Step into math
In How Many Zombies Are Too Many Zombies? players take on the role of scientists helping the “Center for Calamity Control” simulate a zombie outbreak. Facilitators introduce participants to mathematical modeling and the ways they can be used to simulate, analyze and make predictions about the complex real-world phenomenon. Players help modify the simulation by suggesting different parameters, such as the number of steps zombies can take in the Zombie Outbreak Simulator, a turn-based game of zombie tag. Then participants play through the simulation, embodying the very parameters they’ve chosen, while the facilitator tracks the population of zombies and humans. At the end, players see graphs detailing the population swings and can further tweak parameters and see different results through play.
This experience grew out of a collaboration between the mathematician, Angelika Manhart, and the game design studio, Gigantic Mechanic. Gigantic Mechanic was inspired by Ms. Manhart’s work creating models of biological systems. After exploring different game ideas, the group stuck upon a zombie outbreak as a fun way to physically embody a complex system and differential equations through simple gameplay.
How Many Zombies Are Too Many Zombies? is part of ACCESS 2017, a program where artists worked with a mathematician to create museum projects that aid in the understanding of what mathematical models are and how we use them.
Dan Winckler and Emily Kornblut, Really Useful Media