DayZ’s Frailty: Exposing Gamers To Helplessness

If you were standing over my shoulder this past Friday evening watching me play DayZ, you might have wondered why I was playing a game whose graphics appeared grainy, black and white, and seemed to be pulsing like someone’s blood pressure. You probably would’ve questioned why I would be so intensely enjoying a game were about every 30 seconds I would say, “I passed out,” then laughed hysterically with my friends via Skype. After some reflection, I too was asking myself these same questions, and I’ve come up with an answer.

DayZ was designed to expose players to emotional situations, and plays upon the responses to said emotional circumstances. DayZ is a realistic survival game where the lack of food and water are not the most dangerous elements, but they will kill you just as often as the other inhabitants of Chernarus (the island setting for Dayz). In most PC games the player has the majority of control over the environment, a complete understanding of who is friend and who is foe, and an idea of how to beat the game. In DayZ, none of these predetermined factors, which make up most video games, exist. The player is not the most powerful element in the game and alone, he will not survive.

So what makes not having complete control, or even the majority of control, over the game you are playing, fun? Firstly, you must embrace the fact you are at the whim of your environment. To enjoy DayZ you have to let go of the typical feeling, one usually garners from a video game, of being larger than life, and accept that you are just a small part of it. The fragility of your character in DayZ is a reason why it can be so enjoyable, but to appreciate this Mr. Glass syndrome you have to be able to immerse yourself in the world of DayZ-you have to care about the survival of your character and those of your friends.

Going it alone in DayZ means you will only survive for so long, you will eventually need help. When you’ve lost too much blood, your screen fluxes from white to grainy shades of grey and you pass out every 30 seconds; you’ll need someone other than yourself, to administer a blood transfusion. When your friend is crawling on the ground with a broken leg, from a lucky zombie whack or a bullet from another player, you’ll unselfishly give him your last shot of morphine (or maybe you won’t). It’s during and after surviving (or dying), in DayZ, that you can find humor in your character’s frailty, and entertainment in passing out.

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A Summer To Remember: Steam’s Summer Sale

The Steam Summer Sale has become more than just a period of epic low prices on quality games from quality developers. The Steam Summer Sale has become a bit of a summer sensation, the epitome of Christmas in July. Adding to the marketing hype this year was the later than expected launch date of the sale. The PC gaming community was already prepared to sink its teeth into the summer sales’ digital juices, the delayed start (compared to summers past) only made gamers salivate even more. My mouth runneth over, sadly my wallet doesn’t but I am thankful for the dishes Valve is catering.

Each year the sales get better. More games become available (with the addition of new developers and the games they bring with them), and the variances in the way the games go on sale increases. This year the Steam community has multiple sales scenarios pawing at their bank accounts. The usual daily deals continue to impress, as do the Pack Deals (discounts on a developers library of games). What really keeps a potential buyer coming back is the chance that the perfect game will have the perfect price, this is done through the Flash Sales. Flash Sales on the Steam page are short term sales on games with steep discounts (i.e. Fallout: New Vegas for under $5). In the words of Ron Popeil, “Wait there’s more.” This year Steam added the Community Choice pitch, where Steam users get to vote on the sale it wants to see next. Three games are listed with a corresponding discount, and based on the vote totals the next Community Choice sale is decided-it’s democracy and capitalism surprisingly getting along with each other.

What do all these discount variances amount to? Community engagement. Keeping your community interested in potential sales keeps them coming back, it’s page views with a bigger upside. It keeps your potential purchaser asking, “What’s next?” It’s working too. Sales figures are not made available but the impact of the sale has caused some angst with EA, who have complained about it cheapening the value of intellectual property, which means they can’t compete, and Steam is having another summer to remember. What EA? Your digital distribution application (Origin, still in beta) can’t compete with a distributor that puts PC gamers first (and has since its release to the public in 2002)? That shouldn’t come as a surprise. I think Valve’s Director of Business Management, Jason Holtman, put EA in its place with his tactful reply.

Valve was out front when it came to digital distribution and to stay there (as is the case for any tech company), they have to continue to lead the pack. More importantly they have to continue to put their communities’ interest inline with the interest of Valve/Steam. If they continue to cater to their community then the money will continue to roll in. With that being said, where’s Half Life 2: Episode 3?

The Road To Deliverance: Finding Fun And A Path, In DayZ.

