Extra Punctuation

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Why We Love Zombies

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 30 Nov 2010 16:15
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Ever since George Romero first explored the role of the post-alive in today's society, the zombie has only grown in popularity, exploding from their cinematic roots like a big decomposing dandelion. Putting the word "zombies" in the title of a game, especially in an open market like the iPhone app store, is a virtual guarantee of more sales. Even putting "zombies" in the title of this article will probably up the comment rate.

Zombies are almost as ubiquitous in videogames as romantic subplots in Hollywood films, with game plots often having to make quite extraordinary leaps to allow for them, such as in Black Ops' incidental zombie mode or any other game where the magical world-changing substance du jour once again happens to make humans shamble around moaning for some utterly contrived reason. It's like zombies are included in the video game Equal Opportunities legislation.

And it even extends to the outside world. There's a yearly event here in Brisbane (and in several other cities, I understand) called the Zombie Walk, in which nerds young and old dress up like the undead and go on a shambling tour of the city centre. It's happened regularly enough to become quasi-official, and sometimes it's not even done for charity. Normally there are only two reasons this many costumed people get together - charity or for weird sex reasons. But zombie walks don't appear to fall into either category. People just like doing it.

So what is it about, then, this human (especially nerd) love of zombies? I've come up with a few theories that I'd like to share with you for discussion purposes, for nothing in this world is not worth over-analysing.

1. Zombies are an unequivocal enemy

It's possible I'm projecting, here, but I think it's fair to say that human beings basically don't like each other. It's part of our built-in animal pack instincts to hate the outsider, because the outsider doesn't have the same stake in the life of your cubs or your harem of lionesses and will probably run off with all your dead zebras the moment you turn your back. Human society has grown while the instinct has remained, and now we see outsiders everywhere. Fear of the outsider is the root of every moral panic exposing the dangers of violent movies or games or comic books. It's the cause of every prejudice, from the suspicion one feels for the green-haired indie musician one's daughter brings home to the fear of those strange brown people because 0.000001% of their population collectively murder less people annually than domestic disputes.

Few if any of these petty hatreds are rational. They exist because humans can't function without an enemy, something to hate, and indeed to blame for the injustices we believe we suffer. Zombies are a permanent foe. To our "us" they are eternally "them." No redeeming qualities, no moral ambiguity. I guarantee you, in a zombie apocalypse scenario, relationships within the human strongholds will be considerably more courteous than they are now. We'll reserve our hate for those rotting punks outside. They want to eat us for no good reason. What dicks.

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