The screen fades from black, you look around and nothing looks familiar, there’s so much that you feel you need to do, but how do you survive the first night? Recently I had to move interstate and took very little with me. No job lined up, no real housing, very little in my inventory, survival had just become very real.
Survival games like Minecraft, Ark: Survival Evolved, Terraria and Day Z to name a few have you in a very open, very scary venture with almost no direction to start in. As the saying goes, “Life: The graphics are amazing but the gameplay is crap”, well I had my training and it was time to get to work.
First step, survive the night! Shelter is something that I had loosely organised, luckily I didn’t have to beat down a tree with my fists to make a pick then carve out a cave. I did find a premade cave though, in the form of my friend’s couch. I made my bed from cloth that I had gathered in my small inventory and recharged my energy for the dawn.
As the sun rose I could see further into my surroundings, but I didn’t know what was in the fog of war. I gathered up my protection and went trekking to see what resources were close by. A supermarket was in a nice little cove, that’s where I’ll get my nutrition later as my stamina was starting to drain.
Marking down landmarks as I walked so I could find my way home, I started to feel overwhelmed by the little fish I had become in this big pond. So many NPCs around and almost none of them held any quests in which to gain coin to trade with. This is more commonly known as getting a job and key to survival in the city. I reached into my coin purse and used it to buy food that would sustain me until my next income phase.
After shopping with the locals I started to see how this “game”, this city, wasn’t all that different from where I’d come from. Sure it was bigger, also stores and items were in different places, but the things that were familiar to me were there, just in a different layout. Much like when you start a new game and you get a little way in then start to compare it to other games you have played.
Not long after I arrived I was issued a side quest by a family member who lives reasonably close. We were to meet at the local hub, the CBD, to greet and socialise. As with some large open world games, a mass transit system can be in place, here it was a new form I hadn’t tried before, trams. I figured that like the public transport I’d used elsewhere the system of payment would be the same. No, this land had a new game mechanic, but like all good open world games the choice is yours.
I jumped onto the tram without purchasing a ticket. In fact, you don’t purchase tickets you get a pre-loaded card which you swipe as you ride. I thought I was doing ok until the land’s law enforcement entered the tram. Like they knew I was a noob, they walked straight to me and wanted to see my card. I explained that I had just “installed the game” and that it was my first day. Luckily my diplomatic stat was high and I got instructions on where to get a card.
It has not been long before I’ve started to feel like I’m getting somewhere. I’ve been getting interviews for work and I’ve started to look to leave my original cave. This is because my inventory has become too full and living out of a suitcase will only get me so far. Further survival requires I get a place to secure properly, where I can stash my gear and display my trophies. This will take many trips to the marketplace and some serious questing to get the income required.
Games have had a bad reputation at times, no doubt there will be people that read this article and feel that it crosses a line somewhere. Real life has consequences and no re-spawn, it’s infinitely complicated and some will be annoyed at my over simplification. Life can be this simple and the games we play are shaped by the experiences of developers. Why can’t we be getting life skills from our gaming?
I’ve always seen games as a way that we can experience the feeling of more various stories than we could ever hope to in one lifetime. Farming Simulator 17 is an example where if you weren’t born into it, you may never understand the perspective of a farmer. There have been stories of Pokémon GO giving the anxious a perspective that they feel comfortable with to head out into the world.
Even those that love games don’t really give the art form full credit. Some games are just a great escape; others can broach serious subjects like in Papers Please. If you give it a chance, the world can be a great, scary, complicated yet fun place to be, you just have to level up and keep pushing forward.