The Growth of the Zombie Myth

Yahtzee Croshaw

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The Growth of the Zombie Myth

Zombie conventions have been changed by recent videogames and movies.

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Therumancer

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Hmm, well I think a lot of it comes simply from the attempt to always put a scientific explanation on Zombies, at least nowadays. The idea of a mystical or supernatural cause is almost entirely gone from the mythology.

I've suspected that the whole thing with the special zombies was a combination of other zombie-like movies, like say "Prince Of Darkness" where the possesed folks had projectile attacks which were probably inspired by "The Exorcist", that people borrowed for their properties, and of course the simple idea tha being science things like diseases and mutations tend to have random effects on the person being afflicted, including the
occasional extreme mutation. Of course like in comic books the mutations you see in the writing are going to be beneficial to the zombies (like mutant super heroes in response) because simply having 5-10% of your zombie horde collapse due to non-viable mutation tends to kind of ruin the whole thing. :)

I've been of the opinion for a while that what the genere actually needs is a back to the basics approach, and to get zombies back to their supernatural roots. Sure we've seen this to an extent with the possesed in "Evil Dead" or "Demons" but those movies are now pretty bloody old, and the few attempts to re-visit the idea have been lacking to say the least. Likewise I've kind of felt that if someone wants to make a scary game involving zombies, they should drop the whole "headshot" thing which while a classic in the cinema makes fairly little sense, especially with a supernatural explanation. Require zombies to be almost totally destroyed before they stop, and don't make dismemberment the "limbs fall off in a stiff breeze" prospect you see in Dead Space.
 

Mr.Pandah

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Processing power and gameplay direction is what holds a true zombie game back. Dead Rising was close. Call of duty zombies was even closer to what I wanted. They're focused on killing zombies though and make them too easy to kill.
 

snave

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I wish they'd at least spice things up a bit thematically. Yakuza: Dead Souls? Seems uninteresting. Yakuza: Triffids Rise? I'd pay that.
 

Yahtzee Croshaw

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so far there are two main types of zombies we see. fast and slow. the fast ones have become the point of the story while the slow ones tend to be used best when they arent the actual focus of the story. where they are used to illustrate some other issue.. dawn of the dead was a comment on 1970's consumerism for instance. the last excellent attempt of this was the british tv show dead set which made some major digs about reality tv.

its an interesting article and it is curious how yuo can just add one zombie it immediately means a devestated wasteland within 5 minutes.

im still waiting for a good zombie game a survival game to be released
 

CopperBoom

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I do make the Infected/Zombies distinction.
I do.

This article for me points out a lot of issues I have with current Zombie-dom.
Though I, like Simon Pegg, am a Romero purist of sorts.
There are rules.
 

SonOfVoorhees

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Running zombies suck. For me, zombies just trap people in a building. It was about the people not the zombies, just that the zombies stopped the people leaving. Exchange zombies for bears or lions and the movie is the same. Its about people dealing with people and that humans are shitty and horrible to each other even in a crises.

I want a movie with fast and slow together, the newly changed are faster but as they rot they get slower.
 

The Crazy Legs

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Hmm... Yahtzee, you have a point. In order for there to be a zombie apocalypse, there has to be dead people... And if we're all survivors, then it's really not an apocalypse... In other words... Anyone want to go get ice cream later today? Make sure not to bring your cures for zombie-ism or bulletproof vests! Because... I'm... allergic to bulletproof vests? (Is that a good excuse? ...Yeah, it is)

Also, this just occurred to me: if zombies actually could happen, what are the odds that they would be able to kill everyone? I mean, really. We all know how to kill them. Fill them with bullets, aim for the head, and if that doesn't work, get out a chainsaw and cut off their limbs. (Yeah, a Dead Space reference, get over it) I mean, if I remember right, the only reason the zombies overran everything in the Walking Dead was because zombie fiction never existed in their world, and the survivors didn't have a cross-reference guide as to how to kill zombies. That makes sense. If they do Call of Duty: Zombies in a modern setting next, I'm going to call bullshit on that because (as of 2005) EVERYONE KNOWS HOW TO KILL ZOMBIES! Hell, even a crazy scientist guy (Mr. Freeman) with a crowbar and a weird... gun... thing... And.. that weird suit of SPACE ARMOR!!!

