One of the ugliest flowers to have sprouted up on the internet scene in recent years is the controversial videogame “DayZ” (pronounced Daisy). It’s an outrageously confusing and grim enterprise that forces young people into harsh moments of psychological torment with little reward. There are guns and zombies and gangs and strange all-male homoerotic scenarios. Yet despite the profound moral flaws, the game has become one of the most popular on the market today.
So what is DayZ really all about and is it safe for your family?
DayZ is an online multiplayer fantasy game that anyone with a computer can access. You are dropped into a murky and crumbling rural environment with nothing but a gun. Inspired by the cult movie Zombieland, this is a post-apocalyptic world haunted by roving bands of the comically farcical undead. They growl and menace with outstretched arms and attack with an eye to your innards. The look and feel of this landscape has been interpreted through Soviet ideology with collective farms and communist housing blocks known as “paneláks.” It’s not known if this is meant as a subliminal celebration of socialism, although all the evidence certainly points in that direction. The popular Lord of the Rings trilogy out of New Zealand is also a clear, but scandalously unacknowledged, influence on this silly but sinister panorama.
The lack of discipline and the gruesomely-rendered graphics of this videogame have attracted a most unusual following of outcasts and anarchists, militant atheists and licentious perverts of the highest order. They have turned this world into a carnival of freethinking monologues and selfish narcissism. Most grapple with this game half naked from their beds, brushing aside pizza boxes and filthy jockstraps as they loiter and leer in this imaginary landscape of pleasure and pain. You’ll hear shouts from Mother, burps and flatulence and even ejaculatory grunts transmitted via your fellow players’ headsets. It’s a veritable symphony of sloth.
On the surface, there’s really not much more to DayZ than these scant details. The fact that it’s so purposely vague can be quite upsetting for new players. The game just seems to violate all the rules of competition, sportsmanship and gaming. Indeed, there are no rules to speak of in DayZ (and no actual screens of instructions when you log in). Nor are their points to be earned or special levels to be reached. There are no prizes or flashing screens, no gratifying rewards and top score lists. This game is so utterly free of structure and meaning that it will strike you as nonsensical. Ultimately, it feels like the laziest enterprise imaginable.
Yet from that lazy, nonsensical freedom something heinous emerges. Gamers have migrated to DayZ in droves and colonized it as some sort of freewheeling rampage of psychosis, murder and suicide. The few times I tried to play the game I was robbed by others, shot in a circle for sport, assassinated by far off snipers, kicked out of a bus and chased into a marijuana field by thugs who seemed to have something quite sexual on their minds. These were not acts of zombie violence, but the cruel assaults of my fellow human players! I even inadvertently starved to death as I made myself paella in my real life kitchen.
These last two points bring up something that many adults will find unnerving about DayZ. The first is that there are indeed marijuana plants depicted with brazen openness in this game. I was not able to figure out how many players are harvesting the plants to smoke the drug and what this does to their individual consoles (there are ways to transmit the traumatic affects of a ganja high over the internet), but this is obviously dangerous. Any illicit promotion of hardcore marijuana aimed directly at youths is both illegal and possibly deadly.
Secondly, players need to constantly eat to survive in the game. If you turn off your module, your virtual self is in there starving. This conundrum forces many addicted gamers to play for hours and even days on end, forgetting to feed themselves in real life and putting their health at grave risk. Beyond this, the scarcity of food often forces players into acts of human cannibalism. Novice players like me, for instance, often end up as the main dish on a campground fire, my limbs roasted and garnished to the eerie delight of the voracious gamers around the world.
In the final analysis, it’s rather sad to think someone could name such a cruel videogame after a gentle and evocative flower like a daisy. But maybe such sarcasm belies the true essence here. If we set aside the pot-smoking homoeroticism of the elite level players, if we forget about the movie makeup zombies and the hidden communist agenda, even if we accept all those negative things, DayZ seems intentionally crafted to taunt the novice videogame player into a pool of hot, messy tears. There really is no purpose here, no high scoring delights or secret levels of magic, nothing to make this experience hopeful or redeeming in any way. No, DayZ is just a way for those addicted gamers to take aim at the new faces, to abandon them by the side o the road, to ax them to the head and to scare them off forever to the far more rewarding and dramatic environs of superior videogames like Harvest Moon or Peggle.