I Euthanized My Friend. Thanks DayZ.

“The needs of the many outweigh [the needs of the few], or the one.”

Spock [Admiral Kirk], Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

From about 100 yards away, I shot him in the face. I killed my friend, and he asked me to do it. DayZ presented me with a scenario I’ve never played nor seen, in any other game. DayZ, once again, made me wonder if I could respond with the same murdering empathy that I demonstrated in game, in reality. Could I shoot a near and dear friend in the face when asked? Could I put Old Yeller out to pasture? What DayZ made clear to me that day was the answer was yes; but only because he was infected with a zombie virus whose cure was as likely to be found as the Holy Grail.

Tim (the above murdered survivalist) has started to acquire the role of the reluctant martyr within DayZ’s island of Chernarus. Multiple times he has fallen from a PvP (player versus player) encounter, zombie swarm and now, the zombie infection itself. Regularly dying is something any survivalist or bandit within DayZ can relate to. The differences with Tim’s deaths are they usually benefit the others. For when Tim dies, it’s habitually right before his friends scavenge his remains. Tim doesn’t die needlessly, for when his blood spurts to zero, he dies well equipped-and he makes sure you are close by before he does so.

Tim’s most significant death happened after he was infected (a random occurrence in DayZ; caused by either direct contact with zombies or a low body temperature brought on by the elements) with the zombie strain that persists in DayZ. After a desperate attempt to find the cure (antibiotics) at Berezino’s hospital, all hope was lost. Instead of taking every last zombie with him to the grave, he opted to sacrifice himself for a friend.

One is just as rare as the other, from a certain point of view.

Thanks to a recent patch my character had spawned in weaponless, without a backpack, and with little hope. Thankfully Tim’s near dead body was nigh, and it had one more trip to make before embracing the end. We met on a hill, and due to Tim’s infection his gifting of goods was done at a distance, so as to keep my character from being infected-a distant goodbye to a close friend.

Not wanting the zombie infection to take him, and become a shell of his former self, he asked me to do him one last deed in return for his. From a distance I raised my AK-47’s optical sight appreciating the irony that it had, moments before, belonged to the character I was now lining up for a headshot. Kneeling and looking down range I peered into his character’s black tinted aviator sunglasses which now, more resembled the sad eyes of trusted family dog. I pulled the trigger twice, and his body fell. Then Tim respawned, and our online adventures continued.

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.

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