Thoughts One Year Later
Days Gone One Year Anniversary – Thank You Bend Studio
An Open Letter of Appreciation to Bend Studio for Days Gone
A Days Gone Week Fan-Appreciation Video
Happy Anniversary Days Gone
Days Gone – More Than Just a Game
By Rachael Fiddis – @IrishSoul81
I’ve always been fascinated by the apocalypse. People fighting for their survival, finding measures they never thought about before to just stay alive and watching how it changes the mindset of humanity. I understand that this is probably a pretty strange thing to say now given that most of the world is on lockdown due to a deadly virus and how some of the elements from my morbid curiosity has actually come to light.
When Bend Studio first introduced Days Gone almost 4 years ago at the Sony E3 2016 panel, naturally my eyes lit up. At first, it was the post-apocalyptic world that drew me in but as the developers released more gameplay and information about Days Gone, I started to realise that what really made this game so unique are the diverse characters and the meaty narrative draped across a beautifully crafted Oregon landscape.
As a video game reviewer, it’s always so important to me that I remain as open-minded and honest as possible so of course, I had a few doubts on whether the end result of Days Gone would make for appealing gameplay when it finally released. But on the day of launch and a few hours in, any doubts I previously had just washed away. The game immediately captured me. Not only was it stunning to explore with its vast lakes, majestic mountain range and lush forests – Deacon St. John instantly pulled at my heart-strings. Here was this tough but tattered biker, unafraid to show his emotions and who never gave up even when faced with hopelessness.
Days Gone led me down a path of so many feelings which for me, makes a game stand out from the rest. At any given time, I would feel a plethora of emotions from sadness, anger, grief, hopefulness and pain. The developers at Bend Studios not only created a game with substance, but they created a game that made you feel, whether you wanted to or not; you were instantly part and parcel of it.
As I said in my review of Days Gone, Bend Studio has crafted something unique to them, something personal, and something that asks players to enter with an open mind and a little patience. I think it’s plain to see that I loved my play through of Days Gone, so much in fact that I’ve since played it over again, gathering something new each time and Bend Studio have become one of my favorite game developers.
One of the elements that makes Bend Studio stand out so much isn’t solely their game, as fantastic as it is. Without a doubt, they are the most approachable, most interactive and friendliest developers I’ve come across. So much so that I’ve gotten to know a few on a personal level and who have also contributed to an upcoming feature of mine. Need to ask them a question about Days Gone? Count on them to reply to you over on Twitter even if it’s just to tell them how incredible they are.
So, we have an amazing game and an incredible development team – what about its community? Personally, I don’t usually engage too much with a game’s fan-base as sometimes it can be a little, how should I put it, obstinate? The Days Gone community is unbelievably wholesome, friendly, helpful and just a lovely bunch of people where I can even count some of them as good friends. For me, this is the cherry on top of an already special package which can be a rare find today.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every aspect that Days Gone has brought me in its one-year of existence. I want to say thank you to the developers at Bend Studio for putting their blood, sweat and tears into one of the best video games I’ve had the privilege to play and for opening their hearts to the players, even when they are hit with some negativity. I honestly can’t wait to see what’s next for Days Gone so I await with bated breath until I can experience another journey down the broken road.
In the words of Deacon St John – “why do we keep going on? Because what the hell else are we going to do?”
Why Days Gone Means so Much to Me
After a year of sharing my love of Days Gone with you all, I wanted to go the extra step and put into words what this game truly means to me. Why do I run a blog dedicated to only one game? Why do I share my in-game photos daily? Why has this game impacted me the way it has? Days Gone became more than just a game to me, and I would like to honestly share why that is.
The Beginning – Events of Life
I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead, so when I saw the E3 demo in 2016 of Days Gone I was immediately excited to try the game out. At that time I thought, “a zombie game with a guy that looks like Daryl Dixon riding a motorcycle, I’m in!” I followed the news of it loosely up until the official release date of April 26, 2019. Once the release date was announced, I knew I wouldn’t be able to play it right away. My wife was due with our third child during that same time. At that point, I wrote it off and figured I would eventually pick it up when I had time. Unfortunately, my wife ran eight days late, so I figured the weekend before I would at least buy it and try it out for a few hours before the baby comes. I was loving my short time with it until I had to put it down for a few weeks to enjoy the time with my first son. If you’re a parent, you know that you will be up at all hours of the night with a newborn. To let my wife rest, I would take my son and walk him around the house until he fell asleep in the middle of the night. I was my little man’s bed as he loved to sleep on my chest for about two hours at a time until his next feeding. During that time, I couldn’t sleep because well he was sleeping on me. To keep myself up, I figured I would boot up Days Gone at 3:00 in the morning and knock out a few missions. I put my headphones on and sat back in the chair, while my son bonded with me as he heard my heart beating as he slept. We did this every night. It may not sound like much, but that initial bonding with your newborn is special and I cherished every night.