Anyways, the zombie apocalypse never really made sense to me for those reasons listed above. And if I'm wrong about all that I said, I'm sorry, I don't play Call of Duty or Half-Life, and I don't watch the Walking Dead (that often), so I probably made mistakes with my logic. My bad, but I think you get my point.
 

Kahunaburger

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I think these are less zombie things and more a vidya gaem zombie thing. Romero zombies would be tricky to design a game around, so games tend to change up the formula. Dead State and Project Zomboid might actually be our first "real" zombie games. Although a game designed around Pontypool zombies might be interesting. I'm envisioning a game where picking the wrong dialogue option might infect you.
 
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The Crazy Legs said:
Hmm... Yahtzee, you have a point. In order for there to be a zombie apocalypse, there has to be dead people... And if we're all survivors, then it's really not an apocalypse... In other words... Anyone want to go get ice cream later today? Make sure not to bring your cures for zombie-ism or bulletproof vests! Because... I'm... allergic to bulletproof vests? (Is that a good excuse? ...Yeah, it is)

Also, this just occurred to me: if zombies actually could happen, what are the odds that they would be able to kill everyone? I mean, really. We all know how to kill them. Fill them with bullets, aim for the head, and if that doesn't work, get out a chainsaw and cut off their limbs. (Yeah, a Dead Space reference, get over it) I mean, if I remember right, the only reason the zombies overran everything in the Walking Dead was because zombie fiction never existed in their world, and the survivors didn't have a cross-reference guide as to how to kill zombies. That makes sense. If they do Call of Duty: Zombies in a modern setting next, I'm going to call bullshit on that because (as of 2005) EVERYONE KNOWS HOW TO KILL ZOMBIES! Hell, even a crazy scientist guy (Mr. Freeman) with a crowbar and a weird... gun... thing... And.. that weird suit of SPACE ARMOR!!!

Anyways, the zombie apocalypse never really made sense to me for those reasons listed above. And if I'm wrong about all that I said, I'm sorry, I don't play Call of Duty or Half-Life, and I don't watch the Walking Dead (that often), so I probably made mistakes with my logic. My bad, but I think you get my point.
The standard "infection comes from bites, slow & mindless" zombies would never get off the ground. They might kill a few people, but, in the (paraphrased) words of Cracked, "their main source of food is also their biggest predator and only source of reproduction. It would be like fighting a lion every time you wanted to make a sandwich or have sex."

People try and make it more logical by having zombies just fast enough to grab a bite, but not so fast you can't escape to reanimate at a dramatically convenient moment, or by having a massive initial infection (contaminated water poisons an entire city).

The problem with these approaches is that people get hung up on the zombie vs. infected debate, rather than allowing it just be there so they can appreciate the plot and characters.

OT: These zombies are video game zombies, meaning they are designed to provide a combat challenge. Slapping prevents instant game-overs, urban decay gives you a nice atmosphere of apocalypse vs. civilization (although a game set in a undestroyed city would be fun), and special/fast zombies provide difficulty without having to make your system explode trying to process a couple thousand foes. They're ways of making the game more engaging, and other mediums have picked up on them because they see the same story-enhancing abilities.
 

Yahtzee Croshaw

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Yahtzee Croshaw said:
Zombie conventions have been changed by recent videogames and movies.

