Hardcore military shooters aren’t really my thing. I enjoy a challenge in games, but I don’t get the love for spending an hour crawling through the hills looking for an enemy sniper, only to get shot and end up doing it all over again. That isn’t something that I find enjoyable. That’s the main reason that I was skeptical when I heard all the hype surrounding the Arma II mod, DayZ. Despite my disdain for the style of play, I found myself engrossed in the nothingness surrounding me.
Just hearing about DayZ isn’t going to get you excited for it. In fact, it’ll probably turn you off. It doesn’t sound fun and there’s really nothing that exciting that you can gather from the description. It just sounds like another hardcore PC mod that only hardcore PC players can enjoy. As it turns out, that’s the furthest from the truth.
After spawning on a beach, I tried to get my footing. The controls are weird. Well, they’re different than most first-person shooters, but that has more to do with Arma II than it does DayZ. Once I was able to figure out the basics of movement, I looked around. There wasn’t much there besides a hill, the ocean, and a lighthouse. I started to make my way toward the lighthouse, but I caught the attention of a passing zombie and had to starting running away. It was at this point that I noticed an eye and an ear icon in the upper right corner of the screen, both resting at full bars. I could only assume that at this point I was completely visible and could be heard from quite a distance.
I turned around to see if the zombie had stopped following me at this point, but as soon as a stopped, I was struck by three different zombies. Blood squirted from my body in a comic fashion. There was nothing that I could do to fight back. I didn’t have any weapons, I had only spawned with a flashlight, some bandages, and a small backpack to hold it all in. I was hopeless. My screen faded and a green hourglass appeared on screen indicating that I had passed out.
While I lay on the ground passed out from my blood loss, another player comes along and shoots all the zombies. It surprised me, as I was told that other players don’t really help you out that often. It’s a kill or be killed situation and most players will just shoot on site (Though that isn’t always the case and makes for some really cool videos like this one, where players commit a highway robbery). Unfortunately, he ran away toward the nearest town while I was still out. I’m not sure why he bothered helping me at all, but then again, I'm not sure about most things in this game.
When I finally came to, I noticed that the blood number in the upper right was dropping significantly and that I needed to do something about it quickly before I died. I opened up my backpack and grabbed the bandages, hoping that it would stop the bloodloss. It did, just shy of 6000 blood (whatever that means as a metric). I thought that maybe I had gotten lucky and I could actually work on finding a weapon of some kind now.
However, when I tried to move, my character would only move in prone position. I stood him back up and tried again, but he would always revert to the prone position before beginning to move. I couldn’t figure out why, until I saw the snapped bone icon on the right side of the screen. It wasn’t good. One of the zombies had broken my leg and I couldn’t walk while it was broken. I tried more bandages, but nothing helped. I pulled up Steam chat and messaged a friend, hoping that he could give me some clue of how to get walking again. His response gave me a deeper understanding of just how hardcore DayZ was. “You’re going to need some morphine,” he said, “if you don’t have that, you might as well just kill yourself.” The logistics of that were mind-boggling.
I couldn’t believe that something like that could happen and the only solution would be to crawl around, hoping to avoid zombies and find some morphine. I couldn’t rely on a fellow player to give me any, why should they waste that one me when they could just kill me and take everything anyway. It was brutal and devastating to me that there was nothing for me to do but restart. Restarting would put me on a completely new area of the map, an area that I would still have no knowledge of in relation to anything else in the world.
Where would I find weapons?
Would I run into other players on my path?
Could I manage to sneak away from zombies until I was able to defend myself?
As these questions ran through my mind, I realized why DayZ has been able to reach the audience that it had. It’s thought provoking. It’s real. It isn’t a shooter at all, it’s a survival game. And not in the “It’s a survival game, but here’s a gun five minutes into the game”-type of survival game. It truly is about survival on a deeper level. There’s nothing easy about it. When you die, you lose everything. Things that you’ve spent dozens of hours scouring for, only to have them ripped from you in a split-second’s choice. DayZ is unlike anything I’ve ever played before and it isn’t even a real game. It’s a mod to an expansion pack that has managed to bring a two year-old shooter into the top ten games on Steam. DayZ is the reason that we play games, we want meaningful experiences, and that’s exactly what this is.