Meet Patient 0, the real-life live action zombie apocalypse game that has reduced some players to tears and whose creators hope to bring to Sydney this year - along with corpses, zombies, guns and real pain.
Welcome to zombie kill school
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Welcome to zombie kill school
Fed up by his day job as The Age's entertainment editor, Karl Quinn went out in search of zombies, and found some in Broadmeadows.
Unlike a conventional video game played in front of a PC or games console, Patient 0 sees players fork over a few hundred dollars to be put inside a creepy, real warehouse with a team of six for an hour or so to kill zombies running at them.
The warehouse is transformed into a secret underground medical facility where the senior scientist has been conducting genetic experiments on his subjects over time. It also houses a morgue, dissection room, bedroom and nursery.
Corpses are strewn across the warehouse floor, paid zombie actors are tasked with spooking players, and gas-powered laser guns are handed out that recoil like real guns and utilise infrared technology to signal for the zombie actors to die when they are "shot" by players.
Created by IRL Shooter (IRL stands for "In Real Life"), a company started by film and TV industry veterans, the game has already been a success in Melbourne with more than 6200 players taking part during the three months it ran starting late October in 2012.
Run inside a 12,000-square-metre warehouse, the Melbourne event included 7500 props and made use of around 14,000 batteries, 20,000 litres of fake blood and 200 actors. Most players were from Melbourne, but many others came from interstate and overseas for the experience.
Now IRL Shooter hope to raise $1 million to bring a similar event to Sydney where the game will have the added feature of pain inflicted with the help of a "pain belt". It is optional and delivers an electric shock to players if they come within close proximity of a zombie that's chasing them.
"The paint belt gives players the chance of actually having that physical sensation of being hurt," said IRL Shooter's director David Leadbetter.
"So when a zombie 'bites' — and that's an infrared electronic bite that occurs through proximity — players will physically feel it and it'll heighten the immersion and heighten the realism [of the game]. It'll also add an extra dimension to it, which we felt was lacking."
Other new additions will require players to find an eyeball and hand to insert into a retina or palm scanner to open doors. Players will also need to put their hands inside gruesome "corpses" to find clues.
"You don't just play our game, you live it," said Mr Leadbetter. "There's no pause button and you can't 'timeout' to go and have a cup of tea or go to the toilet. Once you're in, you're in."
In some cases, some gamers became a little too immersed in the game and injured themselves while playing Patient 0 in Melbourne.
"[They] thought that they were still playing Call of Duty or Battlefield and decided to jump down a flight of stairs - because that's what they can do in the [virtual] game - and then had to hobble the rest of the way with twisted ankles and that sort of thing," he said.
The fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding site Pozible was one tenth of the way there on Thursday, with 30 days to go.
The plan is to host the game in an inner-west warehouse every weekend from August over a period of about 12-13 weeks.
Mr Leadbetter, a freelance film and TV producer, said the idea of creating a real-life video game came about at a pub with friends.
"We were sitting around talking about video games and movies and the conversation turned to 'Wouldn't be great if we could play a video game in real-life'," said Mr Leadbetter, who has been involved with big budget American films, music videos and small budget local TV commercials.
"It really was from a love of the [horror] genre, a love of games and taking games to the next level. Sitting in front of your screen is great ... but you're still in a safe environment, you're still sitting on the couch. So the idea was ... with our background in film and TV production that I and my other business partner Drew have, we could build a venue, develop the technology and actually put on a live event game."
He said Patient 0 was inspired by a number of video game series, including Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Dead Space. "We wanted to incorporate the creepiness and the lighting design and the sense of suspense and foreboding that those games created," he said.
But the game isn't for everyone. At the Melbourne event about eight people didn't make it to the end.
"Some people just don't respond well to being shouted at," said Mr Leadbetter, referring to the "sergeant" who briefs teams before they go in. "[He] really broke down some people."
To play, gamers need to be over the age of 16 and sign a legal disclaimer acknowledging hazards and frights that could feasibly lead to injury or death.
Daniel Johnson, director of the QUT games research lab, said the game sounded like "good fun" but agreed it probably wasn't for everyone.
Mr Johnson said the only danger would be people not realising what they were getting into.
"But if you're the kind of person who is physically fit or a thrill-seeker it sounds like an incredibly enjoyable and immersive experience," said Mr Johnson.