Zombie Roundup

Man, what is it about zombies, anyway?

It’s not just that they’re everywhere. Pop culture goes through periods of obsession, and that’s an okay thing. It’s inevitable, really, but there seems to be an underlying fascination with the zombie, and to me, it’s a really fascinating trend.

Just as some background, I’m a light gamer, mostly PC and the occasional PS3 title. I’ll usually pick up a game and play it for a few hours here and there, depending on just how engaging it is. I admit to having finished few games – only the ones that are really gripping can carry me through to the end. Bioware currently holds my best track record, as I’ve completed Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect & Mass Effect 2… three games from the same company means that there’s something about the way they think that I like.

Back to the matter at hand, though. Back when Left 4 Dead came out, I managed to log something like 300 hours of gameplay time. In Left 4 Dead 2, I have approximately 140 hours of gameplay time. This is more time than I have spent on any game ever, and it’s seriously paid off – I’m pretty good at it, and when teamed up with my usual gameplay mates, we’re generally unstoppable… unless we’re having a bad night, and then there’s lots of cursing and shouting and grumbling and rage-quitting… but that doesn’t happen too often.

It’s gotten to a point where Left 4 Dead is essentially an arcade game to me – it no longer raises my blood pressure the way it used to. Time was, back at the beginning, just the atmosphere and the intense pressure of having to make it through a level without getting slaughtered would cause my heart to pound and my eyes to twitch. Now it’s just a competitive/co-op game I play with friends, but it’s still fun, and I still like to get in on a game now and then.

I’ve recently been playing Dead Nation on the PS3 – I got it from Sony as one of the “we’re-kind-of-sorry-for-letting-our-network-get-hacked” consolation prizes. This game knows how to raise your blood pressure. It’s tense and it’s difficult, sometimes outrageously so, and it neatly fills the niche that Left 4 Dead no longer can. It’s generally simplistic… there’s nothing too complicated about it, but it’s well-designed and tense to play.

So, the zombie trope. If anybody hasn’t seen The Walking Dead on AMC, and you like the zombie thing at all, you owe it to yourself to pick up the first season by whatever means necessary and watch it. There are a lot of haters out there on it, but I happen to think it’s pretty brilliantly executed. It has its flaws, but it’s still riveting good TV.

I read a series of zombie horror novels a couple of years ago that I found in the fiction section at Barnes & Noble instead of their usual haunt in the sci-fi/fantasy shelves. They are by Brian Keene, and the first one is called The Rising. They followed a guy named Jim who was trying to save his son from a horde of intelligent corpses animated by some kind of demon spirits. They were incredibly dark, incredibly depressing, and yet really quite fascinating despite my general disgust. I can’t exactly say I recommend them, but if you’re into the really dark, they did catch and hold my attention like a steel trap.

Every zombie fan worth their salt has seen Shaun of the Dead I’m sure, but it took me a couple of years to get around to it. I’m more of a series guy and less of a movie one, in general, but for those who enjoy black British comedy, go no further.

I’m sure there’s stuff I missed (notably Zombieland, which I still haven’t seen, in fact, though I intend to remedy that at some point). Yet, with all of this and more, I still don’t feel like this trope is played out. It hasn’t hit that magical saturation point yet, or maybe it’s because nobody’s done anything remarkably stupid with it (see: Twilight for ruining vampires for everyone).

I wonder if we’ll ever see the end of the zombie… or whether that trope will just keep getting up again, no matter how many times we try to put it down. You know…

Like a zombie.

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