This may be partly because zombies, especially video game ones, kinda need more than one kind of attack if you want the protagonist to be injured without necessarily being infected.
there is a promissing game with slow zombies in the making.

and its hard to survive for long since zombies can be the least of your worries.

plus with the 'walking dead' series we finally have the dumb, slow but powerful zombies back. and it avoids being completely boring.

the clou in the series is that the zombie bite does not make you turn.
instead the bite causes the individuum to experience a life threatening fever.

the survivors are already infected, but their immune system is good enought to keep it at bay. so in order for them to become zombies they just have to die or their immune system has to be weakened to an extreme

Yahtzee Croshaw said:
Somehow I doubt it'd work like it did at the start of the Dawn of the Dead remake when the one lady comes out of her house after one night indoors and finds that her pleasant suburban neighborhood has turned into downtown Baghdad.
Incubation period is key. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incubation_period
(example: Polio 7?14 days incubation time)
people might be infected en masse but experience the symptoms i.e. having a sudden interest in dancing with the stars/ being braindead several days after infection.
and if you imagine that you ate some of the infamous bar peatnuts while being influenced on several levels of shit drunk....well....you get the idea.

but your right. we won't see zombie guerrillas and Sam fishers like in the 28 'x' later series.

i wish we would get special infected as in especially useless.
imagine a special kind of zombies that is catatonic.
you could make some nice baricades with them or at least play jenga/Jackstraws with them
 

Atmos Duality

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Yahtzee said:
I always thought the idea of zombies, one of their scary aspects, is that they're not the people they used to be, they're just the reanimated flesh with no personality or emotion. I'm pretty sure anger is an emotion, guys. Or is this going to turn into one of those 'they're not zombies, they're infected' arguments?
Don't forget the Only-When-In-Sight-Zombie (aka "Plot Convenience Zombie")!

Best illustrated in 28 Days Later, where we see this sort of social bedlam and catastrophe but there's no explanation for how it happens other than "Holy shit, Zombies!". The zombies in question create a few contradictions.

How does such a zombie population grow via "infection" if they're acting with no agenda or reason?
Why do they not violently brutalize each other to death? Do they have an agenda? Last I understood, "blind rage" lead to "indiscriminate violence", so they can't have a directed agenda.
This would explain the odd 10 car pileup...but only if most of the people there turned into zombies simultaneously, rather than being infected first and turning later. Who knew there were so many zombie drivers at that ONE intersection?

See, infections that spread too quickly ultimately flare out and die because they run out of hosts. Even in the opening shot to explain the source of the plot, they show that it acts entirely too quickly to be sustainable.

Which is why some zombis lore fixes that by just making the zombies kill people, and having the corpse return later *as* a zombie. Indiscriminate violence can work via Reanimation.

In Grindhouse, the "zombies" were still intelligent to a degree, so they too could have an agenda. There is even a moment where a zombie just stops trying to murder a doctor, then pops one of his infected boils just to smear the nasty all over the doctor's face. Sure enough, he becomes one of them in short order. Consistency on and off camera.

But plain old "infected" zombies just don't work otherwise. They need an agenda of sorts. Shawn of the Dead had the zombies that turned poor Expendable Insecure Nerd into Manwich. Left4Dead zombies seem perfectly capable of murder, and the special infected are obviously more intelligent.

The only explanation in these cases are the "zombies" are actually acting in character only when you're looking at them, and otherwise running around systematically biting and infecting everyone else when you're NOT looking at them...unless the plot demands a character get bit in an escape attempt that would have otherwise ended in intestine ripping horror.

...Or creates a drop of infected blood to fall several stories and hit someone square in the eye because a character arc required ridiculous contrivance to progress.

"Well, you think you got away? THE RANDOM GODS HAVE DEEMED THAT YOU BECOME INFECTED FOR THE SAKE OF THE PLOT!"

And it was so.
 

