Why Do We Love Survival Games?

Yahtzee Croshaw

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Why Do We Love Survival Games?

At first glance, the survival game's popularity is difficult to understand, even for me, and I quite enjoy them. We play games for escapist fantasy, but having to eat and stay warm and have somewhere to sleep at night isn't exactly escapist.

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Roofstone

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Really gotta get around to buying Jam, I liked Mogworld.

Now, "dear roofstone how would you survive the zombie apocalypse?" I hear yahtzee wondering. Easy, I would lock my doors and watch like, every season of House MD. I'd go out and find that all the corpses have rotten in the sun or collapsed because of the fact that I live in Norway and absolutely everything bloody freezes and shatters.

Zombie apocalypse is a concept with way too many holes, it would never happen, nor would it be a very efficient apocalypse.

Edit: Also, I'd like a more Robinson cru-something something survival game. I would certainly not mind the struggle of not only living, but also living comfortable on a deserted island.

I believe there was a sims game like that, great fun.
 

Covarr

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May 29, 2009
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Well this article certainly took a right angle from its original premise.

As for the original question, I think people get a certain bizarre satisfaction from the rush of sheer terror and high stakes that (theoretically) pervades survival games, especially knowing that they can turn it off at any point. It allows a person to become immersed in a firsthand experience, but with a safety net. It's like a roller coaster: most people would hate to be on a minecart that unintentionally goes upside-down at 60mph (even with safeties to keep them inside), but while a roller coaster may certainly feel like that, there's that little voice in the back of your mind saying, "It's okay, this is an engineered experience. It's supposed to feel like this, and you'll be fine afterwards." Simply the fact that it's not real turns an undesirable experience into a fascinating and desirable one.

Personally, I really like games that can make me feel anything that I don't ordinarily feel. Portal makes me feel proud of myself and smart (even if the puzzles always seem really obvious in retrospect). Minecraft makes me feel productive, something an ordinary menial day job can't really do. The Walking Dead brings me a wide variety of emotions, and even sometimes makes me hate myself. inFamous makes me feel powerful.

I think there's a lot of truth to the bit about games being "escapist fantasy", but I don't think it's about escaping from the bad so much as escaping from the routine. And as long as you can get out whenever you want, nothing you escape to can truly be bad. At worst, it fails entirely to pull you in, and you can't escape to it at all.

P.S. Thanks
 

MooseHowl

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Seems a bit odd to include Terraria on a list of survival games. Most of those games require some degree of personal upkeep; in Terraria, you don't have to eat anything, ever, and even the copious healing potion intake of an average Terrarian is entirely optional. Terraria is about as much of a survival game as Call of Duty, GTA, or various Mario games.

And Mario eats more mushrooms than a Terrarian ever will.
 

hermes

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The issue with Zombies is that, while they don't have the intelligence enough to know they can spread faster if they focus on just bites instead of consuming, they are also not conservative enough to consume absolutely everything in a person.

They don't do it to sustain themselves; they are not concerned with eating every last bit of flesh, and a zombie with half his thorax chewed off is as much of a zombie threat as one that only has a bite in it. As long as they don't destroy the brain of the victim, it will come back, even as a severed head. Also, Zombies tend to consume exclusively the living (which explains why Zombies don't try to eat each other), so a person that has his guts torn open has very little time in which the surrounding zombies will take a liking in him, after which he is just another half eaten walking corpse.

OT: I believe we are attracted to the survival games for the same reason we are attracted to horror and apocalypse movies. It is a fantasy (not necessarily a power fantasy), that the game allow us to explore in a controlled space.
 

themilo504

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Yeah having a plan for a zombie apocalypse is rather stupid, but having a plan for Ragnarök is a perfectly sensible idea.

when Ragnarök finally happens I?m going to laugh at the people who prepared for a zombie apocalypse.
 

shiajun

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Only one problem in your rabies comparison, Yahtzee. Rabies transmission from human to human is dismal in its efectiveness. For the virus, infecting a human most likely means a dead end, because even in the saliva glands the viral load is low. Most human to human transmission has happened from organ transplants.

I do agree with the scenario though, it seems very unlikely for a zombie apocalypse to proceed, unless it's like that 12 second (and no less) zombie conversion in World War Z. Any virus apocalypse is more likely to play out like the movie Contagion, which is chilling in its plausibility. That's more of a horror movie than any zombie flick. People don't need a virus to become lethal in their aggression. Desperation is enough.

EDIT: Quick look-up form WHO says human to human bite is theoretically possible but it has never been confirmed. So yeah, we are pretty good at avoiding rabid humans, and their symptoms severely disabilitate them.
 

