In 3077 AD, Atlanta GA, when a robot chassis inhabited by a human consciousness pulls an Xbox from the vast landscape of trash, blows it off and boots up its hard drive, what will this era of videogame history be remembered for?
I’ll throw one out: Minecraft.
My first visceral experience of Minecraft wasn’t playing Minecraft at all—I hate the game. It happened in Summer 2017 playing 7 Days To Die with my best friend PJ. 7 Days is basically a more realistic version of Minecraft with actual zombies. PJ and I would spawn into this random world together. The graphics are terrible.
“What does it look like where you are?” “Uhhh, snow.” “Ok cool I’m going to try to walk to you.”
We would finally meet up together and start rehabbing the first ramshackle house we could find. Zombies would come beating down the doors and chewing through plywood and we would leave holes in the roof so we could shoot arrows down into their skulls. What was the point? Survive for now. But eventually thrive.
I loved going out and collecting materials and PJ was awesome at figuring out how to make stuff so we were a great team. I remember the first night we went to sleep saying “Ok tomorrow we’re going to explore that mall we saw on the horizon.” We truly had no idea what was there. It felt like we were living our own episode of The Walking Dead… telling our own deeply personal story about how we survived.
Is someone going to give me a quest?
What is the history of this strange place we’re in?
What happens on the 7thday?
Is there any way out of this world?
Specific things happened to us in that game that feel like stories we tell now. The first time we killed a bear outside an abandoned school. I still have a photo on my xbox of us posing next to our prey. The time I dug a 15 ft trench around our house only to have the zombies drop into the pit and promptly remove all the earth underneath the house holding it up. The time I was driving 30MPH in my scooter from some dogs and LOST my scooter in the radiation zone.
I hadn’t played a ton of survival games at that point so I wasn’t cynical about them yet. Once you see how the sausage is made it isn’t the same anymore. There are no quests. No narrative. Just survive. We would continue on and play 200 hrs of 7 Days. The pinnacle of the games economy is this very shitty scooter. That’s how you know you’ve basically arrived at the top of the food chain: you have a scooter.
Here two years later I find myself playing Days Gone, a prototypical Sony game: meticulous, beautiful, cinematic 3rdperson action / adventure. You occupy a present-day apocalyptic hellhole and it cuts to yellow-tinged flashbacks of the main characters pre-zombie life with his girlfriend, who may or may not still be alive. The story is great and I’m loving it.
In 7 Days I was living my story. In Days Gone I’m living someone else’s story. One isn’t better than the other they are just different.