Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every weekday of the year, perhaps for all time.
DayZ [official site] takes the pernickety simulation of Arma and applies it to a grim survivalist tale. One in which the already dreach weather and desolate towns of Chernarus have become infested with zombies and in which the survivors are driven to do terrible things in order to keep on living – or to entertain themselves. It is also, just as importantly, often boring.
Boring isn’t the right word, but I used it to lure you in. Playing DayZ means experiencing long periods in which nothing happens, and far more often than any game with delusions of popularity would dare to include. You walk worn paths and see no one. You dart across empty fields and see no one. You search through collapsing churches and see no one.
Then, when you finally spot another person on the trail, from a distance, through the trees, it’s a moment of incredible excitement and fear. Have they seen you too? Are they friendly? Do they mean you harm? Do you mean them harm? You are in need of some food, actually.
All the moments where you traverse the haunting landscape, doing nothing but existing in a state of low tension, are important so that the moments in which you encounter another player are all the more thrilling. This is made better by a community of players who aren’t just content to put a bullet to you should they want your backpack, but will make you sing them a song before they chain you to a radiator and drain your blood, too.
Of course, it’s difficult to talk about the game now without the discussion turning rapidly to the achingly slow development of the standalone version, which seems even now to be a backward step from the initial free mod release. Hopefully one day it’ll feature more than three zombies in its world, and those zombies won’t forever clip through walls and floors, because there’s a great game still waiting to be realised and no other survival game has quite captured it.