Here at Phillips Academy, safety is the number one priority. We’re forbidden to walk on the lawns while going to class because we might trip over some grass and get a boo-boo.
Fire drills are held at 2, 4 and 6 AM because practice really does make perfect, especially when the students are grumpy, unconscious and uncertain of the dangers of fire.
Yes, these countless rules and procedures ensure that no cruel, corrupting influences can ever break through the Andover bubble and poison any of the students and for the most part, they work. I mean, does anyone even get kicked out for drugs anymore?
Seriously though, there are some dangers the school can never prepare us for. Some scenarios are just so tragic and life-changing that there is nothing the school can feasibly do to protect us. I am talking, of course, about a zombie apocalypse.
Imagine that one day you wake up to find your roommates, your teachers, even your secret crush turned into mindless, shambling corpses. What do you do? Do you still pursue your crush, knowing that at the end love conquers all? Or do you decide to stand and fight? If the only other remaining survivor is also your worst enemy, can you courageously muster up the will to work with him or is he the first person you end up killing?
Nothing in the Blue Book or any of Mr. Murphy’s helpful emails can answer these questions. This is why I present the videogame Left 4 Dead 2, which I believe can adequately prepare you for when the inevitable occurs.
In Left 4 Dead 2, you and three other survivors are thrust in a world ravaged by blood-thirsty zombies. Essentially, the goal of the survivors is to make it past the zombies and safely get to a safe house. However, just like at PA, guns and bombs are in short supply, which is why you can’t just start running around like James Bond, calling down airstrikes and laying down judgment as you see fit. No, the only way to survive this apocalypse is through teamwork and creative use of lethal weaponry, two things Andover students are notoriously bad at.
Let’s begin with the weapons. Like most US citizens, the survivors in Left 4 Dead 2 unfortunately did not take full advantage of the Second Amendment and therefore do not begin with guns to protect themselves.
At the beginning of the game they must instead defend themselves with common household items such as baseball bats, frying pans and ninja swords. A bit later into the game, the survivors finally see the light and embrace guns as a reasonable means of self-defense and now must choose between either the carnal, savage appeal of melee weapons or the clean professionalism of pistols. Thus begins the first of many dilemmas in the game.
Later still, the military starts showing up to help out, and the survivors have access to military-grade weapons, which in theory should make killing zombies a piece of cake.
Regardless of how many military-grade weapons one character has, the game remains incredibly difficult because no survivor can fight by himself. This game emphasizes teamwork, and if you instead decide to put the team on your back and wing it, everyone else, including your teammates, will kill you.
For example, let’s say you decide to go after the zombies with a frying pan or shotgun. As these weapons instantly kill most zombies at close range, you could be pretty happy meandering along, carving a path through a sea of human corpses.
Then suddenly the camera pans, a Spitter Zombie starts flinging acid at you from a distance, and because you don’t have a weapon to kill it from afar you are pretty much screwed.
The point is that every weapon has a weakness, and without your other teammates to help you the zombies will quickly find a way to exploit it.
Therefore, more than anything, Left 4 Dead 2 is a game that teaches and promotes teamwork. Admittedly, at PA, this is a mostly foreign concept, because why do you need help when you’re the best and the brightest? But while in most cases it’s alright to point and laugh at those stranded outside the Andover bubble, surviving a zombie apocalypse requires you to be able to deal with anyone, even those you usually scorn.
First, you need to make sure that every teammate has different weapons and is serving a different role so that your team is prepared to take on all the different types of zombies. Then, and this is the hard part, you need to be able to communicate with your team.
If you see a fellow survivor being surrounded and mauled by zombies and calling for help, it’s usually better to at least pretend to care and save him rather than let mutual distrust and disappointment poison your team forever. Similarly, since your weapons can hurt your own teammates, it’s usually better and courteous to announce where you’re going to fire a grenade to avoid blowing the legs off your entire team.
And when a zombie pops up that you know you can’t handle, you have to be willing to (gasp!) ask for help. Of course I’m not suggesting that PA students suddenly start working together right now, but desperate times do call for desperate measures.
In the end, Left 4 Dead 2 teaches us that surviving a zombie apocalypse isn’t about who has the biggest gun. Really, at the risk of sounding like a bad camp counselor, the most important thing to stay alive is the willingness to work with other people.
While I know I’m no good at this kind of social interaction in the classroom, judging from my instructor reports, at least I know that when the zombies come, I won’t be the first to go. Are you so sure?