerf weapon was.
Chauncy: A modded nerf Vulcan that was hooked up to an RC battery modification.
I remember Chauncy and I had the bolk of the fire power, as his beastly gun had extended chains, and was hocked up to an RC battery for crying out loud. Although it would jam pretty frequently. Meanwhile Geoff's bulky unmodified longshot which he bought for senior tag boasted only six shot clips, and a suppressed internal spring, due to being stored while primed over a long period of time, and Brandon... I think he had some kind of off market single shot pistol or a recon. I forget. But we had basically arrived, and parked in a parking garage in the center of Athens, off of court street. The idea was to get us as close to the action from the start as possible. So as soon as we stepped out of the car, we geared up, and decided to leave through the back into a location that Athens HVZ players will like to call "Tarp Alley". An infamous location that any regular players dreaded going down, since it paralleled court street, and housed so many great ambush locations. This dingy alley could be seen in the video I posted in my last blog, if you want to see what we were stepping into for my first minute of gameplay. But long story short, we didn't wait long at all. We literally stepped outside, and found ourselves staring at a beast of a man with a bandana on his head. We knew exactly what we were looking at, but there was this moment of awkwardness as he stood their silently in equal awkwardness, but with a menacing gaze. Bandana on his matted afro, this player stood somewhere between six and a half feet, to seven, with a broad frame, unkempt beard, and dark skin complexion. Finally, Brandon walked up to him and pegged him unceremoniously with a dart.
"Hey, Hagrid!" He said. The zombie identified as Hagrid widened a grin as he took the bandana off. Brandon introduced us to him, we spent a bit talking to him to get an idea of what was around us, then we ventured off. Taking the safe way out of the alley of course.
That time I got stuck on the ledge of Alden Library:
We had roamed the streets for about 30 minutes uneventfully, before we finally chanced upon a group of fellow human players, standing just outside of Baker Center. They spotted us at about the same distance as we did them. Then they held up their arms in a right angle to show their bandanas, to signify that they were in fact, still alive. Geoff explained the meaning of this gesture to me. Sometimes, you might see a person with nerf guns in a distance, but he may have just died recently, and is just carrying his nerf gear until he has a chance to drop them off in his dorm, or wherever he is staying. It was practical reasoning, so we gestured back. The two groups then approached one another. Them with being just a pair of two, and the four of us. Like us, they had only recently gotten out of classes, and had been roaming the streets, looking for some excitement. So we decided to join up with them. That's when a third man came jogging down the stairs across the street. Holding up his arm before crossing, he seemed out of breath. We asked him what was going on, and he responded that he had seen the horde, and that they were on the green. Perhaps feeling far too confident than a seven man impromptu squad should ever feel, especially in those days when the zombies were much more aggressive, we decided to cross the street, and proceed up the stairs with blasters poised and ready. We walked diagnally across the courtyard infront of Alden Library, to punch out into the college green. The seven of us stopped dead in our tracks, when 25 people with bandanas stepped out infront of us with unfortunate timing. We rushed forward, but as one shouted "BRAINZ!" The 25 zombies rushed forward, and were soon followed by a hoard of about 125 more. I'm low balling that, by the way, back then Athens had a player base of between 200-300 players, and this being the second to last day, the majority of them were dead at this point. Our charge slowed to a complete halt, then a slow backpedal as the overwhelming sea of zombies rushed at us. In a panic, we turned right around, and ran like hell. Following the man who had led us there. He ran up the steps of Alden library, then told us to go forward along a ledge protruding from the windows, because the ledge supposedly looped around. Unfortunately, it didn't.
Coming to a dead halt with a brick corner jutting out, Geoff, Chauncy, myself, and Brandon slowly turned left to see the massive zombie hoard below our feet, chanting for our deaths. One of the men who had followed us into battle had not even survived to that point, as I could see him in the distance, still fiddling with his bandana along the path behind the horde. The other two stood as a buffer between our group, and the exit. That ledge by the way is actually about 1 and 3/4ths my total height, so jumping wasn't an option. And they had us blocked in where the ledge met the platform. Meaning there was no escape. It was either throw ourselves down to the horde, or let them come in one at a time. They held off, however. Their chanting slowly shifted. "Preston tank! Preston tank! Preston tank!" As a tall, lanky dark haired man with a green glowstick slowly moved through the crowd.
