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Playing zombified versions of the end of the world

Mosel, Michael


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URN: urn:nbn:de:hebis:26-opus-116856
URL: http://geb.uni-giessen.de/geb/volltexte/2015/11685/

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Freie Schlagwörter (Deutsch): Videospiele , Computerspiele , Computerspielewissenschaft , Zombies
Freie Schlagwörter (Englisch): video games , computer games , game studies , zombies
Universität Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
Institut: International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC)
Fachgebiet: Gießener Graduiertenzentrum Kulturwissenschaften
DDC-Sachgruppe: Sozialwissenschaften, Soziologie
Dokumentart: Aufsatz
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2015
Publikationsdatum: 11.09.2015
Kurzfassung auf Englisch: Since their first appearance in 1984’s THE EVIL DEAD (a game based on the movie with the same name), zombies have been regular guests in video games. This paper seeks to outline current developments in the depiction of the zombie apocalypse in video games. Its thesis is that video games that present a “zombie apocalypse” tend to fall into the category of action genre. Within the spectrum of this genre, two different poles can be identified: On the one end are games which can be identified as shooter genre; whereas on the less action-packed end are games which can be classified as survival horror games. Within this spectrum of genres, a couple of different gameplay types can be identified. On the one end of the spectrum is PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES (2010) which is a tower defense game. The player’s objective here is to defend his mansion by planting aggressive plants against waves of the undead. The video game THE WALKING DEAD (2012) is an interactive drama with short action-interruptions when zombies attack. LEFT4DEAD (2008) and LEFT4DEAD 2 (2009) are typical first person shooters in which the player has lots of ammunition and fights hordes of the undead. Among these undead are so called special infected, zombies with tactical thinking, bringing lots of variation and complexity into the otherwise rather repetitive gameplay. On the other end of the spectrum is PROJECT ZOMBOID (still in development but open for public testing), often described as an open world zombie survival video game. It features traditional mechanics of survival games like the need to consume food or sleep, as well as pain and mental disorders. In this game the fun stems from the player’s ability to survive among the rather stupid and slow undead, as long as he does not alert too many zombies to his position. This rather broad spectrum of zombie games points out the necessity of intensifying genre studies. Aki Järvinen (2002) has rightfully pointed out that the study of computer game genres is still in its infancy. In 2006 Rune Klevjer (2006) even testified to the existence of genre blindness in game studies. Since then, little has been done apart from Bernard Perron’s anthology (2009) about survival horror video games.
Ludologists claim that understanding narrative is not relevant for understanding video games (Apperley 2006, 19). Typically I favor this ludological position, but as the comparison of zombie games shows, the existence of zombies in game – which can be seen as a narrative factor – does impact gameplay considerably. Zombies in gameplay are not intelligent opponents who can outsmart the player but they do make up for this with their sheer masses and/or their ability to attack out of nowhere. Since gameplay is the key factor for ludologists in defining interactivity/ergodicity, it is clear that narrative topics can and do influence genre categorizations. Also Zombies can be regarded as a transgeneric phenomenon similar to film noir. They can emerge in a wide array of games to bring action sequences, fear and most of the time an unexplainable threat to the protagonists.

References
Apperley, Thomas H. 2006. „Genre and game studies: Toward a critical approach to video game genres“. Simulation & Gaming 37 (1) (März 1): 6 –23. doi:10.1177/1046878105282278. http://sag.sagepub.com/content/37/1/6.abstract.
Järvinen, Aki. 2002. „Game Studies 0102: Aki Järvinen The Halo Review“. http://gamestudies.org/0102/jarvinen/.
Klevjer, Rune. 2006. „hc11: Rune Klevjer Genre Blindness — Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA)“. http://www.digra.org/hardcore/hc11.
Perron, Bernard, Hrsg. 2009. Horror video games : essays on the fusion of fear and play. Jefferson N.C.: McFarland & Co.

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