There’s a new genre of game that’s come about over the past two or three years and it’s rapidly becoming an establishment, growing both momentum and a solid fan base. They’re best described as actions-oriented, open-world MMOs with a survivalist bent—minus the quests, events, and other forms of storytelling. That’s right, titles like Day Z and Rust are here to stay, and they’re leading to other studios developing similar titles. But what do they say about the gaming community and society as a whole?
With all the online coverage these titles have been getting, seeing them in action is simple enough without having to jump in and make a purchase. Being hesitant to buy them is understandable, given that their design goes against the grain of most titles out there on the market. Descendants of Minecraft and Terraria (in principal), these titles focus almost exclusively on game play and mechanics, and leave the storytelling and progression entirely in your hands.
What this leads to are roaming cults that kidnap and induct lone wanderers, the standard griefers who are only there to ruin as much as they can for as many people as possible, the occasional honestly decent person who will help out someone in need, towns, tribes, anarchist groups, and a myriad of other types of players doing other types of tasks in games that have no real direction or focus.
In a sense, these games become the digital equivalent of live action role-playing, and that’s where it becomes interesting to look deeper into them. When you look at these games in this light, suddenly you see them for the social experiments they are. Some players just want to get by. Some want to help. The majority are either out for themselves, or want to bring the whole thing crashing down. Even though it’s fantasy in a gaming context, you’re still getting a stripped-down look at the way society functions.
Making our own entertainment can be a powerful thing, but every once in a while we should step back and look at our actions. It’s all in good fun, but player behavior in these games says something about us as people.