Monday, April 9, 2012

VG Talk #12 Top 10 Reasons that Zombies are Taking Over our Video Games

Video Game discussion.

Zombies have it pretty rough in the video game community. They aren't always appreciated and they can't exactly defend themselves verbally. Many gamers are simply sick of seeing zombies around every corner in their video games. I can understand the frustration because it feels like game developers might be beating a dead horse (or undead as the case may be) but I'm here to help you with your woes. Not enough people are discussing why zombies happen to be so prominent in games and why they will probably remain that way for some time. There are actually plenty of reasons to be enjoying this zombie apocalypse so grab your favorite weapon and barricade your doors because we're going to look at the top ten reasons zombies are taking over our video games.

1) Guilt-free for the killing
While video games have been taking less fire from the media than ever before, there is still the ever-looming shadow of those that would point fingers at gamers that are shooting human characters in a game. All the fingers are suddenly on vacation when zombies are involved because no one is going to defend the zombies' existence. They aren't supposed to exist at all. That's the point. In fact, zombies are rather interesting in that you should only feel guilt if you don't try to shoot them.

2) Easy AI to design
While we're closer to the point of fully realistic graphics, we're far from having even halfway decent AI. Players aren't very forgiving when a human character acts unnatural or simply "dumb" because it breaks us out of whatever immersion we had. Zombies on the other hand make perfect sense to have terrible AI due to them being mindless creatures to begin with. No one is going to complain if they run off of a cliff or straight into a trap the player has set up.

3) No need for explanations
One of the wonderful things about zombies in any story is how it resonates with an audience immediately. There's no need for exposition, backstory, story-arcs, or introductions to bring players up to speed. There isn't even a need to explain why zombies are a threat or why there is a sense of urgency. Even better, there is zero need to even call them zombies. You only need a few seconds of showing a shambling or running horde of humans with rotted flesh and the player is instantly knowledgeable of the situation at hand.

4) No need for personality
Zombies aren't going to suddenly bust out monocles and have a sophisticated discussion about the etiquette of dining on brains. The character growth and personalities rest firmly on the shoulders of those taking out the zombies. The other option is going for the opposite approach entirely and focusing on gameplay rather than story. It's almost unnecessary to note that both options work incredibly well in video games.

5) Instant challenge
In a day and age where hardcore and casual gamers can rarely agree on difficulty level, it's rather interesting that most zombie games manage to squeeze into the middle ground and appeal to both groups. This is partially thanks to all of the things I've mentioned that zombies don't need which allows game designers to focus on actual gameplay elements. This is also partially thanks to zombie scenarios translating into games so easily. Zombies could be the solution to bringing hardcore and casual gamers together.

6) So much variety
Whether we're discussing magical zombies, the infected, bio organic weapons, or some other type of zombie, there is one thing that remains constant. Zombies come in many flavors. You have screamers that summon hordes, hulking masses that crash through walls with extra limbs, stumbling bombs, spider-crawling zombies with weaponized tongues, the entire animal kingdom, advanced tyrants, and the list goes on. Compare this to dragons for a moment. You can change a dragon's breath weapon (ex. breathing lightning or acid instead of fire) or what ecosystem it lives in (ex. serpent dragons that live in the ocean rather than flying in the air) but if you change it anymore than that, it isn't really considered a dragon anymore. Zombies don't have this issue and this allows them to be the only type of enemy throughout entire games whereas dragons tend to only be used as boss monsters.

7) So much variety (part 2)
They're flooding our Shooters and making appearances in our RPGs, Tower Defense, Sports, Strategy games, and the list continues to grow. This simply proves how versatile the little brain-nommers are and it isn't a challenge at all to picture zombies in other genres that they haven't clawed their way into yet.

8) They’re fun to kill
While this might be seen as the least important point on the list, it's fair to argue that this could possibly be the most essential thing a video game needs to offer: fun. Whether you're mowing down hordes or getting an adrenaline rush from barely surviving, it's difficult to not enjoy yourself in these games.

9) They push innovation
People say they are tired of zombies being in so many video games but what they certainly have never said is that they're tired of seeing the same game. That's because zombie games manage to be so drastically different even when they're in the same genre. Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, Plants VS Zombies, Dead Rising, House of the Dead, Dead Nation, Stubbs the Zombie, and just about any other major zombie title play nothing alike and manage to be completely different experiences. The primary threat may remain the same but the core gameplay and the stories being told are far different.

10) They’re an untapped resource
Be prepared for zombies to be with us for years to come because they're a completely untapped resource in both the gameplay and story departments. When everyone saw the now infamous Dead Island trailer, jaws were dropped because it seemed that we would finally get a zombie game that pushed dramatic elements that were never before seen in these types of games. That hasn't happened yet and there are still so many other areas that could be explored. I've already mentioned earlier that there are several game genres that haven't had zombies implemented into them yet and so it's only a matter of time before those games are created. Then you have several notable upcoming titles: The Last of Us, Fortnite, Lollipop Chainsaw, and the codenamed Class3. All four titles are only teased so far and they already seem like great concepts that are being made by companies with a proven track record. This show is only getting started and there's a lot to be excited for.

There are many gamers that are ready for zombies to shamble out of our video games but I'm still going to celebrate all the reasons why they deserve to be here. Long live... err... Long unlive zombies!

This is Kylak signing out to work on my zombie survival plan. One word: treadmill.


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