Post Apocolypse Gaming.
So what is it about post-apocalyptic/Zombie/Outbreak/Nuclear War aftermath games that we find so appealing? I’m sure you’ve all had the “I would” conversation followed by how you would not only survive, but thrive in your new living situation. Killing raiders and zombies, and God knows what else comes across your path. “I’ve seen every episode of the Walking Dead, I’ve played Dead Island multiple times. I’m ready.” Ok, but why? What is it about these games that fuels the fantasy? Why are they fantasies?
Take Fallout, I’ve yet to play the first, as there was a time it didn’t appeal to me. My extremely limited RPG playing is strictly Diablo. So it never really fell onto my “Must Play” list. I tried 3 a few years ago and hated it. However, recently, 4 kept popping up on my radar, I thought the Pip Boy replica was cool. The armors were neat, and decided to try it during a free weekend. I got hooked, hard. A buddy let me borrow his copy to continue, and it was all over. I bought a copy of the GOTY and have been playing ever since. I also got my hands on a DLC code for Fallout 3, so when my Xbox was being pissy with 4, I could play 3 instead. Control differences aside, that can get a little confusing. So it’s recently that I started thinking about playing the originals. Turns out, Fallout was free on STEAM awhile back, and I took advantage. Gearing up to give that one a shot soon; but being a working parent, time is at a premium, so that’s a back burner game.
But this article isn’t about my “To Play” list, it’s about the type of game. Take another example, Dead Rising. The game that was notorious for huge hordes of Zombies and too few save points. That game is beyond unforgiving, it’s freaking aggravating. I can’t tell you how many times I rode that helicopter and went through the gunfight in the food court. I eventually gave up. But what was the appeal? Zombies. Creative ways to kill zombies, and the ability to run around like a moron with creative weapons, like the Mega Buster toy. Being able to cover a zombies head with a traffic cone. All of these things made it fun, but what prompted people to pick it up to learn about it?
The thing about post apoc games that I think appeals to us is it hits us in our survival instinct. Our primal need to be in charge, to stay on top of the food chain. If something threatens our position on top, we take it out. Life is the same way, work is the same way. So many different things can threaten our way of life, yet to protect it violently in real life is to say the least, frowned upon. That’s the beauty of video games. They allow us to explore our violent tendencies and survival instincts without actually killing anyone/thing. To my knowledge, zombies don’t exist, so that’s not an option or outlet.
Now, let’s take the violence out of the equation, what about the food gathering/resource management? Food and water are scarce. Want to drive? Gasoline is a finite resource, regardless of what Mad Max shows us. Things like gold and cash are nothing. So now, you have to gather things that will prolong your life. So take the gathering into consideration, then add bad guys, zombies, and/or mutated animals. Not only would most of us not survive, we’d be hard pressed to keep our families alive or fed. Bear Grylls might make it; but he’s the exception. That leads me back to gaming (full circle baby). Again, Fallout has all of these factors. Re-building society, gathering and managing resources, fighting off the raiders and ghouls, and even mutated animals. (How the hell is Nuka Cola a thing, and still around in such massive quantities?) All of your decisions can affect your world and the people in it. Try to steal from someone, they’ll not only find out, they and their friends will try to kill you. This in turn, will close off that community to you because either you’re blacklisted, or they’re dead. Doctors are gone, except for the occasional Veterinarian or Med student, so stay healthy. Radiation is a threat, primarily in water. Play through Fallout, and tell me you would be a survivor in a true apocalypse situation.
What about The Last of Us? That one has the whole outbreak being driven by Zombies, clickers, and spores. So, much like the Metro series, you oftentimes need a breathing mask to avoid infection. Again, bullets are a resource, and medical equipment are at a premium. You can never be too careful when antibiotics and even bandages are getting harder and harder to come by. Medicine and medical supplies are not the same as Nuka Cola. Clean water isn’t going to fix or heal a gunshot wound, or infected cut. You have to be even more careful than you are now, because the things we take for granted will dry up and disappear fast.
Now, let’s talk about personal protection. Power Armor? Sorry Tony Stark, there’s no way in hell you’re going to move around and be active in a powered suit of armor. A regular suit of armor? Sure, if you like the idea of being a canned meal for someone. It’s just not realistic at all. Leather armor, chain mail, bits and pieces of armor. Yep, you could do that, just remember, the more you carry, the tougher it is to be quiet and move around (Just like in Fallout. “You’re carrying too much and cannot run.”) Guns are great, but ammo is also a finite resource. Who knows, maybe it would be like the Metro series where ammo becomes currency. Try to be a rich guy when ammo is money. Imagine being Scrooge McDuck with bullets. You either buy food, or shoot someone, decisions, decisions…
That means that melee/hand to hand weapons are going to be used more often. Bows/crossbows (Daryl Dixon, bitches!) are long range options, but a good old machete or bat is going to be the go to. What about swords? Good question. Here’s the thing, most likely, any you find will be decorative, not practical. Any blunt object can be a melee/hand to hand weapon; but durability is an issue. Swords are not normally one piece, there’s the blade, then the handle. A machete is a single item. Bats are a mixed bag. Aluminum bends, wood breaks; add some nails? Ok, now you have to worry about it getting stuck in something/someone. How about barbed wire? Get the fuck out of here Negan, that’s only effective against people for the shock and awe effect. Again, it’s not practical at all.
In conclusion, my thought is this, the whole survival horror/post apoc genre is a lot of fun. It gives us the chance to imagine ourselves in a situation no sane person would ever want to be in(regardless of what your t shirt says). It is NOT a replacement for actual preparedness, and is NOT “training” for what’s to come. Just because you found your son and finished Fallout 4 doesn’t mean you will become a military leader, or be a great uniter of people. It does, however, mean you have a lot more time and patience than I do.