Coldster

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Let's be honest though, Call of Duty is much better with zombies, and Red Dead Redemption had a fantastic zombie addition too. Still, I really enjoyed reading this article. Keep it up Yahtzee, I always look forward to these.
 

ryo02

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Atmos Duality said:
See, infections that spread too quickly ultimately flare out and die because they run out of hosts. Even in the opening shot to explain the source of the plot, they show that it acts entirely too quickly to be sustainable.
in a traditional virus infection the virus will die along with the host with zombies it just becomes another vector.

if we allow for an incubation period of the initial infection (a few days maybe) and an initial different infection method say for example its in the water.

but yeah even with those I still dont think a zombie apocalypse is viable if they reached large enough numbers they would just rip their victims to shred rendering them totally dead immobile or inefectual.

the only way it works in large numbers is if they actually choose to stop injuring/eating a victim befor theyre overly hurt.

maybe they could retain more of our animal like traits we are pack animals like wolves arent we?.
 

Yahtzee Croshaw

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Zombie spread by infection is easily understood if you're dealing with the weaker kind.

It kind of goes like this:
1. Lone zombie manages to catch a person off-guard somewhere.
2. Zombie bites person.
3. Person shoves zombie off, doesn't hang around to kill it, and runs off.
4. Initial zombie returns to step one.
5. Infected person starts feeling crappy, goes for a lie down.
6. Someone comes in to tend infected person, gets bit.
Repeat.

It relies on a couple of basic things:
Most of us aren't the he-men who would immediately pop our own heads off once we got bitten. We'd try to justify it to ourselves as maybe it wasn't infected, etc.

Most of us aren't the he-men who could casually take out the friends and acquaintances who've bitten you. Killing your best mate isn't an easy task when things were just fine the night before.
 

Prof. Monkeypox

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Your various theories on the popularity of zombies certainly are insightful and clever (and handsome), but they just aren't why I enjoy zombies.

I enjoy zombies because they are an unstoppable threat that is laughably easy to kill in small skirmishes, but becomes exponentially more powerful by the minute, and is an unending, unknowable horde. It's why the Zerg are such interesting enemies. It's why, although they are fun, games like Left 4 Dead or RDR: Undead Nightmare just aren't really zombie games for me (featuring fast zombies that are mostly interchangeable with any other enemy type). Dead Rising was a bit closer to my vision, but was kind of shit.

The best zombie game in my mind is Blockhead: The Rooms, because it nails that feeling.

In a similar (non-zombie) vein is the indie RTS game Creeper World, as you can't ever actually win against the horde, only survive long enough to escape: http://www.kongregate.com/games/whiteboardwar/creeper-world-training-sim
 

The Rogue Wolf

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"Or is this going to turn into one of those 'they're not zombies, they're infected' arguments?"

Probably so. Anyway, bizarrely enough, Resident Evil 2 had one of the most plausible zombie-outbreak scenarios: Rats. When Birkin dropped his samples after becoming a bullet repository, said samples were... well, sampled by rats scurrying about the underground complex. Very likely the rodents were infected and transformed (friggin' T-Virus can infect damn near anything, can't it) and attacked no small number of humans and other animals, spreading the infection. Then you have the classic outbreak situation- an unknown disease spreading faster than expected, with an exceptionally-short incubation time. Public services would be overwhelmed and spread thin trying to track and contain the problem, and when the first unfortunates to die from the disease started getting off their slabs and hospital beds....

One lone zombie as an infection vector just makes no sense in even relatively rural areas. Small vermin or other animals? There, you've got yourself a pandemic in the making.
 

Something Amyss

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Yahtzee got the origins of the zombie wrong, which to me puts a bit of a damper on an article that talks about the evolution of the zombie myth. It's also kind of ironic, when you consider he starts talking about the distortion of myths.
 

ThaBenMan

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"Chinese whispers"? Is that the British version of Telephone (a game kids play where you whisper a phrase to someone, they whisper to the next person, etc. and change it slightly each time)?

Zachary Amaranth said:
Yahtzee got the origins of the zombie wrong, which to me puts a bit of a damper on an article that talks about the evolution of the zombie myth. It's also kind of ironic, when you consider he starts talking about the distortion of myths.
Exactly my thoughts as well - nothing about the origins of zombies in Voodoo lore. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie]