Zombie chess match teaches safety, fun

Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Reporter
April 12, 2011

“The zombie thing really started forming last year,” said Taylor Shideler, an English major and Resident Attendant (RA) in the Moore dormitory. Last semester, Shideler organized a zombie survival training that used zombies as a means to both entertain and educate dorm residents about campus safety. The zombie theme was such a success that he decided to try to use it again during the spring semester.

Monica Eldemar was Queen of the Zombies during last Wednesday’s (April 6) Survivors vs. Zombies chess match in Hess Rec. Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star

When Shideler and fellow RA Kelly Kohler developed their term-long program, the subject of a chess match using costumed players – colloquially called “cosplayers” – came up. Kohler showed Shideler a video from an anime convention where attendees dressed as their favorite anime or video game characters and played a live-action game of chess. Shideler loved the idea.

Why chess? “It’s one of those games that has strategy involved and is really intense,” said Kohler, a history major. “At the same time it’s an actual battle and that’s what we were really interested in.”

Shideler said that the original concept would be zombies vs. zombie-hunters, but changed his mind when he decided that the zombie-hunters would be given an unfair advantage, since zombie-hunters are professional. It was then changed to zombies vs. survivors. “We really wanted to portray this concept that the zombies and survivors are really fighting tooth-and-nail to see whose going to come out on top.”

Kohler said that the survivor team would be carrying actual weapons, like pocketknives because these are items they would likely use in a real self-defense (and non-zombie) situation.

However, theatricality was oftentimes more important then practicality. Several participants in the event were “armed” with unloaded Airsoft pistols, sheathed knives, an un-chained chain saw and a harpoon gun.

Brad Bishop, the Resident Director of Moore Hall, owned the harpoon gun and saw to it that it never left his personal supervision. “It’s not live, but it’s real,” he said. Bishop, who was dressed like a New England longshoreman, was the king piece for the survivors.

“It’s a serious way of teaching students different things,” Shideler said. While Residence Life doesn’t believe that a zombie apocalypse is imminent, they’ve embraced the idea of using the zombie as a means to increase freshmen interest in student programs. According to Shideler, it’s working. “They (freshmen) latch on to it like candy; they love it!”

When it came to April 6, the day of the match, the excitement was palpable. The Hess Recreation Center (Hess Rec) was filled with the 32 human chess pieces, with a fluctuating crowd of 20 to 30 observers.

By the middle of the first game, the zombies had the upper hand. “Based on this game, if zombies take over the world we’re all going to die,” said Saryn Walsh, who is perusing her associate in arts. Despite Walsh’s concern, the survivors won the first match.

“It’s gonna be really hard to brush my hair out,” said Chelsea Jones, a double major in education and theatre, during the second match. “It’s got blood and knots in it, but it’s really fun.” She later added that participating in the event was “better then playing in a video game tournament.”

Round two ended in a victory for the undead, which meant zombie Yi Leng Vang, a biological sciences student, was thrilled. “I’m having a great time,” he said. “This is awesome…and this [fake] blood tastes good.”

In the end, the survivors were successful in eradicating the undead menace that was their fellow dorm mates. Both Shidelerand Kohler hope to make the chess match a yearly event. “It makes people happy,” Kohler said, laughing. “In a very gruesome way.”

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