A real life game of zombie warfare – ZedTown offers players the opportunity to grab their dart blasters, occupy a real world location and attempt to survive an undead epidemic.
ZedTown: State of Emergency took place on Saturday (25/06/17) here in Melbourne, Australia. And being the crazed gamers that we are, getting the chance to take part in what is essentially a video game come to life was an opportunity that we couldn’t turn down. Armed with our dart blasters in hand and a backpack full of additional ammunition, snacks and a healthy supply of sock grenades (yes, really), we marched on down to the Melbourne Showgrounds to take part in a 400 person, 4 hour game of zombie survival.
So what is ZedTown all about?
ZedTown: State of Emergency offers players an arena to group up with friends, hold up certain locations, and shoot up real player zombies when they approach. Beginning the game in one of three different factions you form a base, meet your new friends, and begin going on quests offered up by your faction leader. The 4 hour game starts with very few zombies but as more and more players begin getting infected the threat grows dramatically. Players can stun a zombie with the dart blaster which forces zombies to return to a respawn point before pursuing more delicious human players. Humans can also stun other players of opposing factions forcing players to go back to a respawn point as well. If a zombie manages to approach and tag a human without getting stunned, the human goes back to a respawn point and re-emerges as a fresh member of the zombie horde.
The game’s pace and story is driven by the non-player characters (or actors) who hand out quests, begin feuds with rival factions, and generally help move the game from point A to point B. In this sense the game becomes a lot more than just a survival against zombies because an extra layer of depth exists within faction wars and questing. As the game moves into the final stages and the zombie epidemic has reached critical levels, factions join forces and the game moves from individual goals to an all out survival and evacuation plan.
The game begun with survivors breaking off into their respective factions. Our faction was yellow (later known as the Mellow Yellows) and our faction leader was a peculiar and animated man of science.
“My methods weren’t the safest, but with the early game being a potential slow point for other players, I’d say my methods were the most fun.”
As yellow, our goal wasn’t one of war but instead one of peace and medicine. We wanted to stay out of the petty faction and territory wars the others were so fond of and focus on securing a cure for the disease before it spread out of control.
The game begun with our yellow squad finding a base to call home and going off in an attempt to secure vials for the doctor so that he could begin to work on a cure. The vials were spread across the entirety of the play area and with a goal now outlined I didn’t want to hesitate in having some fun and going off to explore and help the cause. My methods most certainly weren’t the safest, but with the early game being a potential slow point for other players, I’d say my methods were the most fun.
Hearing rumours of some vials being kept by the blue faction leader, I decided to go on a peace mission in an attempt to secure them. Approaching the blue base I was met with some very confrontational players who did not appreciate seeing me there. Arms in the air I approached and offered up my weapon as a sign of good faith. I’m not sure if the blue faction saw my actions as brave or stupid but they did reluctantly take me to their leader to discuss terms of a trade. The blue leader was formidable and intimidating but I got to plead my case and we came to a (sort of) amicable agreement. Blue needed communication devices, we needed vials.
With new information in hand the same group of blues who took me to their leader begun to lead me back out. Knowing now that I genuinely wasn’t there to cause harm they were considerably more friendly and returned my weapon (phew). Whilst I didn’t have the vials to give back to the doctor I did have the blue leader’s terms which would later lead us to acquiring the goods. I also formed a bond with some blue members that as it turns out, came in very handy down the track.
With the blue and yellow leaders now in communication my next mission was to head to the Black Market where it was rumoured more vials existed. On my way I found and caught a runaway worm, whose owner was so pleased she gave me some coins for my effort.
After arriving at the Black Market I came across another group of yellows who had the exact same idea as me. With coins in my pocket and a willingness to do whatever it took to get those vials, I joined in on the negotiation, offered up some coins and we collectively acquired the needed vials. Getting back would be difficult however because the most effective route to the yellow base was through a zombie spawner that had grown to be quite formidable. As a group we sized each other up and decided the fastest of us would make a sprint to try and get past – after all, time is of the essence. Vials in hand and a nimble partner by my side, two of us went for it, recklessly charging past the zombies. In an incredible yet tragic turn of events I made it back to the doctor vials in hand… my partner did not (R.I.P.)
For the rest of the game I adopted a more group minded approach. Zombies were growing out of control and the Yellow base was quickly overrun as the amount of zombies begun eclipsing the amount of survivors. Our faction ran for our lives and took shelter with blue. It became a game of all out survival at this point with the quest for a cure dead, we just needed to escape.
