If there was ever an over saturated genre in the video game market, survival games would be in the running for whatever kind of award that can get you. The genre’s undying popularity has spawned great games like Rust pictured above. Of course the sheer number of fans for this game type has paved the way for large piles of early access games, some ending up in the quick quid and never finished heap but still for the most part ending up in gamers’ libraries. We just simply can’t get enough of them, it seems they give us a certain joie de vivre.
We’ve got your dinosaur taming survival games with the likes of Ark: Survival Evolved, of course naturally there is a horde of Zombie survival games such as DayZ and Just Survive, then there’s Sci-Fi survival in space with the likes of Osiris New Dawn and an underwater alien planet setting with Subnautica, not to mention the legions of bog standard potential real world dystopia versions a la Hurtworld. You name it people want to survive it, kind of like life itself.
Another way in which survival games echo life, is that they’re utterly bloody futile!
A Dog Eat Dog World
The one thing that ties all these different survival scenarios together is being thrust into a hostile environment and using your wits and surrounding resources to survive. Ultimately there is no real end goal to these games beyond that, unless they’re single player with story progression. For the sake of this article, I’m going to be focusing on multiplayer, specifically player versus player rather than just the environment. This is where you can find the real echoes of life in our society and it’s sometimes all too easily conceivable pointlessness.
Sadly, for the most part the survival game community is a dog eat dog world, where people will kill you on the off chance that you might have some goodies in your inventory even though you look like a fresh spawn. Then there is those who would in fact just end your miserable existence for the thrill of the hunt, even when there’s no sport in it. But there are players who prefer to make friends in this futile existence, I am one of these players, there’s enough pain without a guilty conscience. I remember one friend gaining encounter in a game of Just Survive;
A real life pal and I were new to the server, we had nothing but the clothes on our back and hope in our hearts. It was night and we were warily making our way into town, when in the middle of the road a creep with a torch silently beheld us. To put it simply we had no fight so we went into flight mode, to put it plainly we were cowards. So as we ran, like an excitable dog he preceded to chase us for a 5 minutes saga of humiliation, freaked out by a torch lit stranger. We took shelter in a house, so he stood at the window flashing us not saying a word. That’s when we made another break for it and bumped into a stranger kitted out with a backpack and rifle, we begged him for assistance to end our fear. Putting our trust in a stranger with a weapon rather than one with a torch. He scared off our light bearing accoster and we teamed up and to this day are still friends.
A rare occurrence in these worlds of mistrust, what with the nagging paranoia that your supposed newfound friend is just waiting for the opportune moment to stab you in the back, learning your weaknesses and biding their time – we’d be stupid not to strike first right? It’s an infernal pattern with a ripple effect, shit on or be shat on.
In these games you have few options once you’re surviving and well equipped, try to just exist in perpetual defence for the mere sake of it, accumulate to exterminate the competition, to share in their hard work by raiding them, and taking their possessions for your own. Or try to work with people in exchange for mutual cooperation and face the risk of being so easily betrayed.
So why do we enjoy survival games so much?
Leaving Your Mark And Making a Story
Throwing yourself into the pattern of destitution, accumulation and loss to someone or times scythe in the form of a server wipe, seems a tedious repetitive task with no end in sight. It’s almost as futile as cleaning your house, however it is definitely a lot more fun. It’s infinitely more enjoyable to face virtual futility than the actual consequential reality. Like life itself, for all its futility, the goal of survival is to enjoy the ride and thus give a point to it all.
Leave your mark and enjoy the process, whether that be in the form of your creations or the friends you make along the way. That’s why survival games are an important and enjoyable genre, they’re player based experiences that allows us to embrace life in all it’s futility.