November 10, 2012

I was on twitter during the zombie apocalypse

A scary-looking zombie leapt at me, trying to bite my shoulder. I dodged just in time. Then another attacked. I cried for help and three humans came to my rescue: a former student who has all kinds of zombie-fighting experience, a friend who lives on the other side of the continent, and the other, a person I know only in virtual reality. The battle was a blur, but thanks my rescuers, I survived to see another day.

I spent the morning perched high in a tree, watching helplessly as the zombie horde swarmed through the twitterverse, biting innocent humans and converting them into hungry, mindless bodies searching for another meal. “I need to find the other humans and make a plan,” I thought to myself. But alas, I’m too impulsive. I leaped into the fray to save a friend and soon I was fighting for my life.

That’s when a text message from my sister chimed in: “Hey, what’s with all the crazy messages on your twitter account -- ?”

Twitter vs Zombies is an online game taking place this weekend on twitter. It’s based on the Humans vs Zombies game that students have been playing in real life on college campuses across the country. (Well, as “real life” as a zombie game ever is.)

Here’s the way the game goes. All but one begin as humans. Any human “bitten” by a zombie turns into a zombie. And once you’re a zombie, there’s no going back. The zombie horde keeps getting bigger, and the human population gets smaller.

Star Trek fans have no doubt heard of Kobayashi Maru, the no-win scenario that’s used as a training exercise. It’s supposed to test your character – or something like that – to be put in a situation where you just can’t win. This human vs zombies games feel a bit like that.

You know, I’ve long wondered about my students’ fascination with the zombie apocalypse. And after playing the game this weekend, I think I’m beginning to understand. The Kobayashi Maru is a relevant game to play when you look at the earth we are living on, a planet in which human influence is so large that we’ve actually changed the climate.

We’ve warmed up the planet just one degree so far– and yet, look at how disastrous it's been. This year has been filled with record-setting temperatures, droughts, floods, and weather-related disasters. Even Big City Like No Other, that invincible city, was hit with a storm that flooded subway tunnels and turned the whole south end of the island black. When it comes to climate disruption, the future for our species looks pretty grim. Forget about the zombies, we are killing ourselves with a reckless unwillingness to give up our dependence on fossil fuels.

My students haven’t given up hope, I know. Many are joining the newest campaign to fight climate disruption. But I can see how playing laser tag with zombies – or even fighting zombies in virtual reality – might be an important training for the world they are going to inherit.


Mike Berta said...

As a meme Zombies offer a lot fo valuable teaching opportunities. At advanced levels it allows us to suspend reality just enough but use zombification to mirror pandemic behavior (virus outbreaks, global disaster, social unrest) in order to build preparation plans.

Heck, even the CDC uses Zombies to help people understand emergency preparedness.

ZombieSquad is another fun meme for emergency preparedness.

At any rate, perhaps your students are onto something and it seems you are joining their zombie horde.

rented life said...

Last semester in speech class students had the opportunity to do a eulogy. I had my first ever Zombie apocalypse eulogy and it was centered about lack of preparedness and survival skills. It was the best speech of the day.

Taradharma said...

the world is scary enough for me even without the zombies. i might have enjoyed it when i was younger and the weight of all that's bad in the world wasn't quite so heavy on my shoulders. Now, it's all horrific and I want soothing, life affirming entertainment. My skin is thin. A zombie could bite through it quite easily.

Word Verification: "Mypope." No kiddng.