Lower Than a Survivor's Belly in a Cherno Drainage Ditch. Or: Why I Don't Like Day Z.
By Tara Roth on August 6th, 2012 (22 comments)
“Okay, we’re going to belly crawl through this town to the church here.” Bob said, stabbing his finger down on the map in front of him. The paper shifted slightly under the pressure of his fingertip, and with considerable care he adjusted it back to its original position, centered just under the monitor. I was trying to pay attention while he and Richard hashed out their battle plans, I really was. But after spending an hour trying to find a server that wouldn’t drop us and then another hour of running to find a town to be able to raid, I was fighting an urge to alt-tab and start checking Facebook.
“Why do we need to belly crawl?” I asked “Why don’t we just pick a barn and start gunning them down?” My character inched forward in a crouch walk, trodding over their prone bodies, absolutely heedless of Richard’s hissed warnings.
“That might attract attention!” Bob remarked, reaching over to stab at my keyboard. My character laid down. “Now, we’ll move west to the third building then- “
“Which way is West?” I interrupted
“What do you mean which way is West?”
“It’s night on this server and there’s no compass.”
“Tara, we went right past Zelenogorsk. Didn’t you read the sign?”
“I didn’t see a Zelenogorsk. I saw a “3,” an “e,” a“V”, a backwards “N”, part of a square...”
“JUST FUCKING TELL ME RIGHT OR LEFT!”
“Left! Left! Jesus.” We belly crawled to the church which ended up being loaded with supplies. “Okay now we’ll go to this town up North and hit up these barns.” Bob instructed his brother over his headset.
“Why?” I asked.
“Why?” Bob repeated, a note of surprise in his voice.
“We’re armed to the teeth! Why do we need more supplies?” Bob looked back at his monitor and continued relaying directions to his brother. I could tell he was going to ignore me from now on. We crawled out of the buildings and started making our way to the next town. A long, slow and painful belly crawl into the barns later and we now had the task of deciding which new supplies to pick up and which to ignore. Bob and Richard were in their element. Their voices were hushed over Mumble, eyes trained on their screens for any sign of movement, hand and fingers ready to convey the commands that would keep their toons alive. There was so much tension in the air you could practically feel--
“Tara did you just fire your gun??” Bob gasped after a short stunned pause.
“He looked at me funny.” I replied, firing at the next zombie that came into view. The zombies were piling in now. Dozens of them. Lining up like ducks before the open doors while we discharged our weapons again and again trying to stem the endless tide. Expletives were flying, most of them aimed at me. Bob went down with a zombie on top of him which Richard and I quickly dispatched. After an intense two minutes all was finally quiet. Bob’s character sat eating, healing from the ordeal. A silence briefly settled over our group but the tension was still thick in the air. A red, angry tension.
“Well,” I said. “That was fun. Let’s clear out another town.”
I just don’t have fun in DayZ. My problem with it, apart from the fact that it can take an hour to even start playing, is that there isn’t a goal apart from “stay alive” and once you’ve mastered moving around the world, the only thing that can threaten that goal is another player (or a bored team member with a Winchester rifle). Once you’re done hunting down supplies and ammo, there really is nothing to do. You can’t retake the world because the zombies simply respawn. You can’t build a fortress and begin re-populating the human race because there is no contextual menu to initiate a quick knobbing and no way to interact with the world apart from setting up a tent. All you can do is find some sort of vehicle, fix it, and drive it around.
For me, that’s a “Whoop-de-fuckin’-do.”
DayZ is a game where you need to make your own objectives but the problem is that those objectives are spectacularly limited. This means that someone who has the attention span of a gnat (this guy!) is either going to get bored and stop playing, or get bored and start hunting other players for their entertainment.
There is however, one important way DayZ can be fun: As a way to hang out with friends. DayZ is very similar to MMO’s in that the gameplay is significantly less fun than the people you play with. Sure the “intense struggle to survive” aspect is fun, but once the fear wears off it’s just another survival horror game. The best way to play DayZ is to get a community together, make a goal and set out to accomplish it. During the gameplay there will be banter and at the end of the evening, there will be shared experiences and stories that you can bring up years after the fact like I have with WoW. Psychologically, these sorts of games help us feel connected to one another as human beings, even if it’s through a digital medium.
In a way, videogames are the new soccer teams: A weekly/daily gathering of a group of people who may play competitively, but mostly are just there for fun and to hang out with friends. It’s a way for people who live across the county, or even in different countries, to interact with one another without needing to leave their homes. It was this social aspect that kept me playing WoW, and it's this social aspect that could possibly get me into playing DayZ.
But I doubt it.
Tara is a part time writer and full time scientist living and working in San Francisco, CA.
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