LaughingAtlas

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Carnivorous jam actually sounds a hell of a lot more threatening than walking corpses, as I don't think zombies can ooze under a door to eat your feet, swiftly followed by the rest of you. Would this jam be able to, for lack of better words, blob up on itself to overcome heights? Like form a jam-snake-type-thing and make the exact opposite motion of a slinky to ascend to what you might have thought was safe ground? When/if you 'kill' it, is it edible? Do I have to worry about eating my squishy adversary on some toast only for it to return the favor from within my own stomach?

I know what boils down to 'blob monster' isn't overwhelmingly creative in terms of what we put in our fiction, but this sounds interesting. More interesting than zombies by now, at least.
 

Steve2911

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I like The Walking Dead (comic and game, no idea how that godawful show works) approach to infection. Something that humans have picked up causes them to reanimate after they die, and being bitten or scratched only speeds up the dying process (and can be slowed or stopped entirely with a quick amputation).

It doesn't matter how this virus spread really, because for all the survivors know it's in the air they breathe and what little food they find to eat. All they know is to disable anyone that does die (through the standard brain methods), and the result is that zombies largely die out after a good while. There's still enough of them to be a bloody nuisance, but they've hardly overrun the planet. This approach works since the only way to stop it from spreading (short of finding a cure) would be to stop people from dying or to fuck their brains up after the fact, which I doubt many people would have known to do in the first few weeks of the infection, after which it was too late.
 

Neurotic Void Melody

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I always thought it'd be a North Korean apocalypse that would get us. I mean, has anyone even checked up on them lately? I'm almost certain there's a body-snatcher-esque alien virus breeding there, biding its time...

growing stronger...

waiting for the perfect time to unleash its consuming power.

Or i could be wrong and it could be the jam.
 
Apr 17, 2009
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themilo504 said:
Yeah having a plan for a zombie apocalypse is rather stupid, but having a plan for Ragnarök is a perfectly sensible idea.

when Ragnarök finally happens I?m going to laugh at the people who prepared for a zombie apocalypse.
Well to be fair there will be zombies in Ragnarok. Namely all the unworthy dead that spill forth from the Naglfar, the ship made of dead men's fingernails. Of course we also have several flavours of giant, house-sized wolves, the World Serpent and mutherfukkin' dragons to worry about which I think constitute larger threats. Assuming we survive the nine years of winter...
 

Thanatos2k

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Thank you for voicing one of my problems with all this zombie stuff - where the hell did they come from if zombies eat live people? How did the zombies ever reach critical mass, especially when guns exist? When your average survival horror dude is blasting zombies by the dozens with his shotgun or whatever, how did that not happen on a small scale to each zombie outbreak?
 

Bbleds

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As far as survival games, I have to agree. For me most don't hold an lasting appeal, more of a "rainy day" type game you pick up and play to distract yourself for a couple of hours. Having recently played Don't Starve I think the issue may be that the main crux, die and do it all over again, reminds me of working. Do several repetitive menial tasks in order to gain resources only to have it all lost when I want to see what happens when I attack a flock of ominous penguins....... Ok, may really not like my profession at all, regardless this sub-genre doesn't hold my attention for long. Goddamn penguins!
 

probably_insane

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This indeed took quite a right angle. Actually I was a little disappointed, because I believe that there can be wider speculation about what's up with us liking games, where life and morality (to some degree) as we know it is gone. My intuitive response for example is, that some perceive our reality as 'broken' in some ways and thus the fantasy of getting away in building something new 'untainted' (I'm exaggerating, I hope you get the point) is quite appealing.

To the point of zombie-bioweapon-theory:
I think Yahtzee's approach is a little specialised here. For one I think it is scientificly imaginable, to reasonably assume to have 98% of urban population getting infected (obviously this propagades not only by bite).
The point that weights even heavier against a zombie-apocalypse is, that such a weapon seems to me to be quite stupid. What kind of purpose would such a weapon have, that can not be fullfilled by other (ABC-)weapons? Why make a big effort to achieve zombie-state humans, if it's far easier to just weaken/kill them by simpler methods (assuming here, that both have similar dispersalmethods)?
 

Oskuro

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I do have a Jam survival plan, thank you very much (Yes, I have the book). It involves no peanut butter, and two slices of bread. Possibly a spider too.


I think survival games' appeal has a lot to do with the inherent thrill of... well, of having to survive, but, as with any game, without the risks involved.

Being lost inside a cave system and nearing starvation in real life? Horrifying.
Being lost inside a cave system nearing starvation, while fiercely battling skeletons, spiders and zombies in a desperate attempt to bring back your hard earned diamonds? Even if you fail, EPIC!


Heck, I can rack up more exciting stories to pester my friends with in a single minecraft session than in an entire vacation trip.


