A walled garden — with zombies

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Well, after reading more about the psychology of free-to-play games, I’ve finally given up Sim City BuildIt once and for all (… but probably not for long). (For the record, SCB wasn’t by any means the worst offender in the free-to-play world, but it’s an enormous time-suck nonetheless). However, after being subjected to maybe a hundred online ads (sitting through online ads is a shortcut to certain goals in the game), there’s one image that still stuck in my mind:

This is a scene from the ad for a game called “Age of Z” (or, at least I think that’s the one). From what I’ve seen in the ads, I can tell you that this game involves killing many zombies and building your home territory (which, I believe starts as a reclaimed junkyard) into a thriving city.

This image, which appears near the end of the ad and seems to show a pretty well-established city bordered by a tall wall topped with machine gunners who fire non-stop into approaching waves of zombies, always (at least for the few seconds the scene appears) killing enough to keep the leading edge of the wave at bay.

(Aside: it’s curious that the wave of zombies is squared off the way the city is. You’d think that the shape of the zombie wave would be dictated by the firing arc of the machine guns, in which case it would have the shape of a square with rounded corners. But I digress…)

Welcome to America, circa 2020

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but this scene strikes me as a metaphor for the way many Americans view their world? Inside the walls, it’s a pretty nice place. Let me call your attention to a few details:

The buildings inside the compound have strikingly appealing architecture. They have landscaping, paved roads, sidewalks. This particular building seems to have advertising and a neon sign. At the moment, no one seems to be on the streets because they are all on the wall shooting zombies, but presumably at some point at least some of them can climb down and enjoy maybe a movie or an art show or something.

Outside, though, there are waves and waves of zombies, coming to… well, I don’t really know. Eat everyone’s brains? I’m not really a zombie expert, but I think it’s safe to say that the zombies pose a threat to the resident‘s lives, or at least their way of life. They are storming the walls, and it certainly seemed to imply that if they were ever to make it through, well, that would be the end of civilization.

Frankly, that’s how I think a lot of people see America today. Remember that couple in St. Louis who pulled guns (including a machine gun, if you can believe it*) on Black Lives Matter protesters who walked down their private road en route to a demonstration? What a scene! Rich people standing in their beautifully manicured lawns, staring down the barrels of their guns at outsiders who had literally come through the gates. I can’t help but wonder if, after the protesters dispersed and the guns were back in the locker, those two defenders of liberty and freedom went back to playing their game of Age of Z.

Home with security system
From another game in the series. The homeowners are enjoying a cookout in their front yard while the automated defense system slaughters the zombies beyond the fence.

OK, I think I’ll stop now. I’m not really trying to get political with this blog, but I do wonder if I’m the only one who looks at this game and sees the “defending our way of life” fantasy fairly obviously embedded in it. If many video games are a form of wish-fulfillment, what does it say when our wish is to live in a nice place we can call our own and open fire on anyone who tries to get in? Castle Doctrine as escapist entertainment.

In any case, it’s not a game for me. I’d rather be flinging birds at green pigs and their absurdly poorly built homes. Though I have to confess that I do wonder at what point the birds and pigs really should just sit down and talk. Where does it end?


* And of course you can believe it, which is pretty awful in and of itself.

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