I saw a lot of fake weapons at this year’s Call of Duty XP event. Digital guns attached to massive, customized rigs in Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer. Shotguns popping out of arcade machines in an 80s-themed battlefield. The most startling one was made of plastic, though – a laser tag rifle pointed at my face by another human as zombies overtook our arena.
Its wielder didn’t much care about Clowny McDeadface closing in behind her, or Soggy Skin Joe flanking from the left. These impeccably costumed actors had unexpectedly burst into our game of laser tag inside XP’s Zombies in Spaceland bunker. We laughed and blasted and poorly combat rolled between fake barrels and neon air hockey tables. There were a few winners, there were some definite losers, and then there were zombies. A dozen of them, easily numbering both our teams combined.
They started with a crawl, pouring in from unnoticed gaps in the walls, eyeing us with crooked heads and outstretched arms. Then they gained speed, and numbers. This is real-life Call of Duty: Zombies, I realized, the moment a group of innocent humans must band together to face an unexpected epidemic. This is the team that will bravely join me in pushing back the undead threat. *heroic trumpets blare* This is–
My fellow human shot me without hesitation, then glanced over her shoulder and saw Clownface approaching. She scurried five feet to the right, giving Clownface another excruciating sixty inches to crawl across, and herself another few minutes to pick off the human scramblers. She sniped a few more players before returning to me. Respawned, I was circling a group of groaning zombies, sparing my limited ammunition to keep them at bay. Again, she shot me. Two other humans turned their guns on me as well. Both members of my own team.
As expected, real-life Call of Duty: Zombies was a bloodbath. Unexpected: the blood was all human.
I ran, knowing no cover would protect me from both a dozen zombies, my old enemies, and my turned teammates. Taking stock of the battlefield, I sized up the apocalypse archetypes unraveling.
There were the deniers, neatly kneeling behind cover and carefully taking shots at whatever members of the opposing team they could recognize. Overwhelmed, they followed the sweet rules of laser tag with determined naivety. They died first, and with the least glory.
A few of us more Paragon types worked under an immediate pact – there were no beefs between us so long as the brain-munchers were about. We ducked and dodged through rampaging friendly-fire maniacs, hoping to stay alive long enough to save anyone’s ass.
And then she shot me. Again.
The majority of players fell into a bloodthirsty mob. Only a few of us bothered aiming our weapons at the creatures actively drooling for our flesh. In the chaos, we scrambled about the map, blurring the horizontal divide that dictated our team alignments. Without those separators, rather than banding together, these Renegades drew new lines around themselves and called everyone outside it – man or zombie – an enemy.
To this day I know not why. Maybe they saw an opportunity to take control, to scourge up massive points out of the hopeless scramble. Maybe they knew there was no chance of survival, and went out in a blaze of traitorous glory. Maybe in the paranoia of self-preservation they were scared, convinced the rest of us would seize the moment for ourselves rather than for mankind.
My laser vest gave one final, descending beep. My ammo had run dry, the zombies retreated, and I think none of us made it out alive. As much as I hope we can all unite should some sort of fictional horde charge the world, this game of laser tag was a pretty grim simulation.