I Am Alive vs The Apocalypse
Every once in a while, my friends and I get bored and start talking about something, and we went through a phase when that ‘something’ was Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness. We came up with some pretty good plans, but one of my friends insisted that we were missing the point. Sure, we had plans for the zombies, but we had nothing in place to protect us from other people, and to some extent, ourselves. It’s that exact eventuality that I Am Alive portrays so well.
You play a protagonist who, after some apocalyptic event, is trying to find his wife and daughter. It’s a survival game, but there are no zombies, no monsters, and no evil robot overlords. The game is spent navigating treacherous landscape, collapsed buildings, and a dust cloud that obstructs your vision and fills your lungs; but that’s not where the genius of the game is. The really interesting part is the people.
Society and life as everyone knew it has crumbled (literally and figuratively), and you encounter a variety of ways in which people react. Some people just gave up and sat down, surrounding themselves with familiar things as they die of hunger or asphyxiation. Some people, like small animals, hole themselves up in burrows to try to survive as long as they can, relying on and trusting no one. Most commonly, though, you see people grouping together and ganging up to increase their odds of survival. Some are reasonable and willing to let you leave if you just leave them alone, where other gangs will try to kill you on sight, because they’re big enough that their force can get them anything. Those gangs also kill and kidnap; one of the most powerful levels involved the protagonist staging a rescue of a woman from what is effectively a rape hotel. This huge gang of men with guns and knives kidnapped women and brought them here for their own amusement. I Am Alive seems to maintain that people with power and without supervision tend to revert to animalistic instincts and selfishness, and there is evidence to support this eventuality. That doesn’t make it any easier to see, though.
You don’t encounter people often; some levels go by without seeing more than the one shadowy figure on the other side of the a chasm. Wandering through Haventon, I really began to feel the loneliness, and during those quiet times, I began to think. Seeing these people and how they are dealing with this new world in which they live made me wonder: which kind of person would I be in that situation? As much as I’d love to pretend, there’s no way in hell I’m the protagonist, going for some noble goal and risking my life to help strangers. I’m far too incompetent to be of any help, and too realistic to think that my dying in front of a gang will make any difference. I definitely wouldn’t be the kill-y/rape-y gang member either. If I was lucky, I’d have some loved ones and we’d group together and hopefully keep ourselves strong. However, if I’d lost all my loved ones, I’d almost definitely end up the broken animal holed up in the corner somewhere, hiding from everyone and trying to stay alive for no good reason.
When people think about apocalypses, they think Hollywood style monsters and heroes, with shotguns and the fortitude to know that they’ll be okay. I Am Alive shows you how naive that drek is. It shows you a lonely desolate ruin that used to be a city, filled with broken things that used to be people back when they had hope for survival and salvation. I Am Alive reminds us that if a zombie apocalypse happens, the zombies really won’t be our biggest problem.