Archive for the ‘Themes’ Category

Browser of the Living Dead

April 30, 2008

Zombies in popular culture will not die. Like victims of the contagion of undeath, the zombie meme has been spreading and muitiplying since the first mass-media seed was planted, in 1968. Only in the past ten years has it begun to achieve the critical mass necessary to its inevitable triumph. Zombie movies, video games, and books like the great oral history World War Z are eating our brains at a greater rate than ever before.

Although there has been no shortage of attempts, my idea of the perfect zombie video game — one that captures what I consider the essential elements of the genre* — has yet to be made. Last year the boardgame world was blessed/damned with the publication of Last Night on Earth, which pretty much nailed it (or shot it in the head, if you prefer), but from where I sit behind my barricade, a truly satisfying digital interpretation remains unmade. There are a lot of fun, well-made zombie video games lining the shelves of looted Gamestops in abandoned shopping malls across the country, but none of them has dragged me to my doom in quite the way I really want to go (though I have high hopes for Left4Dead).

That being said, if you’re a fan of the genre, there are a few cool browser-based zombie games and widgets out there. Kevan Davis’ Zombie Infection Simulation is a neat little bit of code that makes the undead holocaust seem almost cute; he’s also responsible for Urban Dead, a graphically primitive MMO wherein you can be human or zombie trying to survive/cannibalize in the fictional town of Malton. While Mr. Davis’ work may be as tasty as gray matter, the tender, delicious cerebellum of browzombie games to date is The Last Stand 2, an oxymoron of a sequel to The Last Stand. One of the great improvements in the sequel is that the survivors must gather supplies to move from town to town in their quest for salvation, adding a little bit of a meta-game.

*Among my must-have bullet points are randomized locales, the gradual gathering of a motley crew of survivors, and game mechanics that reinforce the group’s social dynamics.