One of the big vogue genres at the moment is survival sims. Games like DayZ and Rust, which pit players with and against each other and the elements to stop from being eaten. Or shot. Or hit with a giant rock. And it's bringing out both the best and the worst of people.
One quick look at any story from either game and you'll find some glowing examples of humanity, from people swooping in with the helicopter that it took them hours to repair and saving a group of strangers from a horde of zombies, or people sharing supplies with new players that are still as yet to earn their coveted pair of pants.
But those are rare examples. The vast majority of experiences related to either game involve some expletives and a quick death, because someone just shot you from somewhere you couldn't see and you have to start all over again, losing hours of gameplay. Further still are the vindictive stories, of players imprisoning one another in Rust shacks, feeding them but not allowing them to leave, or of holding them hostage only to take all of their stuff and then kill them.
Games like DayZ and Rust turn gamers into assholes it seems, but not the kind you'll find in other titles. The “toxic” players you find in these games are doing it (mostly) out of a sense of survival, 'if I don't kill that guy, chances are he's going to kill me' and it's a valid strategy, especially as the longer you play, the equipment you gather becomes increasingly valuable. Compare that to League of Legends or DotA, where people are supposed to be on your team and they're screaming profanities and other horrific expressions of nerd anger at you, just because you aren't quite sure what you're doing and I think it's obvious which community has the worse players.
So in reality, games like Rust and DayZ offer an insight into what a worldwide apocalypse or world end event might actually be like. We'd all run around braining each other because it's better than getting brained yourself.
But as every apocalyptic TV show, game, film or book has shown us, as time goes on the apocalypse becomes more normal, we start to find new ways to communicate and alliances are formed. The chaos starts to abate, at least enough that something resembling humanity as it was begins to emerge.
Of course that's a message for a fictional medium not powered by the actions of individuals and new players that will continually enter into the game/situation, so that sort of thing might be harder to achieve in either of these games, but it's worth considering: will we see the communities evolve in DayZ and Rust?
DayZ, I'm not so sure, because while it's a lot less brutal than its cave-men beginnings counterpart, it doesn't have the building blocks for rebuilding a society. Rust does. You can build buildings, which in itself is something that lends to community projects – just look at Minecraft. Would it be that surprising if in six months time we get out first Rust town springing up?
It would certainly be interesting to see an in-game community begin to emerge on a server. All it would take is some high level players to enforce it too. Put them as guards at the gate and anyone entering has to drop all weapons. It might be difficult to enforce with the game in its current state, but introduce a way to make sure people aren't hiding something in their loin cloth and you're golden.
But the incentive for this sort of organised play will have to come from the players, because the developers of Rust have made it very clear they won't incentivize fair play or make people out as the bad guy if they kill others. DayZ does that, giving you a Bandit skin for your trouble, but it hasn't stopped people being trigger happy jerks to one another.
What's really interesting about this is it goes against the grain of every big multi-player game released over the past few years. MMOs have level caps for attacking other players, or servers where it's not allowed and even Nether, a game very similar to both Rust and DayZ has giant safe zones that mean as long as you hang around near one, you can duck back in if needed.
Not so with Rust or DayZ though. It's all war all the time. But it doesn't have to be, it'll just take the players to decide whether the game will remain difficult to get into because some troll with a sniper rifle shoots you while you're cutting down your first tree, or if the community surrounding the game evolves with it and starts to really tame the wilderness that the game drops you in.
Because honestly if we just bash each other's brains in, what's separating us from the zombies?
Thumbnail source: Zalzar