Journey into despair: DayZ!

by anbrewk

I’m trying to run the gambit of experiences with DayZ without committing murder. Before I bought the game, I knew that player killing was a part of it and that some people actively hunted other players. They were described to me as bandits looking for loot – it’s easier to loot a player who just looted a city than to loot the city was their motivation.  Though bandits may exist, I have encountered a lot more psychos than bandits. The players I would call psychos are the ones who actively hunt other players. If these players could wear human hands on their belts like trophies, I am sure many would. Just today I got chased around by someone carrying an axe while his friend shot at me with what sounded like an AK. Somehow I survived just long enough to shoot the axe wielding psycho with my pistol before making it to a church to bleed to death, alone. I had wanted to survive but I don’t know what for. That scenario I just described got my heart pumping so hard that I honestly don’t think I’ve had that much adrenaline in my blood before. I was so stressed  out over dieing when I had only been alive for 5 minutes. I had just found that gun and didn’t owe anything to not be killed. I just really didn’t want to die. Why didn’t I want to die?

Computer zombies create danger and a threatening atmosphere but it’s the psycho human players that will kill you.  They’re the ones who are going to set up ambushes and snipe you from 500m away. While zombies are dangerous, it’s the human players that I’m scared of. It’s kind of perfect while being totally horrible. It is exactly what I would tout as the zombie experience: zombies are just scene dressing while human interaction is the real story.

Never in a computer game had I ever felt wronged like in DayZ. Today, after leaving a campsite with a friend I was playing with, we were ambushed by 2 or maybe 3 human players. I don’t know how many because I hit the ground in shock with broken bones and bled to death before I could get a good look. I didn’t fire a shot, not before and not after they opened fire. I had wanted to but it happened too fast for me to react. I was dead without having done anything – without even having tried to defend myself. I said to my friend, “They just murdered us. That was just murder.” I know concerned overly suspicious parents might accuse video games of being murder simulators but never have I taken that accusation so seriously until now.

DayZ is a mod for a game that was designed to be realistic. Before being chased by the axe murderer, I was shot at through a window. I heard breaking glass and hit the floor – not by choice but because I had fallen unconscious and was bleeding to death.  I had been shot at through a window with no way of dealing with it but to lay there and hope to come to.  The sound of the gunshot and breaking glass and the terrifying and helpless outcome were all very real. I was scared and felt betrayed. I didn’t do anything to deserve this but there I was dieing anyway.

Despite all the negativity in this game – murder, death, panic, fear, betrayal – it is definitely a lot of feedback.  After just purchasing a new computer with all my favorite games, I am drawn to play the one that is the most reprehensible because it is the most exciting and intriguing. The other day I had fun throwing flares in part because I knew other people could see them and were wondering about them. I thought they might be trying to kill me and the flares might have thrown off their nightvision goggles or maybe it drew their attention away from my position as they thought I would walk in the light of the flares. At least, I thought, it might be scary to see the city lit up like that. Wondering about the other players disposition and motivation is fascinating, even if it seems that most players motivation may be simplified to human killing. I wonder if they feel bad for killing ever. You can directly communicate with other players so someone can say something as they die. I wonder what people say. I’ve been too panicked and stressed out to say anything. I still flush when I talk with someone because I don’t feel safe and I don’t know why I’m talking.

I don’t know how I feel about this game but I’m interested enough to keep playing. I’m still not willing to delve into the depth of murdering other players though. It might be a game where you can murder other players, but it’s still a choice whether you do; I am reminded of East of Eden, which I just finished reading and John Steinbeck’s declaration that ‘Thou shalt” is a mistranslation of the bible and that “Thou mayest’ is the proper one – the one that gives human beings a choice to be good or evil. In DayZ, I think what might be so intriguing, what gives this game so much depth, is exactly that kind of choice found in the words ‘thou mayest.’