I like to think that I'm quite a nice person in real life. I try not to annoy people, and I even help them out if I can. But in DayZ things are different. In DayZ the only way to survive is to be a dick. Shoot first and ask questions never, ideally.
The first time I dived into DayZ – Bohemia Interactive's open-world survival game set in a fictional post-Soviet state overrun by zombies (and still in alpha testing) – I had no idea what I was doing. I was hungry, thirsty and most importantly completely unarmed. All players begin this way: alone and afraid, with no means to protect themselves and no back-pocket energy bar for a convenient HP boost. So when I came across another player I naturally asked for help – he instantly took pity on me, and shared all his supplies. Oh no, wait. He didn't, at all. He shot me in the leg and left me to bleed out. The guy kneecapped me and ran off. The bastard didn't even say anything. He just left me to die.
This may just seem unlucky. It might have been a one-off encounter. It wasn't. If anything I was extremely lucky to have simply been shot. I didn't get 'cuffed and made to drink bleach, or worse.
During one DayZ session, I was ambushed by a group of French guys. They were all armed with assault rifles, while I was running around in a hard hat with just a pitchfork as a weapon – hardly a threat beside Actual Working Firearms. But rather than shoot, they instead handcuffed me at gunpoint. I was spared, only to be offered an ultimatum: either they would put several bullets into me, right there, or I could sing for them and live. I had nothing to lose, so with a cry of "God save the Queen!" I ran at them – and was immediately gunned down. But at least I got an amusing anecdote out of the situation.
You learn very quickly that the only way to survive is to screw everyone over, killing them before they kill you. It pains me to admit it, but when it comes to DayZ I would rather shoot someone than help them out, even if I have some spare beans. The whole point of the game is survival, and it turns out that in the zombie apocalypse that comes at the expense of everyone else. It doesn't take people long to learn this.
Even if you do help out someone else, there's a good chance the gesture will come back and bite you, fatally, in the arse. Occasionally I will come across a newly spawned-in player. Back when I was naïve to the ways of DayZ I would offer them anything I could spare. I once gave someone a pistol I had and didn't need – I wasn't stupid, I didn't give him ammo – and he seemed grateful. Until, that is, he found some ammo in a nearby building proceeded to shoot me with the very gun I'd merely moments ago gifted him. I had just helped this guy out, saving him from starvation, giving him a weapon – and he repaid me with a bullet in the head.
It was a slippery slope into banditry from there. Now, all players are shot on sight. It doesn't matter if they say they're friendly. The most that they can hope for is that I don't spot them or simply choose to avoid them, if I know that they really don't have any weapons at all and have something else to be doing than ending their wretched virtual life. (Another, likeminded player will soon enough come along to see to them, anyway.) But if someone comes at me with anything, be that an AK-47 or a garden hoe, they get put down. I've shot people in the back while they were running, while they were asking for help, and when they didn't even know I was there.
Gameplay and commentary on the opening moments of a game of 'DayZ'
You have to become an awful person to survive. You never get a good, fair firefight where both sides know roughly where the other is – it's all about waiting behind doors and clipping round walls to jump out and surprise the unsuspecting. I enjoy being the good guy in games when given the option, but usually there is some kind of reward for it. You don't normally get horribly killed. If there ever was to be a real apocalypse, and it unfolded as DayZ presents it, the human race would be screwed. We'd wipe each other out in a matter of weeks.
I set out with good intentions, but the other players in DayZ ruined them. And it's an endless cycle, because while some of the people I've killed probably didn't deserve to be shot, because they were they're now going to go about killing everyone else they see. One necessarily evil action begets an eternity of more. The people that murdered me while I was defenceless or, even worse, while I had weapons to fight back but they shot me in the back, probably set out meaning to be good, just like I had. But they were easily corrupted by DayZ, and just like me, they became a dick as a survival method.
You may not deserve it, but if you come across me in DayZ, I will straight up murder you. You may just want to team up and take on the zombie-infested world with friends – but if our paths cross, only one of us is walking away. Maybe you're just after some canned peaches, but don't think for a second that I'll pause, that I'll reconsider my course of action. And, you know, I won't even feel bad about it. In my mind, you were planning to do the same to me.