Last week, I was made aware of the Zombie mod "DayZ".
I looked it up and fell in love.
So what is it that's special?
In a way, I think it strange that it has taken this long for a really sober zombie apocalypse survival game to come along when the influences in other media have hinted at it for quite some time with AMC's Walking Dead, and super depressing "The Road".
I would argue that this rather dark and frankly depressing niche of Zombie fiction has gotten a grip as we, the target audience age. I don't think my teenage cousin would enjoy "The Road" but I did and lot's of my friends did. There is a paradox in talking about target audience and it is saying there IS an average age. The average age ages! If you said the average age was 26 back in 2007 (which I recall reading) then it is 31 now!
Back to DayZ.
Fictionally it reminds me a lot of "The Road" and "The Walking Dead". Perhaps a dash of Andrei Tarkovsky's interpretation of STALKER. But that doesn't really explain why I LIKE IT SO MUCH.
I have thought much about this and I think at its core it lets me participate in the Zombie apocalypse in a believable way. It allows me to try my instincts, not my avatar's instincts but my very own. Should I seek company? Should I stay alone? Should I light a fire? Should I rest here? Should I follow this river or stay out of sight?
DayZ puts "the game" in my head and simply executes on my command in a basic way. Move forward, eat, chat, shoot. I make the decisions and no one can tell me "the right way". If I survive for a long time I did it right, my way worked.
You can put this into fancy game design talk as well, DayZ manages as possibly the only game besides Minecraft to hit all major Intrinsic motivators*, Autonomy, Mastery and Relatedness. All the compelling signs of a massive hit.
Good on you Dean "Rocket" Hall! I wish you all the best (and please add more servers).
* Intrinsic motivation as interpreted by Scott Rigby, Immersyve