Aug. 7, 2012 at 4:13 PM ET
Gamers like zombies. A lot. One need only look at the many zombie-themed games out there to see that we get a great deal of joy out of shooting, stabbing and just generally beheading and/or trying to escape from the walking undead ... at least virtually.
The other thing gamers like a whole lot — "DayZ." "DayZ" is an enormously popular fan-made, zombie-themed modification to the highly realistic tactical shooting game "ArmA II."
The modification started out as a project created by one man — New Zealander Dean Hall. But the mod — which drops players into an open world, devastated by a zombie plague — has spread faster than a deadly virus and, as of this week, has been played by more than a million people.
In fact, "DayZ" has become so popular that the makers of "ArmA II" — Bohemia Interactive — on Tuesday announced that they would help turn the mod into a fully-funded, stand-alone game of its own.
"This is the fairy-tale outcome for a mod that many would have said impossible four months ago," wrote Hall, who will get to serve as the project lead.
During "DayZ's" four months in existence, players have flocked to the mod because of the highly realistic apocalyptic zombie scenario it presents. In this devastated world, you must scavenge for food, water and weaponry. You have to not only fend off zombies but your fellow players as well. Sure, you can team up with other humans, but they might just rob you of your belongings and kill you in cold blood.
And when you die ... you're dead. It's called "permadeath" and you lose everything. The average lifespan in the game right now is a mere 49 minutes.
Hall says it was his experiences in the New Zealand military that inspired much of "DayZ" — a game mod he hopes will affect players on a deeper emotional and psychological level than other zombie games.
"So much of what you experience in the army goes on inside your head," he told The Verge. "Whether you are experiencing something, whether you are playing a game, whether you are reading a book, it is all that stuff that is happening in your mind. Not what you hear or see."
Though a stand-alone game is now on its way, that doesn't mean the mod is going to bite the dust.
"Development and updates of the mod will continue in parallel with the development of the game, so anyone who is playing the mod now will be able to continue to do so," Hall promised on the "DayZ" blog.
For a look at "DayZ," check out the trailer below. And if you're interested in giving it a try, follow the download instructions here.
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.