Gaming Vs Reality – Zombies – Part One

Zombies. Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, we gamers seem to love them and, for the time being, they’re here to stay on our consoles and in our PCs. They are the perfect enemy – mostly harmless on their own, and can be easily dispatched by our characters with whatever blunt or bladed instrument that happens to be lying around at the time. As their numbers increase, so too does the danger – it becomes increasingly difficult to cave in Mr. Z’s skull when his pals are trying to eat your face at the same time. At times like these it’s sometimes better to run and hide or, if you’re playing Left 4 Dead, chuck a pipe bomb across the map and enjoy the fireworks. Once you’ve had your fill of brain-mashing fun, or if it all gets a bit too much for you, then you can always turn down the difficulty or even play another game, right?

Well, what if you couldn’t? What if the Zombie apocalypse really did happen? There will always be survivors, but would you be one of them? Could you protect your loved ones? Could you etch out an existence in the new Zombie wasteland? With these questions in mind, I’ve been doing some research. I’ve trawled through my game collection for decent Zombie titles like Left 4 Dead, Atom Zombie Smasher and CoD BlOps 2: Zombies (don’t judge me) and I’ve been playing the crap out of them. When I’m not playing these, I’ve also been reading various Walking Dead comics and novels, and in-between doing all that I’ve also had a quick look around survivalist websites and forums in the hope of learning anything useful.

The reason for all of this is two-fold. First, I really enjoy Zombie games and love the Walking Dead universe. Second, I want to see how a scenario would most likely go down within fiction and what would probably really happen in real life. Besides, you never know, this might actually happen one day, amiright? The Government with their secrets, terrorists with biochemical weapons, aliens with their doom rays… I for one wouldn’t want you, my sexy reader, going out there unprepared for what you might face.

So, as a public service exercise I’ve come up with a few scenarios that may happen to you during the Zombie plague. Accompanying these scenarios are tips on how you might survive if you were in a game and tips for surviving if it was real. You can all thank me later.

Scenario One:
It’s the early days of the plague in your densely-populated city in the UK.  Sporadic news reports of violence have become more and more commonplace. People interviewed by news crews have been telling tales of dead people coming back to life to attack their loved ones. Blurred YouTube clips of what looks like people eating each other have been popping up all over the internet. After a week or so, it’s confirmed that some sort of virus is making dead people rise again to attack the living. Anyone bitten by one of these Zombies suffers from a wound that will not stop bleeding, and in all known cases the casualty dies and eventually comes back. So far, only a small percentage of the population killed has returned as a Zombie, but the numbers of the dead are increasing every day. People have been advised to stock up on provisions if they can, stay indoors, and do not make any unnecessary journeys.

Popping out to buy milk has never seemed so risky

Real Life:
As it’s only early days, the time to panic isn’t upon you just yet. Chances are that your immediate family is okay for the time being. The best thing to do right now is to secure your home as best you can. You might even want to brave the shops, which are no doubt starting to fill with panic-buyers, and stock up on supplies. Perhaps you could invite close family members to stay with you, pool your supplies and hope that the whole thing blows over. If you see any Zombies, stay out of sight and don’t try to take them out. There is no need put yourself or others in harm’s way by taking any unnecessary risks. You just need to keep telling yourself that everything is going to be okay.

Game:
I honestly don’t think there is a zombie title that covers this period. If playing with zombies has taught me anything, it’s that things have already gone seriously wrong by the time you materialise in the thick of it. For the sake of argument, let’s just say this is a game and your character probably does have loved ones somewhere. However, for inexplicable reasons they are nowhere to be found. Either you were away for some reason and they left before you got back, or they were kidnapped. Fortunately, somebody knows where they are but they won’t tell you until you go and fetch them something that they really need, but can’t fetch themselves.

By a stroke of luck you just happen to be either a cop, an ex-military type person or Arnold Schwarzenegger, so this is no problem for you. Despite being clearly bigger and stronger than this person, you just can’t seem to manage to threaten them or even try to reason with them. Regardless of all the warnings to stay put and not to take any risks you just meekly agree (probably silently) to their demands and off you go on your fetch quest.

Scenario Two:
Another month has now passed and things are starting to get worse. A curfew was put into effect a few weeks ago but there doesn’t seem to be many police around to enforce it anymore. Large groups of Zombies roam the streets looking for food. There still seems to be a Government in operation, and a few weeks ago you heard reports of the army fighting battles with massive groups of the Zombies. Unfortunately for the army, it was learned too late that the only way to effectively kill one was to shoot it in the head. Soldiers are used to fighting the living and are taught to aim for the central mass of a body, which contains all the vital organs required to keep a person alive. This sort of damage is ineffective on a Zombie and, as a result, the armed forces were devastated. Those who survived abandoned their posts and fled back to their families.

Your food is starting to run low. You now know that damage to the head will kill a Zombie, but it means getting up close and personal. You – the average person – aren’t trained in hand to hand combat and, chances are, you’re not the violent type and haven’t spent most of your life bashing people over the head. Your home has been relatively ignored by the Zombies, but you need to start venturing out for food.

Real Life:
OK, shit is starting to get real now. For now there is still a government hanging on, so they will more than likely be keeping the power on where possible. Because of this you are still able to store large quantities of food in your fridge and freezers. When you go out raiding the surround areas, concentrate on gathering fresh food where you can, but don’t pass up on canned stuff if you can carry it. If you come across any large stashes of food that you can’t carry all at once, make a note of it somewhere and, if you can, come back for it later. Eat all of your fresh food first, followed by the frozen stuff. You’ll want to save all tinned food for when everything else runs out as that will be the stuff that won’t go bad if the power goes out.

