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Davis

Davis, California

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Humans and zombies and wizards, oh my

Bundled up against the cold, brandishing plastic Nerf blasters, some tactically stealthy, others brash, they gather at night to fight to the dart-death. Others meet in warmer weather to sprint, dodge and throw balls — all with a broom tucked between their legs. It’s not the chaos or nonsense that it seems; it is just another example of the diversity and creativity of students at Davis.

Self-started sport clubs such as the Davis Urban Gaming Group and Muggle Quidditch provide a creative and competitive outlet beyond traditional sports offered at Davis, each of them catering to different crowds of active individuals.

“People want other forms of entertainment on campus besides getting drunk at parties,” said ASUCD Senator Maxwell Kappes, a fourth-year political science and applied statistics double major.

Kappes is the president of the Davis Underground Gaming Group (known by players simply as DUGG) which is an open club that meets every Saturday night at the Death Star to play a variety of foam-dart shooting games. The group currently averages an attendance of around 40 students per night.

“DUGG is active, it’s fun, and you’re shooting each other with Nerf blasters on a Saturday night. Really, what could be more fun?” Kappes said.

Getting started in the DUGG community is as easy as showing up and jumping into the fray. Communal blasters are made available for new members by Kappes and others, opening up the club to any and all who want to play.

Ease of access to the required equipment, coupled with lack of strict player commitment, are the cornerstones of both clubs, which invite players to come as their schedule allows.

“Quidditch isn’t a super dedicated, five-day-a-week team. It’s great for people who aren’t really into sports, but want to be active,” said Evan Rothstein, president of Muggle Quidditch and a second-year transfer economics major.

“It’s laid-back, it’s a bunch of friends getting together to play,” Rothstein said.

Quidditch, which was first described in the Harry Potter series as a game played while flying on broomsticks, gained international popularity in past years, and has become a fully fledged sport. Each of the team’s seven players run with brooms between their legs, one-handed, trying to out-score, out-hit and out-tag their opponents.

“A bit of mysticism and confusion surrounds Quidditch and how to play it, because, obviously, we can’t fly,” Rothstein said. “But it’s a very familiar game once you start. It’s almost like soccer within a game of dodgeball within a game of tag.”

With such unique gameplay, both Muggle Quidditch and DUGG players have found creativity within their sport. Rothstein and others must think outside the box to construct light, yet durable hoops required for play, while DUGG allows for the use of modified blasters.

Some engineering students take DUGG blaster-modding a step further by creating everything from sniper blasters with extended PVC barrels to automatically-firing blasters with modified cogs to air-canister-powered foam bombs.

“Through modding, DUGG becomes a craft-hobby. You gain skills with power tools, you learn about air dynamics, all while trying to improve efficiency. It requires a lot of ingenuity,” said Thanh Vu, a fifth-year biotechnology major.

Style of play determines what direction seasoned players take with their blasters.

“My strategy is to move with the group, blend in with the crowd. On my revolver, I have removed the air restrictors and replaced a spring, so it shoots farther, but the accuracy is more inconsistent,” said Patrick Felsher, a first-year undeclared major.

Safety always comes first, however.

“If anyone wants to mod something, we want them to bring it in first and shoot it at one of the moderators and we’ll determine if it’s too strong to use in the game,” Kappes said.

In addition to the regular, loose gameplay, each club periodically hosts larger-scale games. DUGG hosts Humans vs. Zombies, a variety of themed missions spread out over multiple days with the area of play expanded to all of campus, and last spring, Quidditch made its debut as an Intramural Tournament through UC Davis Campus Recreation. These larger games open up the clubs to more people, who in turn come back for the regular games.

“With intramural, it’s not just for Harry Potter fans. We had these huge football players coming out and playing, and they were just as excited as we were,” said Muggle Quidditch player Valarie Mores, a fourth-year design major.

Both Humans vs. Zombies and the IM tournament require a significant amount of time commitment by those in charge, but it’s done for the love of the game.

“On the player end, [for Humans vs. Zombies] it is as easy as showing up. On the moderating and planning side side, we put in more work than we probably should. Before each quarter, we put in at least 10 or 15 hours [of] planning,” said DUGG moderator Max Wilt, a fourth-year linguistics and Latin double major.

Quidditch returns to the IM league Spring Quarter and Humans vs. Zombies is being played from Jan. 22 to Jan. 25. For more information, or to join in on the action, visit the DUGG and Muggle Quidditch at UC Davis Facebook groups.

HANNAH KRAMER can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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