Apocalypse Doctors Without Borders

I broke my leg yesterday. Not in the real world, of course. Don’t be daft. Does it seem like I play contact sports? No, it doesn’t. Mostly because I just used the phrase “contact sports.”

The injury happened in DayZ, a zombie apocalypse mod for the three-year-old Arma II that has become so popular, it has spawned a standalone version. I’ve had grand things to say about this game recently, sharing various dramatic exploits on Twitter and even going so far as to call it the greatest social experiment in video games.

What happened with my leg, though, wasn’t great. It was a glitch, caused by placing a tent, that left me moronically incapacitated in the middle of the most remote forest location in the game.

But, there’s a solution to every problem in DayZ. Water is for thirst, beans for hunger, and bandages for wounds. A broken leg is a little more complicated and requires a morphine injector to heal. While not rare, this type of medical supply is only found in hospitals and I had not been to one in my travels North. Things looked grim. That’s when I recalled the existence of the Reddit Rescue Force.

Reddit has a community for everything, even obscure or unsavory things. However, in this case, the objective is completely benevolent. The premise to the RRF is that if you find yourself with a grievous wound or lost and without supplies, simply make a post of your location and critical issue on the subreddit page. A player will meet you on Teamspeak, find you, and save your life. Not for the XP or loot, because there is none to be had. There’s no in-game reason to do it, in fact. It’s generosity for generosity’s sake.

My savior was a German player named Louis. I was his first rescue. Amazingly, the time between posting, response, and the subsequent rescue was under fifteen minutes. That includes the massive number of kilometers he had to run through. All the way, he was completely exposing himself to risk from zombies, bandits, and other bugs that might dish out nasty injuries for no reason.

We spoke for the entirety of the rescue and for the solid hour of playtime which preceded it, during which we raided towns, traded equipment, and discussed strategies. He demonstrated his impecable impersonation of the British accent and I embarrassed myself with attempts to recall what little German I had learned in high school. All the while, the chat channel was buzzing with medics chattering with wounded clients and organizing rescues. It was not unlike being an actual emergency room.

My roommate’s assessment was correct when I explained all this to him. In addition to being impressive, it was also possibly the “nerdiest” thing I had ever witnessed. To be a trusted medic, there’s an application and a player needs to have fifteen documented rescues. To be considered a Reddit Rescue Ranger, a player needs twenty five.

It all sounds a bit too much like a strange nerdy bureaucracy when you say it so plainly. But, all that organization just makes the community function like a well-oiled engine, with medics rushing towards cries for help with little to no regard for their own safety. Players asses the situation and negotiate who is nearest. All the while, the medics make small-talk and even reassure the player that they won’t lose their character. It all happens in minutes.

While all this is certainly happening in a digital world in which one could argue that none of it really matters, it doesn’t change the fact that the members of the DayZ community are doing something amazing. Trading their own game time so that another player can continue their experience. In a medium that spends so much time on killing strangers, it’s amazing to see players creating an endgame out of charity.