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Help Me Understand the Appeal of Survival Sims

I’d like to ask a favor of you. H1Z1 released last week on Steam Early Access, making it the latest of a growing number of attempts to cash in on the gargantuan success seen by “survival sims” like DayZ and Rust. I haven’t played the game, so take what I’m about to say about the genre it belongs to — you know, the one that millions of gamers flock to every year — because I just don’t get it.

More specifically, I don’t get the appeal, and I’m hoping you can help me remedy that.

I’ve dabbled in this genre a few times now, mostly with Rust. The interactions I’ve had with other players tells me roughly 4 out of 5 DayZ players are horrible human beings online, while essentially everyone in Rust is the worst. Granted, that’s based on my experience, but I have it on good authority that I’m not the only one who’s had this problem.

I get the appeal of survival sims, it’s why I’ve spent about 30 hours in Rust before I couldn’t continue to put up with the bandit mentality problem that plagues this genre. It’s reached a point where your chances of survival are basically nonexistent without a platoon of friends covering you, and even that won’t help when — not if, when — you run into one of the myriad hackers who fly around killing players and ruining unprotected bases.

The hacker problem isn’t news, and neither is people being dicks to each other. Abusing the anonymity that comes with playing games online is nothing new, I see it every time I join a match in [INSERT MODERN SHOOTER TITLE HERE] and while it’s certainly annoying, ignoring all those homophobic tweens is super effective and doesn’t require much effort on my part.

Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t work in lawless worlds like Chernarus, where there’s no easy escape from terrible people who can now have a real impact on your experience. The fact that countless hours of progress can be undone by an asshole with a gun might sound appealing to fans of Dark Souls and roguelikes. It would to me too, if there was something I could learn from it.

Death in roguelikes is a learning experience. Every death teaches me something, making me better at the game. It’s tough, but that makes each victory all the more rewarding. So what do we learn from dying over and over and over again in these games, other than some people are awful?

This genre sounds more like a metaphor for life than a game. That might even be the appeal. Maybe there are millions of people out there who have been waiting for a game to come along that’s as unforgiving as life often is, with far less rules and the reality that no matter how hard you work, it can be undone in an instant. If that’s the answer, I still don’t get it.

That leads me to my question. If you enjoy playing these games, tell me why you do in the comments. It doesn’t need to be a good reason, just your reason.


  • wehoaks

    Help me understand why this trash is on a news site and not your blog?

    • Vic

      Why such a negative comment? The title tells you everything you need to know about the content, so why read it then leave this comment if you were so unhappy with the subject?

      • wehoaks

        I didnt realize that comments had to be full of support only. Thanks for letting me know. What’s it like posting only positive comments? I mean that’s all you ever post right?

        • I’m not sure I understand the hostility. You don’t think having a discussion about a popular video game genre is relevant material for a site that covers video game news?

          • Mr. Madness

            Adam, he sounds a lot like those sociopaths you mentioned earlier.

  • Sick_skwerl

    I can’t help you, Adam. I don’t get it either. If I wanted to deal with a bunch of sociopaths, I’d watch the news or go into politics


    I think I like the idea of survival sims more than I do the actual survival sims currently available. That’s on account they’re all early access, and months or years away from being completed. I think they’re appealing because they’re different from anything else out there right now. That and no matter what kind of gamer you are you’re going to get bored playing the same type of game over and over. Whether it’s Dead space and Resident evil or Battlefield and Call of duty, both are essentially the same type of games. It’s like anything else, when people are given a new alternative there will be a lot of people who embrace it and a lot who don’t. Give them enough time and they’ll be as big as all the mmorpg and fps games out there.

  • Vic

    I feel you look at these games wrong, as do most people. They are PvP survival games with a 3rd element threw in there as a distraction. Sure a lot of people just want to survive and beg for PvE only servers but these games are so barebones the devs know if they take away the PvP element the game would last about a week lol. Zombies/monsters are not scary in these games, other people are.

    • You may be right. Funny enough, I was once told something similar by a group of sociopaths in Rust when I asked why a group of fully outfitted players would be roaming the map killing unarmed players. I get that PvP is a part of the game, but does that justify such gross behavior?

      • viveca pomeroy

        Because that’s the nature of PVP. People screw with each other and there is a ton of griefing. I never quite understand why others don’t understand this. Also, come on. Are they sociopaths? They’re playing a game which allows for that mechanic.

  • Chandler Of-Adelaide

    I’ve clocked 154 hours in Rust (the old version, not the new one) and I loved every second of it for the most part. Why? I have no fucking idea. I honestly can’t tell you what exactly it was that had me glued to the screen.

  • I don’t get it either. Though truthfully, I just don’t get many online games. Give me an open world or a Resident Evil survival horror game and I’m happy. All of these online games bore me.

  • sur0x

    guise Biohazard HD remaster steam key cheap here: !!!!!!!!!!!

  • Šimon Leška

    You are summarising so many games in this. Yet you only talk about online games that have a survival aspect. You should have spcified the article in the beginning. There are many great survival games. You should just stop whining, and enjoy for eXample Dead Space, Fallout series or The Forest.

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