So, HVZ has special zombies identified with a glowstick in Athens. These special were based off of Left 4 dead. Back then, the only two we had to worry about were witches, and tanks. And this horde just had to have one. Tanks can only walk, and they aren't stealthy, meaning they have to announce their presence by loudly projecting "TANK!" when in the field of battle. They cannot be killed (Without a special gun unlocked in a secret mission called the BFG), so when they are shot, they are allowed one step, then they must count loudly to five. (It's 3 now, but in the old days it was 5). This gave ballsy humans the opportunity to run up and hug the tank before the count was up, then try to get away as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the moment we heard "TANK!" to our left, the last thing we wanted was to be friends with it.
Six darts struck out at once after his first step on the ledge. He began his countdown, then took one more step. Another futile volley of darts struck him from the cornered group of humans. Then a third time. But by then, he was far too close to the first of the guys. A step and a lunge, and that man was gone. He counted down again, before taking another step, and taking out the man who had guided us to the ledge. "Sorry." He whimpered. That left no body between my teammates and the tank. The two slender humans made it past the Preston tank, and then in agonizing slow motion, I watched Brandon die before my eyes. I fired a single futile dart to delay the inevitable, and thankfully, Brandon was a thick man, so the tank appeared to have some difficulty getting around him. Then, I heard a call below, as an admin walked up, holding up his glowstick. The horde silenced to listen to him, as the game paused.
"Alright, as much as I really want to see this play out, we can't let anyone get hurt here."
The hoard let out a collective sigh of disappointment, as the admin told them to allow us to come down and be given a head start of fifteen seconds before they could give chase. I was elated as the preston tank and Brandon exited the ledge, allowing us a chance to do so. But literally the second I stepped off, I could see those in the back of the hoard already giving sprint to the left in order to cut us off. So the second I stepped off, I matched them in dead sprint, with Chauncy and Geoff following behind in equal desperation to get out. We cleared the Alden steps in a single jump, and exited through the stairs that lead back to baker around the corner of the building. Springing six sets of stairs at once in order to put as much distance behind us and the zombies at our heels as possible, we cleared jumps none of us even thought we were capable of.
Chauncy went left, Geoff and I went across the street, and to the right. Right into Baker. To allow Geoff a chance to get the door open, I pivoted and held my raider poised, stopping the zombies in their tracks. They gave disapproving looks at us, but Geoff and I retreated into the safe zone. I didn't exactly know that it was considered an act of dishonor to use indoors to disengage with the horde back then (Since indoors are considered safe zones.) Not until later. But as the two of us desperately captured our breath, we feared for the worst for our friend Chauncy. For all we knew, we were the only two survivors. We took a while to collect ourselves. Coming down from the intense panic we had just narrowly escaped. Then with some reluctance, we traveled down the escalators of baker center, and exited at the bottom of the hill. We worked to the left, into the East Green. Geoff started to receive a call from Chauncy, who had likewise assumed we died. He asked us to get in contact with Brandon, but after notifying him that we were not going anywhere near him since he was dead, he let out a laugh. Chauncy informed us that he had basically looped around the entirety of college green, zipped through Tarp Alley, and was now sitting in the hookah bar. A popular hangout for my brother and his friends. He agreed to meet us at the bottom of Cambodia, a code term for a long staircase down the back of Jeff Hall, which was lined by dense shrubbery, where zombies were known to pop out at humans from. Hence the namesake.
Geoff took the lead, and we got there first. And after about ten minutes of utter silence, Chauncy came from the other side, and joined us. Laughing, relieved, and ultimately coming down from everything that had happened on that night, we had survived our first night. Finally, we gave Brandon a call, and told him to meet us so that we could go home. This was followed by a long period of uncomfortable silence, broken only by the echoes of chanting zombies from the top of the hill. Tension tightened my chest, but finally, Brandon appeared, and alone. We gave him a customary dart to the chest to deactivate him, then carefully made it back to the car. Suffice to say, after coming out of that alive, I felt as though my confidence had returned. So naturally, I was going to see this thing through to the bitter end on the next day.
Stay tuned for part two, where we discuss my first death on the next day.