The sun had dipped below the horizon casting a faint glow over the treetops in the hills surrounding Novy Sobor. Darkness had already descended on the town as I crept through the vacant buildings and streets in search of water. I didn't have any backup, but this didn't seem to be a problem since the town was devoid of zombies.
It was pitch black by the time I entered a two story building in the centre of the village. My desperation for a drink and the lack of zombies made me less cautious than normal. I walked down the hallway in search of supplies, my footsteps echoing out the door at the far end. Ducking into a room to my right, I was about to rummage through a pile of cans laying on the floor when I heard the unmistakeable sound of flies out the window.
I dropped to the floor and listened - footsteps in the hallway. There was someone moving towards me. The footsteps grew louder until he stopped just inside doorway. In the pitch black I could barely see the outline of another survivor, gun at the ready. Laying off to the side of the room he never saw me. I pointed my Winchester at his chest and fired. The muzzle flash briefly illuminated his face - concealed with a smock - before he fell to the floor. On my way out of the room I put another round into him to be sure.
In my haste to get out of the area it didn't occur to me that he might not be alone like me. I ran into his friends outside of the building. I didn't see them until they fired.
You Really Are AloneIn spite of the bleak tale above, I enjoy Dayz the most when I am playing it alone. On a pragmatic level it is because I don't have many friends who play PC Games, but I think there is more to it than that.
Dayz is a multiplayer game with a singular aim; survival. Keeping your character fed, watered and in good health is paramount to achieving this goal. It would be boorish of me to say this is not better achieved with a group, but, I don't think the method you choose to achieve this end changes the overall nature of the experience - you are alone. If you give away your last can of beans, it is your character that starves.
The presence of other players makes this an experience like few others. In single-player games you can often figure out the routines of your enemies. The same applies in Dayz; you will eventually work out the best ways of combating the undead. Where it differs is the presence of human controlled players. The unknown intentions of a player you have just encountered is exhilarating and terrifying - they can rob, shoot or befriend you. No two run-ins will ever play out the same way. Fear of the unknown underlines the suspicion and hostility that characterizes players interactions.
Carving out an existence in the hundreds of kilometers of vacant Eastern European countryside can be a lonely pursuit. Unless you set out to find players by visiting the larger cities and military installations on Chernarus, you will spend most of your time alone. With no map or knowledge of the world, you will almost always be lost, navigating by the sun's position and indecipherable road signs. Run inland from the coast and you will find encountering other players is rare, and is almost always surprising when you do.
All of this brings me to the point of this ramble. What Dayz does best is provide you a canvas and the tools for telling stories, specifically your story.
In my tale I am alone in an extremely hostile world filled with the walking dead and people who want to rob and murder me. I stick to looting individual farms and small villages inland where the zombie numbers are smaller and the bandits mostly avoid.
I have managed to be fairly successful at this, cooking the animals I kill, drinking water from lakes, sneaking into villages to restock on ammo when I run low, and avoiding human contact.
What does this say about me as an individual or a person? Dayz at least has me asking the question.
The phrase social experiment comes up frequently in the recent slate of interviews with I am thankful that Dayz lets me choose, and enjoy my own story.