Zombies happen. It’s never pleasant when they do. They smell, they walk on the grass in spite of signs instructing the contrary, they jay-walk, they burst through walls and windows like the Kool-Aid Man, and they eat people. So it stands to reason that a game about zombies would be equally unpleasant in one way or another.
A trailer for Dead Island came out recently (http://youtu.be/lZqrG1bdGtg), and has garnered some negative attention. In it, a young girl dies at the hands of her father after she turns zombie and attacks him. However, the trailer is told in reverse and forwards at the same time, rewinding back from the moment of her death while playing forward from the beginning of the attack. The trailer ends with the father pulling away from his daughter, followed by footage of them arriving at the hotel prior to the outbreak.
The trailer is horribly depressing, and honestly, it’s terrific, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic.” This trailer lends itself to that quote, showing the intensity and tragedy of this moment in time, instead of giving you a look at the larger carnage surrounding them.
But really, kill a little girl?
Yes really, she was a flipping zombie.
Firstly, killing child zombies (or getting killed by them) is absolutely not an original concept. Night of the Living Dead (1968), the quintessential zombie movie which pioneered the modern zombie genre, contains a scene where a young girl turns and murders her mother with a cement trowel. Pet Cemetery (1989) revolves almost completely around the concept of a child murderer needing to be stopped. Dawn of the Dead (2004) depicts a child zombie as the first one on screen, who proceeds to kill and turn the protagonists husband. Later in that same film, the protagonists kill a newborn zombie baby. Most recently, AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010) opened the first episode with the main character headshotting an 8 year old zombie girl in a dress carrying a teddy bear. I could go on and on, citing less and less mainstream films, but it becomes redundant.
Killing zombies isn’t new. Killing children isn’t new. Nor is killing zombie kids.
The difference here is that we’re talking about a video game, and that the scene in question is from the trailer. If this was a movie, people wouldn’t care as much. If this wasn’t from the trailer, but from a cutscene, people wouldn’t care as much. But being the worlds first glimpse into this, the thought is that somehow the game will simply repeat these events and glorify killing children. But really, both of those things miss the core point.
Zombies and the idea of a zombie apocalypse should always upset people.
With the exception of films like Fido (2006) (Hey look, another film where we kill zombie kids!), the zombie apocalypse represents one of the most final ends to our world possible short of nuclear holocaust or annihilation via meteor. It is a bleak, dismal world where you live under the constant threat of a gruesome and painful death. It is not a snow day with guns, it is a way of life. The trailer for Dead Island reminds us all of a thing we’ve chosen to forget in the current ‘zombie age’; zombies suck, death sucks, and this isn’t the only family that will implode once the grey meat comes knocking.
Honestly, they got off easy.
For example, in Resident Evil (1998/2002) the game, a scientist infects his daughter with a version of the T-Virus to purposefully mutate her into a monster. In later volumes of the graphic novel series The Walking Dead (2003), you meet characters that keep their zombified relatives as pets. Is anyone here really going to argue that a dad tossing his zombie daughter out of a third story window onto grass is really so horrific as to warrant a reprimand to the creators?
I want to thank the developers at Techland for unnerving us, upsetting us, and making our days gloomy with a mere three minutes and eight seconds of CG. Imagine what they can do with 40 hours of gameplay.