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Zombies: Examining Gaming’s Love for the Living Dead

October 30th, 2017 | by Jack Coles
Zombies: Examining Gaming’s Love for the Living Dead
Gaming
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Zombies. Time was, zombies were a Haitian Voudou thing, a state of reanimation that arose when a shaman carried out acts of necromancy – or a metaphor for slavery in Haiti, depending on who you believe. Then, like any kind of cultural appropriation, rich blokes turned it into a highly successful commercial franchise across Westernised countries. William Seabrook was the first, a travelling occultist that popularised zombies through his book The Magic Island where he recounted his travels throughout Haiti. Know who was a fan of that book? George Romero, the guy that directed Night of the Living Dead, popularising shambling zombie hordes for years to come.

Since then, there have been very few popular game franchises without zombies, with zombies either being shipped as baseline or retconned in several months later. Call of Duty has some sort of contractual obligation to include a zombie mode with every new instalment; I’m surprised they haven’t thought of a gun that literally shoots zombies out of its barrel. Red Dead Redemption had zombies as the main focus of its DLC, which I always found slightly perplexing. Mass Effect had zombies, XCOM: Enemy Unknown had zombies, Skyrim had zombies (sort of), even Saints Row: The Third decided to parody zombies.

There have been very few popular game franchises without zombies, with zombies either being shipped as baseline or retconned in several months later.

If you want a “zombie safari”, if you will, of all the different zombies that have been invented ever I’d recommend Dying Light. Not a single one of its zombies are particularly original, but there is an impressive level of diversity to them. You’ve got the basic walking zombie, sometimes they run, sometimes they hold tools, and sometimes they are on fire. But that’s just the start. There’s ones with explosive intestines, ones that spit acid, big ones that move slowly and twat you with hammers, big ones that move quickly and twat you with their entire body, scary ones that only come out at night and can fuck right off, and glowing green ones that run away when they smell your eau de survivor. All you’re missing here is one of those crawling zombies that doesn’t have anything below the ribcage.

Image: Igdb.com

Image: Igdb.com

Nowadays, it’s very hard to make zombies in any way original. Plants vs Zombies managed it with novel tower-defence mechanics and enough variety to fill a 20th century extravaganza. The Typing of the Dead is a highly amusing adaptation of those typing tutorials that adults tried to get you to use when you were twelve. But these are swamped by all the other bazillion survival and shooting games.

Zombies are to gaming now what cover-based shooting was seven years ago…They’re being put absolutely everywhere, in shooters, in strategies, in the Wetherspoons meals.

Zombies are to gaming now what cover-based shooting was seven years ago. Actually, they’re like pulled pork in 2016. They’re being put absolutely everywhere, in shooters, in strategies, in the Wetherspoons meals. Tasty though it may be to have zombies in your blue cheese brioche burger, there are some occasions where they detract from the overall experience. For example, Saints Row: The Third was at its most boring during the zombie sections. So, developers, please exercise res-brains… I mean, restraint.

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