Video games featuring a zombie apocalypse seem like a dime a dozen these days but a recently released Arma 2 mod called DayZ has garnered my attention. The mod is an online multiplayer zombie scenario where players are dropped into the game in a large area where an unknown infection has turned the populace into zombies. I know this sounds pretty derivative and generic but there’s more. DayZ features more realism than most other zombie games. First, there is no concept of “friendly fire off”. In most multiplayer zombie games, like Left 4 Dead, weapons wielded by humans cannot hurt other humans. That’s why in other games, people just let loose even if their buddy is right in front of them. That’s not the case in DayZ. Just like in real life, if you accidentally shoot your buddy, that’s gonna hurt them. In other games, the concepts of food and water don’t come into play. No one needs to eat or drink to stay alive. In DayZ, it’s a constant struggle to scavenge for food and water. Sitting somewhere and staying put won’t work in the long run because you’re forced to go look for sustenance, just like in real life. Even death in DayZ is more realistic. Your character is allowed to keep all their weapons, ammo, supplies, maps, and equipment through different sessions as long as that character doesn’t get killed. If you get killed however, that particular character is gone forever. There’s no respawning with all the gear you collected. It can take days and days to collect better weapons and a sufficient stash of food but all that is gone if you somehow manage to get yourself killed. You can play again but you need to start all over again with nothing essentially.
The harsh realism built into DayZ has resulted in some fascinating observations into how people play the game. Apparently, most players die not because of the zombies but at the hands of other players. For a game where the zombies are supposedly the “main” enemy, the most dangerous threat to a player is in fact another human player. Some players would rather steal than scavenge for food and water and the easiest way to do that is to just surprise another player and shoot them. Because of the need for food and water, I’m guessing some players are making some desperate decisions in order to keep their character alive. The average life expectancy of a character is currently 27 minutes which might seem long for a multiplayer video game but considering how big the game space is and how spread apart everyone is, that’s a very short life span.
This type of behaviour reinforces my belief that if a zombie apocalypse were to actually occur, the greatest threat would not come from the zombies themselves but from other humans, as desperation and despair grab hold. A zombie is easy to read and is brutally honest. They just want to attack you and eat you. You can’t read another person so easily. Do they want my supplies? Should I trust them? What if I turn my back on them? Can I trust them? DayZ allows you to play out these scenarios. In the video above, a player narrates his thoughts as he encounters other players, nervously wondering if he should shoot first or have faith in his fellow man. Someone should write a paper based on the behaviour seen here!