Days Gone is a third person survival shooter that will debut on the PlayStation 4 pits the game’s main protagonist, Deacon St. John, against a number of zombie enemies called Freakers and Newts.
The developers behind the game Sony Dev, recently showed off their game to a number of video game publications including IGN and Kotaku, who took issue with the main protagonist being white and the so-called whiteness of the game.
IGN reviewed the demo earlier this month. Writer Jon Ryan briefly discussed the controls and mechanics of the systems as well as the feel of the sounds, HUD options, and graphics. He also touched on exploring its open world content.
The review strangely hits an unusual note with its criticism in the third paragraph. It jumps into a criticism of gender and race that most gamers don’t care about.
“Days Gone makes some interesting choices that kept my play session engaging, and the sections of its story that I experienced piqued my interest enough that I was legitimately frustrated that I couldn’t continue playing at the end of the demo. While I’ll admit that I initially rolled my eyes at yet another Gruff White Male Protagonist™ in a grim world – especially one with such a Gruff White Male Protagonist™-ey name as Deacon St. John – I ended up getting far more invested than I’d initially expected. I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose – this is a first-party Sony title, and Bend is no stranger to writing around well-developed characters and games with a strong narrative focus, either.”
Ryan and IGN weren’t alone in pointing this out when it came to Days Gone. Jason Schreier at Kotaku brought it up as well.
Schreier first discusses the storyline itself, before commenting on the character’s race.
“So that’s the thing, I’m intrigued to see where the story’s going. And the performances are really good. I like the main character a lot, even though he’s this typical gruff triple-A white dude biker.”
But the fact that the main character is a white biker guy isn’t the only criticism about Days Gone.
Other outlets took exception to the fact that you kill zombies in the game, zombies that happened to be children before they became zombies. Zombie kids are nothing new. In fact, No More Room In Hell, a 2011 zombie game faced similar criticism for including child zombies. Child zombies were also featured in Telltale’s The Walking Dead game.
In Days Gone these child zombies are specifically described as Newts and Polygon writer Colin Campbell wasn’t too thrilled about the idea.
“Playing survival game Days Gone at a recent preview event, I was struck by a particular class of enemy called a Newt. These zombie-like enemies were once human children. Following a global pandemic, they’ve become dangerous enemies to the player character. Killing them made me feel queasy. Even though these little creatures are vile and scary, I found it difficult to let go of the idea that they had been innocent children.”
While Campbell might have been queasy about killing rabid zombies who are trying to attack you, most gamers were ready to lock and load.
— Felipe R. Garcia (@Felipe_fn_Garci) March 6, 2019
Zombies are zombies. I’m down
— NextlvlContent (@th3b0ywon1da) March 6, 2019
How is it weird? It’s trying to kill you. Just aim lower and move on.
— Alfredo_is_life (@Alfredo_is_life) March 6, 2019
— Steve McHugh (@StevejMchugh) March 6, 2019
If you can’t separate reality from a fictional VIDEO GAME then… pic.twitter.com/5zm7SSMSvO
— Joerell M (@jrellmos) March 7, 2019
The idea of killing zombie kids was so much that Colin asked Days Gone developer Jon Garvin about their use of the Newts.
Garvin highlighted their importance in the story, and the effects of the virus on the population that you see within the game:
“It’s not about how old they are it’s about how the virus has to affect everybody. It affects everybody in horrible ways. The storyline of the Newts is not gratuitous. It’s connected to the story in a super-important way.”
Game Director of Days Gone Jeff Ross also jumped into the fray. he described the Newts you encounter as “animals.”
“They’re Newts at this point. They’re Freakers. They are animals. They don’t go on the offensive but […] as soon as you let down your guard and you’re not paying attention and you get close enough to them, they’re going to come out of nowhere. So they’re — they’re really sinister, kind of evil.”
Why do you think these writers decided to randomly start talking about the race and gender of the game’s protagonist? Are some journalists too focused on aspects of the game that aren’t important? Or are these important issues that developers need to tackle in their industry? Let me know your thoughts!
Days Gone will be available on April 26th.