Zombies are odd – not in a shambling, groaning way but in the sense that they have vast appeal despite the fact that they’re essentially violent, mindless cannibals, a combination of traits few people look for in their fellow humans. In real life, the possibility of zombies is a nightmare yet, in fiction, safe behind a computer screen or trapped in the pages of a book, horror fans have an almost insatiable appetite for all things zombie.
So, what’s it all about?
World War Z
The post-apocalyptic genre in general is an incredibly fertile one as far as storytelling is concerned – from books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) and Max Brooks’ World War Z (2006) to Shaun of the Dead (2004) and similar movies, anything is possible in a world that has been reset. But armageddon isn’t the exclusive domain of movies and books; games developers have grown fond of destroying the world in all manner of grisly ways.
The obvious candidates are PC action titles– Dead Island (2011), State of Decay (2013) and co. – but, in the casino niche, you’d be surprised to find out that many of the most recommended online video slots on Canadian review sites involve zombies, a title like Alaxe in Zombieland melding creepy visuals with the straightforward thrills of a classic slot game, for example. Attack of the Zombies offers a similar experience to gamers, albeit with its own unique gameplay elements.
According to a hypothesis called the uncanny valley, the belief that humans are repulsed by beings or objects that look like us but clearly aren’t (like realistic robots), zombies should be the last thing we want to spend our time with, but the living dead occupy a special place in the human psyche; their popularity is not just a dead-seated lust for violence and gore.
The shambling hordes serve as a surrogate for problems we can’t control and struggle to understand – things like economic strife, terrorism, global warming – and a way to confront them in a way that isn’t too real. To quote Max Brooks from the BBC website, “I think a lot of people think the system is breaking down and […] people need a safe place to explore their apocalyptic worries.”
In a similar (but no more optimistic) vein, an English teacher at Clemson University, Sarah Lauro, suggested that feeling “disempowered” or helpless in the face of the above issues drives people towards zombie fiction. The timing of zombies’ popularity is always interesting; the hugely popular debut of The Walking Dead came shortly after the US Government closed in 2013 while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ran parallel to zombies’ modern revival.
Zombies may also represent a fear of our own natures, a mirror on the behaviors we’d all like swept under the carpet – violence, greed, the ravenous spending that accompanies Black Friday. There’s perhaps an unconscious worry in all of us that we’re just one bank collapse or nuclear meltdown away from reverting back to the primal natures we left in our caves a hundred thousand years ago.
A convenient way to understand the more overwhelming problems in the world, zombies provide a public service. So, the next time you’re dodging an undead hand in Resident Evil or Lost Vegas, one of the top online slots in Canada, just think of the mess the world would be in without our dishevelled cousins, the beloved undead.