Like many before me, my first few life’s in DayZ, a mod created for Arma 2 and its expansion Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead (from developer Bohemia Interactive), were short, and full of tension and wonder. Spawning on the shores of an open world island with a flashlight and a bandage makes you feel pretty vulnerable. Adding to the tension is the foreknowledge that the island is infested with zombies, out to feast on your body like a drug crazed Florida man. Dean Hall, the creator of DayZ, was inspired by his time spent with the New Zealand Army in Brunei, as part of a military exchange program between the New Zealand Army and the Singapore Armed Forces. Originally to be a training implement that exposed soldiers to the emotions and sensations of stressful situations [1], it has quickly become a game that invokes these emotions within gamers, myself included.

Dying regularly during your first couple of hours in DayZ is part of the games appeal and genius. The difficulty and intricacies of play is definitely far more advanced than the majority of your first person shooters; part of the games appeal and the reason it has received so much free social media marketing. The best way to learn how to excel is by experiencing. You can catch a handful of tutorials online that teach you the basics, but the lessons Dean Hall wanted to convey to soldiers are best absorbed by coming to the realizations on your own. The first time you sit on the outside of a small community calculating the risk to venture in and deciding your path that you will crawl to avoid zombie eyes, something clicks. You realize the balance between risk and reward, which is a constant companion during your time spent in DayZ.

The tension created by limited supplies and terror demanding music instantly grasps your attention the first time you spawn on a beautiful sandy beach. The first time you run unarmed squealing like a pig from a zombie, who heard you as you went from the noise suppressing grass to the echoing pavement, is exhilarating-and all this from a game still in alpha. You instantly relate to the actress in the clichéd zombie movie, who is running and screaming for her life. After you make your blood trailing escape though, the relation you have to the silicon beauty from movie-land ends.

After your escape, you have to bandage your wounds before you bleed out. Find an animal. Kill said animal, if you have the means to do so. Gut it and cook it. Eat. Then worry about your next meal and not becoming anyone else’s. Oh, and don’t forget the threat posed by other players (bandits), they can kill you just as easily as thirst and hunger. DayZ is The Road combined with Deliverance, and you get to experience both hands on. And yes, that is fun.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DayZ#Development

Discovering My Higgs Particle: Diablo 3 Set Items And Employment

Indiana and his farther found it in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Jason and his Argonauts found it despite the odds against them. This week, scientist may reveal they found it thanks to the Large Hadron Collider. So the evidence is there, that finding the impossible, is possible. Rather it is the Holy Grail, the Golden Fleece or the ‘God Particle,’ that which eludes us can be imagined in to existence, or actually discovered. So I am trying to do the same with what’s eluded me for over a year, the reestablishment of my career; and for a shorter period, a nerdy in-game item.

Also eluding me for a shorter amount of time, but almost as sought after, a set item drop in Diablo 3 [D3]. D3 has multiple levels of rare items and what seems to be the most elusive of them all, even rarer than legendary items, are level 60 and above set items (usually noted by their green appearance). Set items are items that when worn as a set, give you multiple bonuses. With another career opportunity narrowly missed last week I’ve started to place mental bets on which will appear first, a job offer or a level 61 set item in D3. After last week’s employment disappointment, and the release of lower-than-expected job numbers; I am leaning towards seeing a monster explode, leaving a greencolored item behind, before receiving an offer.

This gives all new meaning to someone ‘dropping’ their pants.

Each day I wake up, work out, and hop on the internet to network and search for career opportunities that I have a shot at. Each day I log into the Blizzard servers’ and farm D3’s Act I Inferno difficulty. Each day I cross my fingers for a phone call or email asking me to come in and interview, and that’s happened 20+ times. Each day I cross my fingers and hope for an elite pack to drop a set item, that’s never happened. I imagine both scenarios coming to fruition at night, it helps me fall asleep. I imagine a drawn out battle with a pack of uniques, with my nephalem valor at five, and at the battle’s crescendo a green item falls to the ground. “Hell yeah!” I imagine receiving a phone call after an extensive interview process, for a position I desire, and the hiring manager on the other end makes an offer. “F*ck yeah!” The level of my imagined responses do accurately correspond to which one I anticipate more, just in case you were wondering.

When I started this blog during March of last year, it was in anticipation of the financial situation of my old employer worsening. It was going to be a way to for me to stand out from the millions seeking employment, and it has worked. It is usually the first thing talked about in the majority of interviews. If it is not the first thing talked about, then it is the second. My blog, started in the hopes to aid my job hunt is that, and much more. It is a tool in my search for employment and for awhile now, a mental medication. It essentially functions like a therapist, who regularly gives me a prescription for PC gaming. As my green item and my career remain unfound, I put more time into my therapy and take my PC meds more often. Like Jason, I will continue to plow my field with a fire-breathing oxen, and pursue my ‘Green’ Fleece.