14 Jan 2011

By the time I scrapped the Oz flights I'd already booked the time off work. This gives me a couple of weeks with not much to do but try to answer the question "what kind of person am I?" - so I've been using the time to try a few new things.

On Wednesday I discovered Zombie Run, a GPS game of desperate escape, and took it out for a spin on Hampstead Heath.

I got run ragged, never quite able to get far enough ahead to get outside their chase radius on the heath's winding paths, and by the time I was finally eaten after five kilometers, I'd accumulated half a dozen zombies and gotten completely turned around.

So I've spent the morning hacking in Eclipse, and my version of Zombie Run has a compass and a shotgun.

I strap on my trail shoes and configure the game, using fingerless gloves on the touchscreen. Destination: the bridge northwest of Highgate ponds. Infestation density: moderate. Zombie mode: 'Resident Evil'. They'll move at 5mph as the crow flies, so on clear ground, I'm faster. Uphill or in overgrown areas, they're faster. And, obviously, they don't tire.

Starting ammunition: a single shell.

The map shows me the situation. There are at least half a dozen between me and the bridge, making a straight line a dicey proposition. But there are two ammo dumps at the top of Parliament Hill - unfortunately, with group of zombies standing around nearby.

Jogging towards the heath, I build a plan. I'll take it easy, conserving energy until they notice me. At that point I'll sprint for the ammo, hope I get there first, then start shooting. From there I'll take a straight line through to the bridge, using the spare ammo to deal with any surprises.

It's an uphill sprint but nothing I can't handle. Chclick. The icon turns grey. I've picked up the first of the drops, just ahead of the zombies.

Now the game changes. I slow to a steady, deliberate walk, level the phone, tap the screen. The boom of the shotgun effect mixes with the hip-hop beats in my headphones, the click-clack that follows it deeply comforting. They're down. I pick up the pace, snatching up the second ammo dump on the way.

Almost immediately another group spot me and start chasing. It's not a problem until a pair of zombies close from in front. I can't safely dodge them and can't go around without the group behind catching up, so I'm forced to shoot again, on the move this time.

I'm empty, no defense left but my speed. But the bridge is in sight now. Standing at the near end is a resident walking his pets - or a Resistance guard with a handful of attack dogs, depending on how you look at it. He's nonplussed by my whoops as I come to an abrupt halt and take off my headphones. The world flips back to another grey day on the heath, and a long walk back to the flat. It's as if the zombie apocalypse never happened.

Except that now I know the answer.

I'm the kind of person who writes code to go running to escape from invisible zombies.