LARP or Party Game: How to Play “Zombies”

There’s something fascinating about zombies, and a current cultural meme seems to have made them even more popular than the silly idea that the world will end in 2012. (One of the most popular video games around now is the second installment of Left 4 Dead, called Left 4 Dead 2, which is a teamwork-based game pitting humans against hordes of “infected.”) I’ll remind readers that I was a fan before the current massive popularly, generally ever since reading Max Brooks’ brilliantly-written survival-guide parody The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, and his captivating World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War novel.

Zombies seem to be everywhere. There’s even a Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me parody centering on a zombie apocalypse.

LARPing—live action role playing—is detailed in Little Brother, which can be downloaded for free at Corey Doctorow’s site, or, of course, purchased in hardcover.

Somewhere between reading Little Brother and being inundated with zombies, it occurred to me that a zombie hunt LARP would make a great party game for David and his friends on his 11th birthday. Here’s what we did:

  • One person is elected to be the starting zombie.
  • The zombie “infects” others by giving them a gentle Indian sunburn.” (I didn’t want the kids biting each other.)
  • Once infected, a human has wait 30 seconds and then become an active zombie, hunting any human he can find.
  • The only way to stop a zombie is to shoot the zombie in the head with a Nerf gun. Such a shot removes the zombie from the remainder of the round.
  • Zombies move slowly and relentlessly, generally while moaning loudly.
  • The round ends when all human have been infected, or when all zombies have been killed.

Overall, this went very well. Next time, I’ll include a couple of minor improvements:

  • The kids kept barricading themselves in bathrooms. This sort of interior door will absolutely not stop a zombie, but will slow one down for a moment or two. I think to account for this, I’ll have the zombies go back to a central location, and get a paper sign that, when slid under the door, requires those within to open the door.
  • I need to figure out a way to allow for simulation of decapitation by sword. I think a Nerf or toy sword to the neck should work. Water-based magic markers would be fine, too.

There were a couple of really great moments. One was when my sweet daughter Naomi came up to me and gave me the “Indian sunburn.” This was perfectly reflective of the psychological difficulty of fighting zombies who were formerly loved ones. I should have shot her on sight!

Lego Left 4 Dead: Coming Soon (image thanks to XenoPrime).

(Sadly, you probably won’t see this anytime soon, but you never know. I remember when Lego wouldn’t manufacture Lego weapons for their minifigs.)

What to Do When Comcast’s Norton Security Suite Breaks Your Shared Resources

Comcast has recently switched its provided-for-free antivirus vendor from McAfee to Norton Security Suite, from Symantec. The subscriptions to McAfee Security Suite are due to expire in May. (Norton is named after Peter Norton, a true god of early personal computing utilities back when DOS was king and before all the cool things Peter wrote got licensed by Microsoft for use within their operating systems.

Overall, this is probably a good move, as Symantec’s 2010 offering seems to have recovered its lagging performance, and surged ahead of McAfee in the ratings.

A month ago, I installed Norton on our mostly-gaming-and-homework computer to see how it would run. I hadn’t had any real problem with Norton, and it does seem to be less intrusive than McAfee was, doing most of its scanning during idle times. I also switched our church’s media computer over to use it, and had only one minor problem that a reboot fixed.

(I should interject that “the cloud” has allowed me to radically de-task my specific-machine-focused life, so that, for most of the things that were so critical before, it now doesn’t matter which computer I use. Our e-mail and calendar are hooked to Google Apps; my notes are in Evernote, frequently accessed files are in DropBox, and even remote access tasks can be handled through LogMeIn.)

Last night I decided to switch from McAfee to Norton on the computer that gets the most use at home. This is the one that hosts our shared printer. I ran the installer from Comcast for Norton, which automatically uninstalls McAfee, lets you reboot, and installs Norton. There didn’t appear to be any problems … until Isaac tried to print from the other machine, and got an error.

I checked the cables, successfully printed from the host machine, but nothing I did would fix the printing. I also discovered that trying to get to my host machine’s C drive from the network wouldn’t work (usually we do \{machinename}c$ to open it as a network share), although the D drive would open. I tried disabling the Norton firewall and anitvirus temporarily, but the network resources still wouldn’t connect.

I fired up a chat session with a Symantec representative named Srini, and he checked my spooler settings. Ultimately Srini wasn’t able to help. While this fairly slow support was going on, I hit the Web, searching for one of the error messages I received while trying to open the C drive, “Not enough server storage is available to process this command.” Among other results indicating the same problem, I found a KnowledgeBase article at Microsoft that describes the symptoms and a possible fix. I also discovered a number of posts suggesting that this was a relatively common problem with Symantec products, although other products or networking configurations can produce the same symptoms.

So, having nothing to lose, I took a stab at fixing the IRPStackSize property in my registry. In my case, the key didn’t exist, so I added it by using RegEdit to navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetServicesLanmanServerParameters key, and then added a new DWORD named IRPStackSize (the capitalization is important). I right-clicked on the new key, and edited the decimal value to 18 (hexadecimal 12). Then I restarted the computer, which is necessary for the change to work.

Setting the IRPStackSize parameter in the registry editor.
Yep, there's your problem right here: Setting the IRPStackSize parameter in the registry editor.

Upon restart, my network resources were accessible again, and printing to the shared printer worked perfectly. Tonight I’ll try to contact the Symantec representative again and let him know how this was fixed.