Never knock over a zombie's pint...

There will more than likely still be a decent number of survivors in the area. Co-operate with them if you know and trust them, but don’t count on them if it comes down to it. If they are still alive at this point it’s because they know how to look after number one. Chances are, they will screw you over in an instant. It’s probably a safe bet to say that all the soft touches are probably already dead or have been duped out of all their stuff by the more ruthless people out there. Be careful where you go; you don’t want to run into any Zombies.

At this stage it’s probably worth trying to get hold of some firearms. However, this is the UK and gun laws are pretty strict over here. Shops that sell them are very rare, and to complicate matters further, handguns and automatic rifles are banned in the UK. Therefore if you are lucky enough to find a gun shop and you can get in, the only type of gun you are likely to be able to find is a shotgun. That doesn’t sound too bad on paper, but these shotguns probably aren’t the cool military grade shotguns you are thinking of. They will most likely be the long-barrelled hunting type shotguns. These are big, unwieldy, heavy, and very loud.  Squeezing off a shot with one of these things will draw every Zombie within a few square miles to your position. As such they should only be used in an emergency.

Besides, even if you could get hold of one you probably wouldn’t know how to use the thing anyway. I know I wouldn’t. In my opinion, don’t bother with guns unless it is an emergency. I’d stick with blunt and bladed weapons only. They are silent and don’t rely on ammunition. Weapons aside, if you can you want to be avoiding the Zombies altogether, nevermind fighting them! You heard about the army being decimated, what chance do you think you have?!

Game:
OK, shit is starting to get real now. You were there at the giant battle with the zombies. Fortunately, it was just taking place on that huge battleground just up the road from your house. You approached the first officer you see and he just happened to be in charge of the operation. You decide to offer up your services to him, as you are a true patriot. The officer recognises that you were a cop/ex-military type person/Arnold Schwarzenegger and immediately offers you a position on the front line. Without any thought for your own or your family’s safety you charge off to face the Zombie threat. Despite single-handedly managing to kill thousands of Zombies, they just keep on coming over the horizon in a never-ending wave. The battle eventually ends with a call to retreat and you return to your home.

Despite the battle taking place just up the road, your home is still a safe haven for now. Sometime later you are told that you are running low on food and supplies and you’ve been volunteered to go out and find some food. You are shown a map with three locations on it; at each location there is a large stash of food. Each of the three food stashes seem to be quite a distance away and all in heavily-infected areas. Your suggestion to raid the local neighbourhood homes for food first is quickly dismissed and you are sent on your way.

The journey to the food is fraught with danger. Luckily for you there happens to be loads of weapons and ammunition lying around at conveniently-spaced intervals. You don’t worry too much about how all these weapons got there, completely ignoring the fact that most of these weapons are illegal in the UK and therefore shouldn’t even be there. Before realising that there is plenty of ammunition about, you make a few attempts to sneak by groups of Zombies. No matter how stealthy you try to be, the Zombies always seem to know where you are and huge battles often break out, which usually end after some giant mutated Zombie has been killed by shooting some obvious (and glowing) weak points.

Eventually, you find all three food stashes – they weren’t too hard to find as they were glowing – and all is well again. You feel compelled to say something witty and funny even though there is no one to hear it. The trip back home is uneventful and very short. It’s so uneventful and short you can’t even remember it and before you know it you are back home as if by teleportation. Nobody questions it.

The crush for E3 was bigger than expected this year...

So there you have it, up ’til now the real-life-you has been cowering like a little girl in your hiding place while trying to keep yourself and your family safe and fed. You are doing your very best to stay alive and out of the way of any passing Zombies and generally just laying low.  Meanwhile, the fictional version of you has been kicking the (un)living shit out of any Zombie that is foolish enough to stumble into his way. He’s also generally been bossed about by just about everyone and sent on some very unnecessary and dangerous missions to find supplies, and, all the while, teleporting around the place.

Keep an eye out for part two, where we will pick up where we left off and find out how our real life and game heroes have been coping with the ever-increasing dangers of a Zombie Apocalypse.




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5 Comments

  1. Stu says:

    An inspired piece, brilliant and so true. I tend to agree that I’d end up a cowering, hoarding type rather than taking the fight to my former neighbours. When raiding the shops I think I’d avoid any fresh or exposed food – zombie virus could be in it. Tins and ready meals all the way!

  2. Toffer says:

    Excellent piece Ste, one of your best. Much like Zeros Mum, its doing the rounds in the office at the moment.

  3. MarkuzR says:

    “huge battles often break out, which usually end after some giant mutated Zombie has been killed by shooting some obvious (and glowing) weak points”

    Genius. Actually, the whole thing was. I smiled, smirked, laughed and even gave approving nods in places. I’m really looking forward to the next one and hope you do more “Gaming Vs Reality” scenarios. I can think of many!

  4. Edward says:

    I re-read this last night and ended up dreaming that I was in a zombie apocalypse scenario.
    Thanks to your article (and the help of a giant, human-eating gorilla) I survived!
    Thanks, Ste!

  5. Ste says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. I enjoyed writing this piece. I think I might struggle writing similar things for other genres as obvious glowy things and fetch quests are all too common in gaming these days. I’d just be repeating myself.

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