I’m always on the lookout for gaming things I can get super-obsessed about. I camped outside the local Target overnight for the Nintendo Wii.  I visited the Skyrim food truck, and of course went to the midnight launch to pick up the game.  For me, that’s bonus material.  It’s also why Kickstarter is my kryptonite.

So the other day when a co-worker casually linked me to the 7 Days to Die Kickstarter campaign, I should’ve known stuff was about to get real again. “It’s like DayZ meets Minecraft with tower defense.” he said.  He’d also been the one to tip me off about DayZ.  See, I’m a zombie apocalypse fan.  It’s my very favorite horror genre.  And right now we are enjoying a proliferation, not only of zombie movies, but of zombie video games, too.  Open world zombie video games, even, such as:

  • DayZ. I spent the first hour hiding in a hedge in terror as zombies shuffled by. Love it, just waiting for the stand-alone.
  • State of Decay. A little bit more RPG “on the rails” and story-driven, I can appreciate it but it’s not what I’m looking for. More action than suspense.
  • 7 Days to Die (7D2D). What I was looking for.

I wasted no time climbing aboard the 7D2D hype train during the Kickstarter, and even hung out on the comments page during the last seconds of the campaign to see if they could cross their final $500,000 stretch goal (they did). Not unlike the way I obsessed about Fallout: New Vegas when it was in development, except that in that case, the actual game wasn’t as fun for me as the pre-game waiting. This time, the obsession transitioned smoothly into the game experience itself.

What’s making this game so addictive for a gamer like me?

  1. It’s indie, a small group of guys just making the game they always dreamed of. With zombies.
  2. It’s cyclical.  During the day, loot, shore up your home base, and explore.  At night, defend your base, or just sit in the attic crafting… or maybe go mining in the secret basement mine if you’re feeling gutsy. OR… go fold the laundry; the built-in downtime is actually refreshing
  3. It evokes real emotions.  This, I think, is the number one thing I look for in a game.  As the sun’s going down and I’m frantically throwing down spike traps and walls, it’s actually not a guarantee I’ll make it back into the house safely in time.  The tension is delicious.  The close calls are an adrenaline rush. And the laughter mixed with self-loathing as I accidentally skewer myself by placing a spike trap right under my own feet in haste.
  4. A mix of short and long-term goals. By nightfall, I need to be safely holed up.  Tomorrow, maybe I’ll get over to the farm to get some corn to make cornbread. Then maybe do some mining, and figure out how to make gun powder.  If I can get enough stone, I’d love to build a stone wall around my house to better protect it.  At some point I’ve gotta plant these potato seeds, because potatoes are the only thing I’m missing to make venison stew. And gosh, if I could get some sand, I’d be able to make glass… Eventually I’ll build a kickass bunker!

I’m having as much fun playing this early alpha game as I ever have with most-off-the-shelf finished titles.  I could play it for hours.  I *have* played it for hours.  Getting a zombie apocalypse game right is hard, because the whole part people daydream about, building a stockpile of canned goods and a safe house, should actually be pretty tedious in theory. So far, 7 Days has gotten is SO right.  I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.  As for tonight, my main objective will be to go on a dirt run.  See, my castille-like hacienda on the edge of the desert is far enough away from the zones with good dirt that it’s going to be an expedition to get some.  Why do I need dirt?  For my secret underground corn field, of course!  Don’t worry about the lack of sunlight, it turns out corn grows just fine basking in the glow of wall torches…

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