You've got red on you…

Zombie Apocalypse is released this week on Xbox Live and Playstation Network. I’m sure it’ll be a riot. It looks like the spiritual successor to Loaded, with zombies.

So, that got me thinking. How many zombie games does that make? Left for Dead, Burn Zombie Burn, Plants vs Zombies, Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil Dress-Up My Zombie (I made that last one up), Dead Rising, Alone in the Dark, Zombies & Me – the list goes on. How many more1981-90, 16. 91-00, 48. 01-10, 77! are in development, then? Left 4 Dead 2, Fort Zombie, Dead Nation, Dead Rising 2, Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles, Dead Island – all these are from a brief Google search for zombie games. It’s safe to say the zombie concept is a popular one. In fact, I dug up a Wikipedia entry on zombie games. Based on that information (so don’t take it as fact, kids!) our lust for undead rage simulators has nearly doubled in the previous decade. See po-faced graphic, right:


Of course, it’s not just gamers who love to see undead gore and bite marks a-plenty. As the following highly scientific chart (also using data culled from Wikipedia) shows, zombie films have consistently been a source of entertainment for over sixty years now, and numbers have absolutely rocketed this decade. Why should that be the case? We must be lapping up all this contaminated zombie blood — it’s simple economics; if the demand wasn’t there, film industries 1931-2000, 205. 2001-2010, 319!across the globe wouldn’t have created 319 titles over the past 9 years. Is it simply that, as consumers of entertainment, we love gore, horror, doom, and inevitable destruction at the hands of a cold, dead enemy? Is it, as I suspect, something deeper than that? What if the undead of popular culture are metaphors for something deeper, something within each of us, something we recognize and relate to when we look up at the silver screen, or over the top of our controllers, something reflected back from the milky bloodshot eyes of the creature?
So here are my theories on the meaning of the zombie:


1. Rampant consumerism

Our culture is one of conspicuous consumption. Why make do and mend when we can throw away and buy another one? We all scarf down as much ‘product’ as we can, in all walks of life. New cars, new TVs, new consoles; the habitat of the Modern Man is the shopping mall, where they can be seen, gently grazing on shiny things and vacuously (sh)ambling between stores. Not by accident was Dawn of the Dead predominantly set in a mall… So, we, as the zombie horde, are gradually chewing our way through everything we can, and, when presented with the ultimate expression of this consumption, where every person lusts after eating his neighbour, naturally we say, "Hey, that looks pretty fun. Let me see that and chew it over…"


2. Fear of dehumanizationZombie staring

How many people do you know who are suspicious of new technology? To them, things are never as good as they were in their day. Is there something more to it than that, though? It strikes me that there’s a rumbling being felt in our collective subconscious; a fear that, if we let it, technology will make us somehow less than we should be. It’s why the Borg was such a great enemy in Star Trek — they have this crazy futuro-tech that lets them (and us) accomplish literally astronomical feats, but that same tech rips the humanity from each of them. So the thought goes, as we withdraw ever more into our gadgets and our digital world, we’re seeing less and less human interaction — we’re being zombified by our homes and our computers. That pallid grey skin? Dark eyes? Zombie, or result of an extended LAN party?


3. We’re all DOOMed anyway

The dirty man on the corner of the street prophesying the end of the world has always existed. In more primitive times, he was known as the soothsayer, the oracle, the prophet. 99.9% of everything these people say was harmless word-fluff. Occasionally, though, they were bang on the money. Rasputin, the mad monk, predicted the fall of the Russian Tsars before his own death. The Mayan civilization predicted their demise at the hands of a foreign invader. They also predicted the end of time in the year 2012. We’re getting pretty close now, and there are a lot of crackpots who’re prophesying the end. If the end really is coming, perhaps the modern predilection for zombie films, where everyone and everything is devoured by the ravenous horde, is just an expression of this fear. What if it happens… it might happen… how’s it going to go down… okay, dead policemen eating college girls!


Man on truck, sea of zombies4. Celebrity Culture

Gossip. Rumor. Hearsay. Interesting people. Celebrities are the people the media likes to watch, to present to the rest of us poor, weak plebeians. And we, in turn, hoover up all we can. Slackjawed and starry eyed, we cram ourselves with juicy gossip and humdrum mundanity alike. As long as it presents our Chosen Ones, it’s entertainment. Have you noticed, though, how people can turn on a celebrity at the drop of a hat? It happens so often now that we barely notice it. But step back and consider how brutal it is. From carrying them aloft on a golden bower, us peasants can tear that bower down and have entrails out in less time than it takes to complete a Mario speedrun. Put simply, we’re all zombies already. We stretch our arms out at the red carpet, pawing at them as they walk past. What would happen if we got hold of one? Without realizing it, and without really meaning to, there would be brains all over the pavement and an orgy of bloody flesh. The only problem with this picture? Sometimes, celebs’ brains were removed years ago…


Phil will get back on topic with something slightly more videogame related next time. If you have any thoughts about these theories, leave them in the comments. We might be able to flesh it out into a proper academic thesis…



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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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