"I'm here to kick ass and chew gum. And I'm all out of ass."
(Mmm, doesn't sound as tough as the original when I put it like that).

This Saturday I took part in a Battlefield Live special zombie event down in Pembrokeshire. I love interactive stories, especially those created by doing, where you are a true participant; I also savour a bit of fictional horror and darkness, so these kind of events are a perfect fit for me.

There was a lot of excitement as my family group made our way there - a fog descended that was incredibly creepy, along with light rain. We were dressed for the apocalypse though, so the damp didn't matter. It was also getting dark, as we chose the session that began as the last of the daylight faded. Put all this together and you have trepidation even before you arrive!

After a briefing the players split into two teams of eight: we were humans versus humans in a battle for supplies (food, water, ammunition) during a zombie apocalypse. So how did the zombies fit in? They were "walkers" who randomly wandered the paths moaning, then they came after you if they detected you. The paths were just wide enough that you could dodge past them but usually it was better to run another way and hope you didn't sprint head-first into another walker! Some of them moved silently so you got a real shock when you rounded a corner and came face to face with one. The make-up and acting was great, totally convincing, giving you a visceral thrill as you abandoned your goal and just retreated full speed. It is obvious that everyone involved put lots of thought, time and effort into the whole event.

The guns used are infra-red. They have a weighty feel and sounds, so that's all good. No need to buy ammo or wear goggles. The only downside compared to paintball is that in paintball you have a physical fear of being shot - it hurts! - which adds to the tension. Then again, for people who don't want the bruises or the use of paint pellets this is better. It's also good that infra-red guns make things harder for cheaters, since the guns deactivate once you are dead: it gets round any cheaters who pretend their paint splats were "from the last round" and play on.

There were loads of features I loved, I'll just mention a few of them:
  • A crazy survivor who wandered around spouting jokes as a wildcard element, scary yet funny, who also helped me gauge distance and location.
  • The zombies – always great to have a willing bunch who will put the effort in, and this event had them in spades!
  • The shelters, lighting, paths etc were really well done: uneven, fun layouts, a good mix of light and shadow.
  • The fog, rain and darkness made everything twice as tense.
  • Respawning required passing though "Hell" unarmed - a darkened maze of rooms with chained and shambling zombies, some of which chase you as you try and find your way out. (I'm a bit rubbish, kept dying, and had to pass through multiple times...)
  • A fun innovation was when sirens went off (think of Silent Hill): extra zombies poured out of Hell and came searching. You had to hide on your own, gun deactivated, and not look at them if they came near, hoping they'd pass on by. Very tense.
  • I liked the organiser's note to respect the woods and environment, and the fact that they use infra-red rather than chemical pellets: all appreciated by a greenie like me.
  • The game ended with a panic run uphill, chased by zombies. I like running uphill, so that was good for me, but when zombies neared us I surprised myself by letting a girl go in front, putting myself between her and danger, an instinctive reaction despite fear at the howls just behind my back. It's nice to surprise yourself sometimes.
There wasn't much time for picture taking. This was my best shot, while crouching in a puddle of mud. The flash was on, it gave me away, and before I knew it a horde of zombies descended on my hidey-hole. Oopsie.

How did we do? We didn't win. I didn't even see whole arena (I never found the food dumps) - appropriately for my surname I spent most of the time by the water supplies, and our team held them the longest. Unfortunately my family proved to be one of the weak points! My mother dropped out near the start because it was too scary; then my sister twisted her ankle slightly near the end and had to drop out (she's fine now, and can't wait to go back). It didn't matter, we all had fun and a real adrenaline burst. I really appreciate all the effort of the organisers and zombies, many thanks! Hopefully there will be some longer events, and I sent the organisers a few ideas (resisting the urge to suggest a Turner evening).

So I recommend them to my friends and readers! If any of you go along let me know, I might even meet you there - you can be on my team and help me win next time!