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Editor's note: Andrew has an intriguing idea in this piece: Whenever he thinks of zombies, he thinks of summer because of lasting memories he has of zombie games and stories he encountered during that season. I've never thought about the relationship games (and other media) can have with the seasons we experience them in, and I find it an interesting idea. Andrew asks if other Bitmobbers have strong attachments to a game because of when and where they experienced it — and to share those experiences here. I'd like to second that invitation. -Jason
The sun’s heat reaches at me as it blasts through the skylights on the other end of my room. It’s already midafternoon. I must have taken a nap, but I have no desire to figure out how long it was. I’m awake, and with the humidity, I don’t even realize how much I’m sweating. I could best describe the taste in my mouth as a terrible sour hint of orange juice. Thankfully, no one has eaten me.
It’s summertime, and for the oddest of reasons, I have zombies on the brain. Well, not literally. You see, I’ve fallen into a strange and unintentional habit of consuming zombie lore during massive heat waves more than any other time of the year.
It all started in the summer of 2002 with the remake of Resident Evil (unofficially known as "REBirth" or "REMake") for the Nintendo GameCube.
My best friend has always been an avid fan of the series, and I distinctly remember him purchasing his very own GameCube for "REmake" right around this time of year. All we knew was what "REmake" was going to look like, and that was enough to ensure the nightmarish memories it left on our childhood would be faithfully re-created as we were braver teenagers.
I actually had to hold on to the game for him because he was afraid of being distracted from final exams. I suppose knowing that a remake of your favorite game is merely a sheet of shrink-wrap away was about as exciting as things got for us back then. Who says younger gamers can’t have their priorities straight?
I wasn't old enough to drive yet, so my older brother took me over to his house on a weekend that our friends had set aside for a controller-passing, pants-pissing good time. Yet the most vivid image I have in my head from that entire day — a day on which a television was the only light source and the surround sound was cranked up — is of a giant hot-orange fireball sliding off the horizon on the drive over.
Flash -forward half a decade later to the summer of 2007, when I had just moved into a new house with close friends for roommates. In an attempt to gain a better understanding of my new surroundings, I stopped by a local bookstore and wound up purchasing a copy of World War Z. This book is a fictional story that recounts the events of a zombie apocalypse from multiple perspectives, via a journalist conducting interviews. It’s a chilling and thought-provoking set of stories that make subtle suggestions about our own societies, and I’d highly recommend that fans of zombie stories should give it a try (if you haven’t already).
I remember finishing the book on a balcony when a summer evening couldn’t have been any more pleasant, creating an interesting juxtaposition to the sort of note the book ended on. At the time, I didn’t realize how much of the narrative would stick with me until I got my mind and hands on Valve’s Left 4 Dead.
L4D actually came out in the chillier November 2008, but it lasted me far into the thaw of the following spring. It wasn’t so much playing the game, though, that makes me think of the temperature rising as it was developing levels for it on a collaborative student project.
A considerable portion of our preproduction took place offsite, capturing reference photography at the local metro parks zoo. Walking through the place was surreal. Because we were only just seeing winter come to a close, the parks lacked dense traffic. Large sections of it were under construction, leaving a number of areas in disarray, others completely closed off, and new paths formed to redirect people away from the more dangerous zones. It actually looked like the park had been quarantined and felt abandoned under the more uplifting morning sunlight.
Whenever I think of L4D, my mind always leaps back to that field trip. At the same time, I can’t see myself ever forgetting how hot it became back in our studio/lab, surrounded by 10-foot-tall windows facing the sun any moment it was up. To top it all off, Left 4 Dead 2 and its brighter locales only served to further cement my growing paranoia of a zombie apocalypse happening at any time now.
Enter the present day: Rather than help my friend fight zombies, I’m a consulting for a short film he’s producing involving zombies and the social injustice they’re a byproduct of. Just as I was wondering when I’d get my dosage of the walking dead, they're already gnawing at my feet.
The larger picture here is how we associate certain video games with certain times of the year in our past, and how that affects our experiences with them (or without them). Sometimes we can so clearly place the rooms we were in, the people we were in the company of, and the general mood our environment made an impression on. I’ll often find myself outside on these summer nights. The desolate streets of suburbia would have me fearing for my brains if a feasting zombie could shamble out from where flickering orange telephone-pole lamps cannot reach. For me, sometimes the summertime is creepier than it should be. Maybe it’s itchy and tasty, too.
(This was originally featured at my game design blog, Digitalchemy.)