American McGee's OZombie — an action-adventure game his studio Spicy Horse is currently trying to fund through Kickstarter — will explore the concept of a zombie as a figure of conformity, according to the developer.
Speaking to Polygon, McGee said that OZombie will follow in the footsteps of his previous titles like Alice: Madness Returns and Akaneiro: Demon Hunters by taking an existing tale and delving into the deeper layers of its fiction and subtext. In the case of OZombie, the game will explore the social, political and religious concepts that were raised in the L. Frank Baum Oz books, and present players with a kind of zombie not commonly used in video games.
"These are not your traditional brain-eating zombies," McGee said. "The idea of a zombie here has to do with the idea of conformity. It's the idea that people in a society — let's take the U.S. as an example, not to pick on them — let's say their government is spying on them, all this stuff is coming out about the NSA, and they've been numbed to the reality in which they live by the entertainment they consume. That's the kind of zombie we're talking about."
Playing as Dorothy, players will have to battle the Scarecrow's mindless army for control of Oz. The game will draw on the Scarecrow's rich history from Baum's stories to inform his character, establishing him as the former king of Oz who was overthrown in a coup and banished to a distant land. According to McGee, this history sets him up as a character who has a reason to be upset and makes him a meaningful villain.
When we asked McGee what it is about fairy tales and children's books that he finds so appealing, he said it's the fact that in some fairy tales, there's something deeper to each story than what is seen on the surface, and these deeper messages are still relevant to the modern world.
"For the children who read these books, there's a fantastic journey. But later in life when you come back and you read them as an adult, you discover there's a deeper and richer history to them," he said. "There's a greater meaning to them. That sort of opens them back up again, and that's what happened to me with the Oz books, with Alice and with a lot of fairy tales that we know as children, but as adults we go back and read them and see whole new concepts."
McGee said the interesting thing about these stories is there's more than one layer to them, and it's these layers that he wants to bring to his games. Yes, they ought to be fun games with solid mechanics and engaging gameplay, but ultimately there's also the subtext and core message he'd like to get across.
OZombie is currently in pre-production and and the studio is hoping to raise $950,000 on Kickstarter to fund the project. McGee urges potential backers to reach out to the studio via its Kickstarter page if they have any questions or doubts about the game. Backers can directly reach the developers via the Kickstarter's comments page.