Fast-forward about a month later and I completed the game. A lot of people always wonder how parents can still game with having kids. It’s possible! Do a couple hours here and a couple hours there and within weeks you can easily finish a game. It may take a lot of sacrificing sleep, as it did with me, but it was good lack of sleep. I finished the game and was blown away by it all, the characters, the story, the world and the fun gameplay. However, at this time of my life, I was also hit with some bad news. My dog was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have much longer to live. She was only seven years old. We rescued her when she was about two or three years old after she was abandoned and left outside in a kennel while her owners just picked up and moved away. My wife and I drove sixteen hours in one day to save her before being euthanized at an animal control place for lack of capacity. Her name was Sadie and she was an Australian Cattle dog. The sweetest and best dog you could ever ask for and I thought she would be with us as my children grew up. Her death hit my family hard and was the first pet death I’ve ever experienced. To help get my mind off the whole situation, Days Gone provided an escape for me. Not only that, but the last few nights of her life she would lay at my feet while I played. I would get on the floor with her, constantly pause the game and just pet her. I captured the first image below with her the night before we had to put her down. Days Gone has been with me through life and through death. It’s been with me in one of my happiest moments in my life and one of my saddest.
The Story – How it Connected to Me
Expanding off that last part, Sadie was my Jack. Just like how Deacon went out to find a puppy to heal Boozer’s soul, Sadie and my other dog Pepper were the ones to heal my soul at a time when I needed it the most. In 2013, new things were happening in my life and I wasn’t adapting well to it. I felt depressed at times and confused on where to go next. Then I got the first dog I ever had in my life, Pepper. Within months, we went to go get Sadie. From that point, those dogs perked up my attitude and I felt happy and ready to let go of past tribulations. They too healed my soul. After playing the part in the game where Boozer receives the puppy, all those emotions came running back to me. I remembered taking Sadie out of that animal control cage as she jumped in my lap immediately ready to go home with me. In that moment, a bond between a man and a dog began and grew more than I would have ever thought. Now as I replay the story and that scene hits, it brings tears to my eyes knowing that my Sadie isn’t with me anymore. I feel what Boozer is feeling in those moments with the dogs and that hits straight to my heart.
The biggest reason why this story resonated with me is because of the relationship between Deacon and Sarah. Their relationship reflects my relationship with my wife and I in a lot of ways. Remember how Deacon and Sarah first met, with Sarah being broke down on the side of the road? That little back and forth that they had with Deacon being a smartass mirrors how my wife and I met in high school. It was Sophomore year of high school and we both had gym class together playing basketball. Like Deacon, I was the smartass here teasing her because she was absolutely terrible at basketball. That simple initial interaction was the moment that started our relationship. We were high school sweethearts, got married at nineteen years old, and now have three children together. My wife is a lot like Sarah, she’s beautiful, strong and way more intelligent than I. While, I’m the “rough and tough” guy like Deacon who became a better man because of her.
Just as Deacon decided to go Nomad for Sarah, I decided to stop pursing my sports career early on because I found something more to life than my personal ambitions. I found a partner I would be willing to give everything up for, I found my first and only love. Just as Sarah responds to Deacon’s Nomad patch saying, “I didn’t ask you to do that.” My wife gave me the same response. That didn’t stop Deacon or I for doing what we wanted to do because we knew that they were all we needed.
From the very start of the game when Deacon put Sarah on the helicopter, I was captivated by the story. I immediately put myself in Deacon’s shoes. How would I be feeling in this moment? What would I do? His search for his wife, knowing in some slim chance she may be out there is one of Deacon’s most honorable traits. To never give up is how I was raised and is how I teach my own children. Having hope keeps us motivated and moving forward helping us find a reason to live. The feelings that Deacon felt through the story talking with O’Brian had me on the edge of my seat every time because yes, I was trying to find Sarah, but in my mind I was trying to find my wife through him. If that makes sense. I understood Deacon’s love for her and that’s what made this story very real to me. Driving south with the song Hell or High Water playing in the background, is the best gaming moment I’ve experienced. Why? All those emotions I feel for my wife, the love I have for her, the mission I would be on if I ever lost her played in my head as I traveled those snowy bends on the Thielsen Pass. Morior Invictus.
One of the best experiences I’ve had with Days Gone is the interactions and support from the team at Bend Studio. I only started using my Twitter account in early May right after Days Gone released last year. I rarely ever went on before that, since I never had anyone to interact with. I decided to share a couple screenshots of Days Gone though, just because I was having a lot of fun with it when I started. My first post had very little interaction of course, but I was excited to see that members of the Days Gone team were the ones to like it. I didn’t expect anyone to really see it, let alone the people who helped make the game. After posting a few more shots to Twitter over the next couple of weeks I noticed them liking those ones too, especially the Game Director Jeff Ross. This may not sound like much, but interactions from the developers to the players do make a huge impact. It creates a sense of connection between the player to the game and the developers to the community. They may be normal people with awesome jobs, but to gamers they’re like the equivalent to our favorite players from a professional sports team.
