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The zombie faces in video games

October 2, 2013

There are three different zombie stories in the today’s news about the faces of zombies in video games.

NPR: “Why Black Heroes Make Zombie Stories More Interesting” by Matt Thompson notes that today is a Romero anniversary – 45 years – and then a review of the “Walking Dead” video game that explains the narrative benefits of black protagonists in zombie stories. Thompson explains that Black protagonist in the version creates a fallen man grasping at humanity in contrast to the way the AMC television version positions Rick (with government authority and white privilege) as a virtuous hero slowly becoming anti-hero. Thompson likes the upward-toward-humanity narrative arc better than the slow decline. And all this from the face of the zombie killer.

Salon: “Vladimir Putin, zombie hunter: A new video game for iOS and Android will see the Russian leader battle the undead led by Rasputin” – and BusinessInsider: “Vladimir Putin Is A Zombie Slayer In An Upcoming Video Game For Mobile Devices” – so Putin is a zombie hunter and his likeness in video game killing zombies maybe with his zombie gun?

Third and perhaps most significant, the video game “Dead Rising 3” has announced that it will have all unique zombies. Escapist: “Dead Rising 3’s Zombies Are All Unique” by Brett Slabaugh – and BloodyDisgusting: “In ‘Dead Rising 3’, Each Zombie Is A Snowflake“. It’s funny to think of zombies as snowflakes – and Examiner: “‘Dead Rising 3’ features procedurally generated zombies for unique undead looks

This has implications for zombie individuality and it is ironic that Dead Rising 3 is from Capcom – recall the case of Capcom v. MKR – which claims that there is no copyright for general “unprotectable idea of zombies in a mall”. But in the new game, they are unique zombies. That should give them copyright in each unique expression of the form. Of course, these are computer generated, so the artist is an algorithm (recall “We become zombie as robots do more creative work”).

If you are out of work, does it matter whether it’s immigrants, robots, or Obamacare taking your job? Well, yes, because who we blame might change the way we shape the future world! We are all unique faces, but we are also zombies. Putin is a character we see on TV and video games. Racism (and the cult of personality) are pervasive biases that alter perception of narratives.

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