If you haven’t, allow me to give you a short summary: You’re on a 200km2 island infested with zombies, and you’re a survivor who spawns somewhere around the coastline. You have to make sure you eat and drink, but all you spawn with is a torch, one box of bandages, one box of painkillers, and an empty backpack (you used to spawn with a gun and some ammo but that’s just making things too easy) so you’re going to have to loot buildings to survive.
Of course, there are zombies around these buildings. And in places where a lot of buildings congregate (also known as towns and cities) there are a lot of zombies. All you have to rely on at the start of the game is your own ability to somehow Metal Gear your way into a house whilst hoping, praying, that there’s some food or water, or a weapon inside that will let you live just that little bit longer.
But zombies aren’t your only problem. There are other players who, like you, are trying to desperately survive and they can be a little… problematic. They may (unlikely) or may not (likely) be sympathetic to your desire to take up resources on the island. And if it’s the latter, they have the means of letting you know, since PvP is always on.
All in all, it isn’t surprising that the average lifespan of a survivor is around forty minutes in this surprisingly realistic survival game. I’m almost tempted to call it a zombie survival simulator. Being in the very early stages of alpha, the game has a few hiccups and glitches. Zombies could clip through closed doors and walls, bones could spontaneously break whilst running down some stairs, and it turns out that the ARMA engine (which the mod is built on) is more than a little susceptible to hackers. But hey, all of that is par for the course for anyone who’s played very early versions of the game. Remember the crazy stuff that would happen in the early days of Minecraft?
Of course you don’t, confirmation bias instantly makes you think that it was the best thing ever created and that it should be illegal to play anything after version 0.8 but that’s not the issue here. The issue is an inane complaint common among players in the DayZ community.
Survival of the asshole-est
As I said earlier, you’re not the only one who’s trying to survive the zombie hell of Chernarus island, and some players take issue with the practice of killing other players. Some have asked for a PvE version of the game, and others have asked for the PvP feature of the game to be removed entirely.
I, for one, hope that a PvE version is never created nor that PvP be removed. What DayZ does that separates it from other (more typical, boring) zombie games is that it makes pew-pew zombie hunting a very bad idea. Assuming that you get a good weapon and plenty of ammo, do you really think you could take out the entire zombie horde? If you fire your weapon, other zombies will move to your position to investigate the noise, and they won’t be leaving you alone any time soon.
You may do a little better if you have some friends with you but, at the end of the day, what’s the point in killing all the zombies? The only objective in the game is to survive, so running into a mass of zombies guns a-blazing seems like an incredibly stupid way to avoid death.
Let’s assume that the situation in DayZ does happen; a zombie apocalypse breaks out and you need to survive as one of the (arguably) fortunate few who didn’t become infected. Do you really think that every other survivor you meet would want to help you or become your friend? Sure, some people who you already know might help out, but strangers have no built-in incentive to avoid putting a bullet in your skull.
That’s because, whether you like it or not, killing others is an incredibly viable way to survive.
Hunting season reasons
For starters, other players are likely to have something that you need to survive. If I’m struggling to get enough food or water to survive, why wouldn’t I kill someone to take their supplies? I have the feeling that if I were to ask them very nicely for a can of beans when they’re also struggling to exist, they’ll either refuse politely or refuse not-so-politely with the addition of bullets and gunpowder. Why the hell would I waste half an hour searching for food which may not even be there when I can see some guy through my hard-earned rifle scope whose backpack is almost overflowing with Doritos and cans of Coke? He’s basically a walking grocery isle! Similarly, if I’ve been struggling to supply myself while fighting off the despicable infected, I’m going to pop a guy in the back of the head to replace my now-empty revolver with an AK-47 and enough bullets to last me a few days. I wouldn’t even hesitate. If you have to die so I can keep on fighting for survival, so be it.
Secondly, other players are a major threat. There’s just no way that I’m the only person who is willing to kill another survivor for food, weapons, or anything else, and there’s nothing to stop them from killing me. Not only could they be harboring a murderous desire for my supplies, but so long as they’re alive in the same area as me, they’re also picking up loot that I might need. If I’m running low on food and someone else moves into town to have a look around, he could hit the jackpot before I even have a chance. I can’t let that happen if I want to keep on living.
Finally, even in an uneasy alliance, betrayal remains a powerful option. Let’s say you’re in a team of five people and shit has hit the fan on an industrial level. You, your squad and several dozen zombies are running out of town in the same direction. Now you can’t exactly stop, turn around and start laying waste to the horde; you’ll make so much noise that all the zombies and nearby opportunists will flock to your position to make sure you die and/or loot your corpses.
Your group needs to survive. Someone needs to be bold enough to make an unpopular decision. Calmly and quickly, you need to pick a member of your group, draw your pistol, and fire into his legs until they break. He goes down. You keep running. Your ex-friend has now become the target of the zombie’s attention and the rest of your group gets away relatively unscathed. It’s not popular and it’s not always fair but it’s the right decision.
In fact, there’s only one situation where letting another player live is preferable. They’ve attracted the attention of all the zombies in the area and are running away with the undead close behind them. They’ve now very kindly led all the zombies away from the area, allowing me to sneak into town and take anything that isn’t nailed down. That other sap? He’s basically got a 50/50 chance of living or getting ripped to shreds by the vengeful dead.
Dying in Day Z? Deal with it
Honestly, I don’t see why there was a shocking realization by Day Z players that some see it as beneficial to kill other players on sight with no questions asked. Sure, there was once the possibility of announcing that you’re friendly to potential attackers before anything went down, but that basically translates to “I won’t put up much of a fight.” When it comes down to it, going up against the zombie horde is fun for a while, but the real challenge of survival is going up against other survivors.
I also don’t see why people get so pissed off about dying when the advice given to new players is “It’s OK to die and it’ll happen a lot.” Just because you’re no longer a new player doesn’t mean you’re immune from death. Just ask [insert recently deceased celebrity].
Remember, the two main causes of death in DayZ are your own complacency and greed. Or hackers. Or a glitch. Or ambiguous text which results in you letting go of a ladder at the top of a lighthouse, falling straight down, shattering both femurs and dying of blood loss right after looting a dead body for a hunting knife, hatchet, pistol and a map. Ah well, easy come, easy go.