With all factions uniting together under the zombie threat we defended blue base from a seriously large group of undead. For our evacuation plans to work we needed to return to the Black Market, secure flares, and then make our way to the evacuation zone. Simple in concept, difficult in execution.
As a large group stormed their way through, I got stuck with a smaller group that got caught out. I realised the only way I was going to survive was to make a sprint for that larger group, and so I did.
Somehow making it back to the group my time as a human in this game wasn’t going to last much longer because after we acquired the flares I was unceremoniously caught out by a zombie I didn’t see and taken out of the game. My allies were running for evacuation, and I became a member of the zombie horde.
Unlike Elliot, my day as a survivor in ZedTown started off far more conservatively. I’ve done some “real world zombie experiences” before and have watched too many damn movies where the characters run in, don’t check their surroundings carefully and then get caught out and EATEN.
I’m also hyper-aware that I’m a pretty unfit person when it comes to running, so while I knew there would be moments of sprinting called for, I was trying to think more tactically and methodically about my environment, instead of trying to chase zombies down and go head-to-head with a horde.
Initially I have to say that there didn’t seem to be a lot of coordination when it came to missions and structure. There were some NPC’s trying to direct traffic and gave us a rather loose objective to find vials, as Elliot said, but the where and how was a little unclear and meant that the first hour of the game found us wandering around aimlessly, shooting one of the 10 or so zombies that were roaming around.
“…seeing one of my squad mates get tagged right in front of me by the zombies running up behind them was the first indication that shit was definitely getting real.”
As the hours rolled on and the infection started to spread, things started feeling a lot more serious. As zombies began to form as hordes, checking the handy app on our phones highlighted that we had literally reached a halfway point – 200 survivors vs. 200 zombies. That’s a real threat that could easily pick apart smaller groups of unaware players, and seeing one of my squad mates get tagged right in front of me because they didn’t see the zombies running up behind them was the first indication that shit was definitely getting real.
Having lost Elliot (who went rogue and did a mission with a different group – another no-no in zombie movies, come on man!), it was down to just two of us from our initial squad of four. Before we knew it, we were being herded into one area as a group to what we thought was the evacuation point. Flares were thrown and we were surrounded by zombies, as we tried to hold our ground to the best of our ability.
My squad mate Paul and I got separated. I ran to one of the horse pavilions with another small group, and we made a bee-line for the doorway to what would prove to only be a temporary sanctuary. With zombies at each entrance, we tried to make them run in to us in a bottle-neck so that we could increase our chances of survival. A recently infected boss character tried to reason with us that we should just give in, but the 15 of us were standing strong. I checked my phone. 80 survivors left. 320 zombies.
We held the area as long as we could. I checked the timer. Evacuation was due to occur in 15 minutes. If we stayed in this horse shed, we were never going to get out alive. Time would run out before we knew it. I looked out and saw my squad mate, Paul, tagged by a zombie in the field. He was gone.
We saw a small group of people, still alive, running outside. They had zombies after them too but were hanging in there. I looked to my left at a fellow survivor next to me.
“If we don’t run for it now, we’ll die in here”.
He agreed, and without hesitation, we sprinted across to the other group. I twisted my ankle while running (classic zombie movie mistake, I know) but managed to have my own little action hero moment when I tripped and during that motion, managed to shoot a zombie running behind me right before he was able to tag me. Hobbling, I made it to the group, but by that point we were all well and truly surrounded.
I checked my phone. 27 survivors left. 373 zombies. The horse pavilion must have been overrun.
We huddled together, knowing that our death was no longer avoidable, but inevitable. I heard a shout that we only had to survive four more minutes until we could be evacuated. We all knew though that we weren’t going to last that long.
One of the zombie leaders began to count down.
We prepared ourselves.
We took aim.
We didn’t survive the attack, but I was proud to have lasted until the final minutes, with what was the last stand against the zombie apocalypse.
Despite its slow pacing and lack of structure at the start, I can’t wait to visit ZedTown again in the future.
A big thanks to the team at ZedTown and our friends at Connect PR for organising such a fun event. ZedTown in Sydney is taking place this coming weekend, and there will be other games of ZedTown in the future so make sure you keep an eye on their website at www.zedtown.com for updates.