When I first completed Days Gone, I tweeted a post of how much I loved the game. I remember one sentence precisely when John Garvin the Creative Director quoted that tweet and said, “This game was made for players like you.” Once I finished Days Gone, it really felt like this game was created for me. I thoroughly enjoyed every single aspect of it and immediately Days Gone became my all-time favorite game. When receiving that simple message, it made finishing Days Gone that much more special. I never knew that developers interacted with the community like this and those interactions I had in the first month made me realize that the people behind Days Gone over at Bend Studio were special.
As I continued to play Days Gone, I started to meet the other developers at Bend Studio. Almost one year later, the majority of the people at Bend follow me and that truly means a lot. At least I haven’t scared them off! I can’t thank them enough for giving their time to me to come onto my little blog for interviews, the support they give to my photos and just being all around nice and awesome people. It genuinely makes playing Days Gone that much more fun. There are a few of them that I would like to give a special shoutout to. For months now, Eric Jensen the Lead Open World Designer rarely ever misses a post from me and I post a lot of photos! He also contributed a lot this past week for Days Gone Week, and I felt like he was involved on Twitter just as much as I was. After planning this event since the beginning of this year, it means a lot for the developers behind the game to be so supportive toward it. Like I said, it may not sound like much but it always makes the player feel good.
I could go on and on listing people from Bend Studio, but one I must give a shoutout to here is Community Manager David Lee. This blog wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if it wasn’t for him. David always listened to my requests and worked with me to setup not only Days Gone Week but the interviews I have conducted thus far. I hope I didn’t bother you too much David! As a small creator that focuses on only one game, he didn’t have to even respond to my emails, but he did and I am very thankful for that. I remember landing my first interview with Jeff Ross last year and I was very excited to have the opportunity to do something like that. The Broken Road blog was a place just to write my thoughts about Days Gone and the people at Bend made it more than that for me. Love you!
The community of Days Gone that all of us have built is amazing! I never knew I could make as many friends as I have through social media because of a video game. From our little thank you letter to Bend Studio last year, the Mongrels community continues to grow every day. Some I talk to on a regular basis! Take Twitter aside, we have our Days Gone Discord channel too that gives us another outlet to talk everything and anything about the game. I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with everyone and that makes going on social media worth it. To have an outlet to be able to nerd out on video games and talk freely about the game you love to others is so much fun. Recently, my friend @Purple_ShirtGuy sent me a bunch of Days Gone collectibles in the mail. Why? Just out of pure generosity because he knows how much I love Days Gone and he wanted to help expand my Days Gone collection. The Days Gone community continues to amaze me and I am so proud to be a part of it. #MongrelsForLife.
It’s not just the Days Gone community that I got introduced to though, but also the virtual photography community. Days Gone started my passion of virtual photography and with that I have met tons of people who share the same interest. This is another friendly and supportive group that does this art form out of pure passion. The way we inspire each other, lift each other up and be readily available if they need an ear to vent real life problems to. I love being a part of such an incredible community like this. I was touched during Days Gone Week when virtual photography pages and people who never even played Days Gone came to my side and helped support this event. They added the hashtag next to their names, changed their own logo header on their page and shared my Days Gone content without me even asking. That is what you call a true community! I really appreciate all of your support! I also host a monthly Days Gone virtual photography theme #VPDaysGone, and each month the participation I receive blows my mind. I get it that not everyone has Days Gone or gets tired of taking photos in only one specific game, but the community continues to support it and different faces enter each time. The virtual photography community is more than just participating in themes, it gives us the ability to interact with each other, support each other and have fun doing it. And that is what gaming is all about, having fun and sharing that passion with others!
Days Gone is More Than Just a Game
Why does Days Gone mean so much to me? Because it symbolizes family, love, finding a reason to live, never giving up and much more. A game with these types of traits, the type of traits I try to live by everyday is why this story connects so strongly with me. Never have I played a game to reach me on an emotional level and relate to my personal situations as much as Days Gone. That is something special that only comes around once in a generation for a video game. When I first put Days Gone into my PlayStation 4 back in May 2019, I never expected for any of this to happen. I never expected to create a blog, to get into virtual photography, or to interview developers and actors. My whole Days Gone journey has grew more than I would have ever imagined. I love sharing my passion of Days Gone with everyone!
Thank you to my family, especially my wife for always being there. Thank you to the Mongrels community. Thank you to the virtual photography community. Thank you to everyone at Bend Studio for creating this game, interacting with me and supporting me. Thank you all for making Days Gone more than just a game for me!
Happy Anniversary Days Gone!
Below, is a picture of my Days Gone collection, and a few of my personal favorite shots I’ve taken over the year.