Yesterday, Spooky and Zhiana saw themselves running for their lives from the zombie hordes across the Sydney Showgrounds at Olympic Park during Zedtown: State of Emergency. It was an action-packed day that saw roughly 1,000 players try to fight their way out of Zedtown and get through the apocalypse until the survivors could signal for evacuation, all trying to dodge the grasp of the undead and avoid being turned into zombies themselves while completing live missions and sidequests for their respective factions. This wasn’t a simple NERF war between humans and zombies: this was a real-life video game.

Spooky and Zhiana navigating the wasteland with fellow Yellow Team members. (Photo via NAT Photography)

Zhiana

This was our first time attending Zedtown, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that I would be fighting zombies and trying to escape the plague, but other than that, I came in with a completely blank slate. I was blown away by the sheer and utter massiveness of the entire operation. Featuring actors and NPCs, fully fleshed-out storylines, QR coded missions and side-quests, an app that constantly kept you updated on the human/zombie ratio, the Zedtown radio station that gave us live updates on missions and quests, it was unimaginably huge and completely immersive.

Spooky and I found ourselves in “Zone Medical” (yellow team), led by the somewhat eccentric Doctor Verne, which was based out of our “safe zone” at the amphitheatre. Most of our time was spent in said base, where we interacted heavily with the NPCs/actors and accompanied them on missions to retrieve items or provide a security entourage for our leader. As I said, this was a completely immersive experience and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to truly get into character. There was constant excitement: the adrenaline rush from escaping lightning fast boss-zombie Witch, or chasing down the Blue team after they cheated us on a prisoner exchange, or finding and escorting “Citizen Fairchild” to safety while the Red team tried to capture him themselves… the list goes on. All the actors improvisation was also on-point, they constantly and fluidly kept the storyline interesting and engaging. I’d like to give a shout out to one of the Yellow team deputies “Reggie” here; he constantly had things for us to do, such as quick side quests and missions and he was integral to keeping the momentum of the game going in the lull between major story arc events.

We managed to survive the apocalypse right up until the start of Evac; however, at that point, the survivors were numbered at around 100-200 players, with the zombie count sitting around triple that and we knew that we were probably not going to live. Spooky and I got separated in a stampede rush by the zombie horde, where I managed to twist my ankle as I ran away. Thus, I had to forfeit my humanity and accept defeat, turning myself in at the Zombie Hub and sadly accepting my fate of becoming a brain-eater.

Overall, even though I can barely move today due to sore muscles and twisted ankles, I think Zedtown: State of Emergency might have been the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It was truly like a real-life video game; I can’t wait to do the next one and see what they can come up with next. Well done, team!

Favourite part? The immersive story line. I really felt like we were part of the game and that we were actively contributing to the storyline. Getting into character and roleplaying along with the actors was very entertaining and definitely a highlight of the entire day. I also love that they had a complimentary cloak room, so you didn’t need to carry all your junk around with you while you were on the battlefield.

Tips for future events? This seems like a no-brainer (heh), but seriously, wear comfortable shoes. I wore Converse and they weren’t enough to save my feet/legs from getting sore by the end of the day. Bring some snacks as well; we got pretty hungry by the end of playtime and that left us a bit lethargic! I’d also recommend a portable charger for your phone as there’s stacks of opportunities to take great pics and vids and tuning into the Zedtown app is integral to the game.

Zombie rush! (Photo via NAT Photography)

Spooky

If you’ve never faced down 20 enemies with only a few other tired and desperate survivors and a half-empty ammo clip, let me tell you: it’s as intense as it is in the video games. Zedtown was my RPG-nerd dream come true! If you’re a massive video game geek like Zhiana and I and have ever found yourself playing a game and thinking “this is the coolest, I wish it was real,” Zedtown is a MUST. It was a full-on RPG, complete with side quests, squads, and tough game-altering decisions. But it was also part run and gun, part cardio workout: being ambushed by a hoard of zombies never stopped being scary and I think I ran faster than I ever have in my life to escape. The game went for four hours and it never got dull, but it also seemed like we were in Zedtown all day. We definitely could have stayed there all day!

Zhiana and I stuck together to complete missions co-op, only getting split up in the biggest ambush of the game. I was on the front line with about six other players when the attack came, but we were cornered with nowhere to go. Massively outnumbered but determined to survive, we held the line and cut down half the zombie hoard before tragically falling to the onslaught. It was awesome.

The day wouldn’t have worked without the amazing efforts of the Zedtown team, who went above and beyond to give us a fun experience. Zhiana already talked up the actors and writing, but there were so many little things that made the game so immersive. When players turned into zombies there was a team of makeup artists on hold to make them look the terrifyingly grotesque part. Interactive consoles were scattered around the map that players could use to establish new outposts, heal themselves, or charge the payload that all three human factions were fighting over throughout the day. The best gear was available at the Black Market, for sale to anyone who had the coin that came from completing missions. But the REALLY awesome gear was kept under the counter for anyone who knew the right questions to ask the dealers. The team really did think of everything and it was an incredibly realistic experience.

Favourite part? Realising that real-life fetch quests are actually really, really fun! We probably spent two hours scouring the map for vials of the cure and it never got any less exciting. But the end-game story missions were hands down the best! Every faction had its own unique missions, but they all came together in one huge story with a branching narrative depending on which leader or deputy you followed. The actors were all favourites as well; they were so into their roles that it was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement.

Tips for future events? Next time I want to do the night session! Doing it in the dark would make it even more immersive and frightening. Definitely take a portable phone charger to stay connected with the Zedtown app and take dozens of badass selfies, and bring water and maybe a muesli bar onto the field with you – you’ll need them both to stay alert and fighting fit. And dress for the occasion! It’s so worth reading up on your faction before the day and coming in the right colour and aesthetic. It’ll make it even more fun to role play and you’ll feel extra cool.

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