(NaturalNews) Technology has certainly increased the realism of video games in the past decade, but now it has been elevated to a sickening level.
Players of a new game called "DayZ," a zombie-apocalypse type of game, report that their emotional states are being tested in a way never before by a video platform.
In a sign of our times, perhaps, the popularity of the game, which reached its 1 millionth download in recent days, "is becoming clear--the game play leads to a degree of psychological tension and emotional response that players report never before experiencing in a computer game," says a report by gamer site Fast Company.
Here's an excerpt which describes a facet of the game:
In early January, a Reddit user posted an emotional story about waking up on a beach and befriending a fellow lost soldier. But the soldier's health began to deteriorate. And the author was eventually forced to kill his friend with the other man's own gun to end his suffering. "His voice gone, I sat there staring at my monitor and began to cry," the Redditor wrote. "I'll never see that friend again and I miss him very much."
"God damn," wrote a commenter. "Alright I'm getting this game."
The game was released Dec. 16, and so far it is only in its early alpha version. Developer Dean Hall plans to further enhance and improve it for most of the coming year before eventually releasing it in beta. Still, even in this early stage, it is hooking scores of players.
"This comes largely from DayZ's use of permadeath--meaning that players have only one life in the game and lose everything if they are killed--as well as a scarcity of survival resources, and a kill-or-be-killed relationship with other players, who often need your supplies to stay alive themselves. There are also zombies," says Fast Company's review.
'I noticed how different they were behaving'
Hall says he created the game based on experience and training he underwent in the New Zealand army, in which he participated in a survival exercise in Brunei that nearly took his life in 2010.
"[The exercise] was really tough, and I kind of wondered, why is it that as a soldier you have to go through and do all of this training?" Hall told the website.
And he wondered: "Was there maybe a way to do some of this in a computer game?"
From there, Hall developed a modification (a mod, in gamer speak) of an existing military simulation game, Arma 2, in which a soldier's health, character and equipment endured from mission to mission, instead of starting over each time in a new scene. Then he had fellow soldiers play the simulation as part of their training.
"I noticed how different they were behaving when their characters saved to a database, and they knew that the character was going to be back there every day," Hall said. "They were suddenly arguing with each other. They were really tense. When someone got shot they were really concerned; they would try to help them. Normally in the simulation training we do, someone would die and they'd carry on with the mission. Well, if that happens in real life that's not what happens, you know?"
'I started to rationalize the kill'
That realization then led Hall to further explore the potential for putting additional psychological elements into the game, which included "the zombie threat and having a player's character spawn (i.e., initially appear in the game world) at any random location with almost no supplies," Fast Company reported.
The result was the first DayZ mod for Arma 2, which was released in 2012, when Hall had already been hired on as a junior developer at Bohemia Interactive, the company that manufactures Arma 2. He was hired based on his accomplishments regarding other mods he had made for the game.
The DayZ mod managed to reach 1 million players in the first four months after its release - at $30 a pop.
In Internet posts on Facebook and elsewhere, a number of users began to describe the game in ways that hit home.
One particularly striking Reddit post describes the game as "a murder simulator like no other," in which the player described various stages of emotions after the first kill:
He starts off feeling a wave of guilt and grief for the stranger sitting across the Internet, who in that moment lost everything he had accomplished in the game. "Then the worst thing happened," writes the player. "I started to rationalize my kill. 'Well he probably would've tried to kill me.' 'Well it's only fair, I've been killed 10 times by players like him.' 'It's only a game.' Anything I could think of to make myself feel better."