Guest Post: The Dystopian Generation – Why We Love Zombie Games

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[Promoted from our Community Manager's inbox, here's another fantastic Guest Writer! This piece comes from community member, Lindsey Weedston. Lindsey has been living and gaming around Seattle, WA for as long as she can remember. Along the way she picked up writing, criticizing people on the Internet, and worshiping at the feet of the Great and Powerful BioWare. She is not affiliated with BioWare in any way. You can email her at lindseyweedston@gmail.com, follow her on Twitter, and find her on LinkedIn.]

There are two things that have we’ve been seeing a lot of during the past few years; dystopian-themed video games and talk about Millennials. I don’t think I know a single gamer who hasn’t played something involving zombies or a young person who hasn’t read an obnoxious article about how Millennials are terrible narcissistic slackers.

What is the deal with the zombie trend? We had a vampire kick for a while, and that made sense because vampires can be made sexy (note that I said they can be, this is not some admission that I think Edward is hot), but zombies? The zombie fad has stuck around for a long time now, and you can’t really make zombies attractive, despite the attempts of that one weird movie.

warm-bodies-attractive-zombie

This one

Once something’s gone on this long, you have to assume that it’s a little deeper than just a fad. Something about zombies, dystopia, and the apocalypse fascinates the current young adult generation. And not just the standard “oh no someone or something is going to blow up the world quick go save the day” apocalypse, but the “the world is all dim and dingy and there are barking dogs behind chain linked fences and grey storm troopers everywhere” apocalypse.

The Last of Us, Dishonored, BioShock, Fallout, The Walking Dead,and most recently all those Indie games where you’re thrown out into a wasteland or wilderness and have to learn to survive while starting with nothing, including Don’t Starve and Rust; games that strip away either hope for the future or all traces of civilization, leaving you with nothing to worry about except for survival.

You’ve been waiting for my theory about why Millennials are drawn to these games, and here it is. There’s one more thing we’ve been seeing a lot of lately – statistics that tell us we’re all totally screwed.

rust-dystopia

Or at least, that’s how we feel about it. The worldwide economic recession has left many of us with a bleak outlook of our futures. The more numbers you read, the worse it gets. Even if we can get a decent job, starting salaries have fallen. Wages have stagnated. Benefits are elusive. The cost of living is getting ridiculous. In the US, student loan debt is out of control and health care costs are some kind of bad joke gone horribly, horribly wrong. For the bulk of us, financial disaster is one medical emergency away, and we’ll be paying $400 a month in student loans, seemingly until we die, before we’re able to retire because there’s no Social Security money anymore.

Are you depressed yet? That’s the point. Forget futuristic dystopian scenarios. We’re practically living in a dystopia.

I’ve talked to multiple millennial gamers and non-gamers about this, and they can all answer the key question:

What doomsday scenario do you wish for? Personally, I prefer the Fallout model. Most of the world blown to hell. Surviving off of scrap metal in small, closely-knit communities. Living by your wits and ability to shoot a giant scorpion right in the tail. No vague, ever-present anxieties about crushing debt, no pressure to live up to anyone’s expectations, no wondering why you got a degree at all when you’re still working at Subway even though everybody told you that you’d be able to get a good job if you spent four years in college.

Do I really think I’d be happier living in a world with Deathclaws? No, of course not. But anyone who would give me raised eyebrows about my apocalypse fantasies is probably not making monthly student loan payments right now.

Student loan debt collectors

Student loan debt collectors

This all may sound bitter, but I think we Millennials have earned a little bitterness. And I think it helps us to see our slightly pessimistic view of the world reflected in bleak settings like that of Dishonored. We’re understandably drawn to a world where everything is torn down and you can start again with nothing. After all, isn’t starting with nothing better than starting with negative $50,000 plus interest?

And so, fellow Millennials, don’t feel bad about secretly wanting that zombie apocalypse. Don’t feel silly if you daydream about hearing the first reports of an illness that makes people super bitey. Don’t be ashamed if you got excited upon hearing about the weird face-eating incidents in Florida a couple years ago. It makes a lot of sense to want an escape, and to want to play out scenarios in which you can cast off the worries that plague you and live a simpler life. Even one that involves Deathclaws.

fallout3-dystopia

That’s what video games do for us. They provide immersive, intimate reflections of our emotions, help us to process them, and work through them in safety. They remind us that we’re not alone. So I say, keep the dystopian games coming. We could all use something to hang onto until things get better. There’s always hope for a brighter future. Remember – some day they might figure out how to genetically engineer Pokemon.

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