I have taken a particular interest recently in user created histories within video games. My first post on this was on the created history of EVE Online and now I will turn to the interesting case of DayZ.
DayZ was a mod for ARMA 2 (2009) and its expansion pack ARMA 2: Operation Arrowhead. The mod was extremely well received and won multiple awards. The creator of the game, Dean Hall has now released an Alpha-test for a standalone version of DayZ in conjunction with Bohemia Interactive, the creators of ARMA 2. The game is a survival horror game that is set in a post-apocalyptic world in the fictional Russian province of Chernarus, which is inhabited by zombies. After spawning, players must search abandoned towns for gear, food, supplies and weapons as they try to survive the threat of the undead and other players. The game has no story or campaign, no missions or quests. The game is defined entirely by what the players do and how they interact with each other. The game is filled with more than 1.3 million players, which leads to a number of cool interactions and responses.
Looting, murdering, embarrassing and robbing other players is all part of the experience in DayZ. With this trope a part of everyday DayZ life, players began to ‘mourn’ the characters that they had lost in the world. With the availability of the internet, players banded together to collectively recall some of the most interesting ways that they lost their characters. DayZ Survivor Stories is a website where players can post tales of their experiences in the game that led to death. The players of DayZ are actively engaging in creating memorials to their characters from their experiences in the game. In the, “Why this is important” section of the Survivor Stories website (actually called “wtf? Why bother?”), the creator of the site, ExistentialEgg, wrote, “To me a big joy of playing DayZ is reading and sharing experiences that happened in it.” What ExistentialEgg is saying is that the history that these players are creating in-game are fun and interesting and worth preserving for others to read.
Further to this idea, freelance writer Christopher Livingston created a blog that tracked some of his more interesting encounters within DayZ called, “hey are you cool.” The blog is updated almost daily with usually several posts per day of weird and bizarre situations involving other players that he experienced in DayZ. Here is a post from January 24, 2014:
Livingston’s posts include sharing canned tuna with fellow traveller, getting shot by accident by an apologetic trigger happy player, watching as zombies consume a presumably Away From Keyboard (AFK) player. When I first found Chris Livingston’s blog, I realized that DayZ was more than just a way for players to mess around in a zombie apocalypse. The world of Chernarus is a sort of vacation world for the players. DayZ provides a world where players are able to create memories. These memories are in turn remembered and recorded in various websites and memoirs, providing a history to the player interactions that have taken place.
When I explored the microhistory of New Eden, their history was more concrete and vast. The mass alliances and their wars mean everything to that world but the history of Chernarus is much different. It is a throwaway history, where the connections between players are brief but still impactful and diverse. Once DayZ is completed, it will be interesting to see if the added content will take away from these small histories. No matter what happens to the game next, these histories of the first part of DayZ will live on.