How To Survive The Zombie Apocalypse – Lessons From Video-Games

Of late, entertainment has been somewhat over-saturated by end of the world, apocalypse themed media. The popularity of The Walking Dead, for example, is almost as contagious as the infection that it portrays. Millions of people tune in on a daily basis to watch Rick, and his group of dwindling survivors, struggle in the face of an impending doom – but whenever I watch apocalypse based shows, or play ‘end of the world scenario’ games, the same question always pops into my head – “what would I do in that situation?”. Would I be a strong leader, like Rick, or would I be dead in the first five minutes? If the zombie apocalypse was to ever rear its bitey, bloody, scratchy, rotting head, it would be a good idea to have a game plan. But creating a game plan is easier said than done, because there’s no way of knowing what a zombie apocalypse would actually be like. That’s why I tend to use video-games as a way of preparing myself for the unlikely. So here are a few lessons that I’ve learned from playing zombie based games.

Always have a group, and work out the bad eggs

If video-games have taught me anything, lone wolfing it in the zombie apocalypse is a bad idea. State of Decay is always a good game to cite here. I always found safety in numbers with that game, and the more the merrier was always the case. Having a big group means that you have more people to fight against the undead, more people to gather supplies, more people to interact with and more people to keep you company. Not only that, but you’ve also got a wider talent pool. People tend to have their own skill sets, so the more people you have around, the more skills you’ll have to utilise. However, it’s always safe to remember that more people means more mouths to feed, and when the going gets tough, it’s a good idea to have the group sussed so that you can weed out the bad eggs. The last thing you want is a Kenny or Larry, from Telltale’s The Walking Dead, trying to mess up the group dynamic.

Know where your base will be

Having a rough plan of where it would be good to set up camp in the zombie apocalypse is a safe idea. You want a small base to start off with, which is easily defendable and difficult to access or spot. As the group gets bigger, you’ll want to branch out to bigger bases. This is one of the key aspects of State of Decay – looking for a safe place to hold off which is big enough for your group, but small enough to defend. Rick’s group has the prison, Lee’s group had the motor-inn. In all likelihood, these bases will eventually fall – but when the goings good, it should keep you safe enough.

Set up your safe-houses

Having safe-houses dotted around your main base is a good idea, particularly when going on runs. Having designated areas which are easy to defend for one or two nights might just save your life. In State of Decay I would store food and ammo in the safe-houses for quick a restock – in real life I’d have that and a safe place to sleep.

Don’t bother with the heavy weapons

If there’s one thing that I learned from Dead Island, it was that the heavy weapons might look cool, but they’re not overly functional. Swinging a sledgehammer, scythe, metal pole, or claymore might look totally epic, but in actuality the weapons are cumbersome and need a considerable amount of force and strength to dispatch the undead. Not only that, but they also unbalance you and tire you out pretty quickly. Pick a fire-axe, a crowbar, a machete, or a baton for quick kills with less effort.


The majority of zombie games have a reliance on guns – apart from the Dead Island and Dead Rising series. If you live in the states, you’ll be ok. I hear that there are guns galore out there (at least that’s what the British Media and Russell Brand tell me). Over here in the UK, though, guns are few and far between. Unless you live in the country side, or have access to a military base or a police lockup, you’ll struggle to find them. It’s always a good idea to know where the guns are, especially in a game like State of Decay. Use melee weapons whenever possible, to save ammo, but having a gun as a back-up is a good shout. Guns are slightly more intimidating than knives and bats and I’m afraid that power really does come from the barrel of a gun in the zombie apocalypse.

Risk is not your friend

The main lesson that I learned from The Last of Us is that risk is your enemy. Going out of your way to help someone else is a nice thing to do in the real world, but in the zombie apocalypse, it’s a good way of getting yourself killed. I’ve lost count of the number of times I a character died on State of Decay because I took an unnecessary risk. Sending a character to rifle through one last draw when I should have let them go home, or take a car out that was beyond repair, always ended in a bitter end. I’ve been scarred by the concept of taking risks in video-games, ever since my Marcus character was torn in half by a group of zombies. Slow and steady really does win the race against the undead… although not quite literally… because the undead are super slow and easy to outrun.

The nice guys tend to die

The quote “nice guys come last” has never been any more appropriate than in the zombie apocalypse. Much like the point about taking risks, being overly nice and trusting is a good way of getting yourself killed. Helping strangers, trusting strangers, going out of your way to save people as good as dead, letting bitten people stay in your camp and being unable to kill a zombie relative or friend, are all classic ways of winding up dead in the zombie apocalypse. If zombie games have taught me anything, it’s that people lie, people cheat and people are stupid. Whenever I’ve trusted someone who I shouldn’t have, or helped out someone in a perilous situation, it tends to end in tears. If you want to live in the zombie apocalypse, it’s best to be a good combination of nice and mean. Making the tough 7decisions will ensure the safety of you and your group, but, in safe situations, showing a little compassion will keep the rest of your group sweet too. It’s about striking a balance.

Control the fuel and the ammunition and you’ll control the world

The final lesson comes from State of Decay. In that game, as it would be in the real world too, having the majority of the ammunition and the fuel is guaranteed to ensure your group will succeed. It’s all about controlling the finite recourses, and the recourses that help you to keep alive. You can trade ammunition or fuel, and having it to offer puts you in the position of power. Having a good stock of ammo and fuel meant that my community on State of Decay could function properly. I could train my group to shoot better and I could keep the camp running for longer with more fuel. It’s all about defence and sustainability – and it’s hard to do that without ammo and fuel.

So there are the lessons that I’ve learned whilst playing zombie based video-games. Have you learnt any lessons of survival from games like Left 4 dead, Dying Light or State of Decay?