As for zombies, there are two concepts that completely negate their threat: Choke Points and Supression Fire.
You can even test this in videogames: Find a neat doorway, or an alley, that forces zombies to push through, and plant yourself with a heavy automatic weapon and unlimited ammo on the other end. Instant win.

The unlimited ammo is meant to simulate the boxes of bullets a regular army unit would have for such a task, by the way. There are currently more bullets on the world than people, and high caliber bullets can incapacitate a human being easily.

And this technique works for similar threats (Like Aliens (There's a reason why a single automated turret held them back in Aliens) or every single ground force ever seen in an Star Trek product)
 

Mike Fang

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The zombie argument makes sense. It really would only work if the virus was airborne, since then people who had died from accidental causes or natural causes without anyone's notice would then reanimate, creating a lot of unknown zombies just waiting for surprise attacks, not to mention from that point onward it would only take a bit of negligence on the part of those around the recently deceased for a corpse to be allowed to reanimate and become a threat. I think the most likely scenario that would come, even from this, is that zombies would simply become a new hardship people would learn to live with. There would be accidents here and there, of course, but in general due to the proliferation of personal firearms (at least in North America) and the fact many people today have postulated about the possibility of this threat, I think humanity is fairly well prepared for it. I would foresee the recently departed receiving a discreet nail through their cranium after dying to ensure their brains are rendered unable to function and cremation would become the widely accepted method of disposing of earthly remains. While the threat of an outbreak -is- there from an airborne virus, it would also have to be fatal itself, not just reanimate the corpse after dying. Otherwise, if everyone on earth was guaranteed to become a zombie after death, humanity would simply know to take the necessary precaution every time. Hell, we'd probably do it even if it wasn't guaranteed, just to be sure.

Oh, and as far as the 3 ft of carnivorous jam thing goes, I have two words for you: hip waders.
 

Shannon Spencer Fox

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MooseHowl said:
Seems a bit odd to include Terraria on a list of survival games. Most of those games require some degree of personal upkeep; in Terraria, you don't have to eat anything, ever, and even the copious healing potion intake of an average Terrarian is entirely optional. Terraria is about as much of a survival game as Call of Duty, GTA, or various Mario games.

And Mario eats more mushrooms than a Terrarian ever will.
That was actually one of the (tiny) issues I had with Yahtzee's last ZP review; the talk of Starbound being a 'survival' game (and Terraria and Minecraft alongside it). I'd personally argue that all three games are more building/exploration than survival, with the monster element more to provide some necessary conflict. Any 'survival' (especially in Terraria's case, which is admittedly the only game of the three I've played... though I do own Starbound now) is more an incentive to create your first shelter, which takes all of about five minutes... and, in terms of Starbound, you're directed through it.

As I said, though, minor issue.

shiajun said:
Only one problem in your rabies comparison, Yahtzee. Rabies transmission from human to human is dismal in its efectiveness. For the virus, infecting a human most likely means a dead end, because even in the saliva glands the viral load is low. Most human to human transmission has happened from organ transplants.

I do agree with the scenario though, it seems very unlikely for a zombie apocalypse to proceed, unless it's like that 12 second (and no less) zombie conversion in World War Z. Any virus apocalypse is more likely to play out like the movie Contagion, which is chilling in its plausibility. That's more of a horror movie than any zombie flick. People don't need a virus to become lethal in their aggression. Desperation is enough.
I do have to admit that it was somewhat interesting to see World War Z (kind of) try to take a more scientific approach to the concept, logical flaws aside (and the fact that, as I understand it, the most it had in common from the original novel was probably the name), but it did strike me as a 'poor man's Contagion', which, while rather dry a lot of the time, was rather interesting to see how it unfolded.

As for the rabies angle, that's indeed not a terrifically good example, especially with a very obvious example of The Last of Us' mutant Cordyceps fungus giving a much more plausible angle: some kind of parasite that modifies the infected host's actions to attempt to further reproduce and spread. In the real world, that's what the Cordyceps fungus does to ants, and there's also the Toxoplasma gondii parasite that alters infected rodents to be more prone to be caught by cats, which is where it primarily reproduces. And toxoplasma is also able to infect humans.

... Of course, there's lots of reasons why a zombie apocalypse would quickly fail (zombies may as well be wild-animal chow, for example, as well as extreme heat or cold), but there you go.
 

Barbas

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KDR_11k said:
So Yahtzee, what are you trying to escape from by playing Silent Hill?
Agoraphobia seems likely, given its simply atrocious draw distance.

Sometimes I look at games of the past and shiver. Everyone was just...boxes...eeerugh....
 

Evonisia

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Jun 24, 2013
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So the Zombie apocalypse won't happen? Well ok then, in all honesty I thought this was pretty obvious.