Katerina Halkeas, une participante au "Zedtown", un jeu d

In" Zedtown", zombies and reality catch up with video game fans

Sydney (AFP) – High-pitched screams pierce the air as a zombie witch with a filthy white dress and a crazy look appears, hurtling down an alley of Sydney University in pursuit of a fleeing group screaming.

Welcome to “Zedtown”, an adventure game based on a video game that imagines an invasion of revenants on the campus of the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Amid the students who live their lives without worrying about this bustle, a thousand participants in the game, disguised and equipped with weapons firing foam bullets, try to escape for several hours from a growing horde of zombies.

This game where emotions are guaranteed is a hit within a generation that grew up with a video game console controller in hand and is now looking, with “Zedtown” and other adventures between the real and the virtual, to expand its playing field.

“It is an extraordinary feeling to see hundreds of adult men and women running away from you because they are really scared. It’s exhilarating, “explains the” witch”, again Katerina Halkeas time to talk to AFP.

“Video games themselves are becoming more and more engaging. But an adventure like this is the cut above”, continues the one whose character is inspired by “Left 4 Dead” (L4D), one of those shooting games where the player sees his targets through the eyes of the hero.

– ‘Walk or die’ –

The adventure begins nicely with a handful of zombies trying to touch the hundreds of “survivors”to make them join the”army of shadows”.

The organizers spiced up the adventure by disseminating among these survivors “secret zombies” responsible for making everyone doubt the real identity of his neighbor.

The hours pass, the light falls and the tension rises. The ranks of the revenants grow as the last survivors struggle to stay alive and find the way out to win the game.

Unlike PC or console adventures, you can’t press “pause” in this type of game. Can’t stop to go to the bathroom or make a phone call. It’s non-stop, “walk or die”, and that’s what pleases.

“Zedtown” is a testament to the growing craze for these real and virtual entertainment, with a role-playing dimension.

In Australia, the Pokemon Go mobile app was also a hit, so much so that it was necessary to replace a lawn in a Sydney park turned into a quagmire by crowds who came to catch rare virtual critters.

Also popular on the island-continent are life-size escape games, where participants locked in a room have to solve puzzles to manage to get out of it.

“Zedtown” goes beyond, with the ambition to test the physical and emotional limits of the participants.

– ‘Need for escape’ –

“You find yourself in a situation where you have to talk to people you would never have spoken to, sometimes even your survival depends on them, which makes you very quickly forge close relationships,” says David Harmon, the creator of “Zedtown”, who hopes to organize his adventures in other Australian cities and export the concept abroad.

The excitement is such that the thousand seats available for the latest “Zedtown” event on the University of New South Wales campus have gone like hot cakes. The ticket costs 45 Australian dollars (30 euros).

“Emotionally, you get a lot of adrenaline,” says Ian Kilburn, whose Grim Reaper character, with his big black cape and shoulder scythe, is well known to Zedtown attendees. “I’ve always been blown away by the costumes and the effort everyone makes to make it a really fun experience.”

With the emergence of virtual reality systems like the Rift headset from Oculus, a subsidiary of Facebook, these role-playing games have a bright future ahead of them.

In any case, this is what Tim Ruse, managing director of the Melbourne start-up Zero Latency, who has developed a helmet, a weapon and vests that allow virtual enemies, human or otherwise, to fight in a warehouse.

“Humans have always needed to extricate themselves from their reality, by telling each other stories, by watching movies,” he tells AFP. “The new generation of fully immersive experiences is part of this same need for escapism”.

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