Community Soapbox: Looks Like Bandit – The strange psychology of player clothing in DayZ


By on March 3, 2014 at 8:35 am

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In the weeks since the DayZ standalone alpha has been released there’s been a hugely reinvigorated (and justified) groundswell of interest in the game. I’m not going to spend much time trying to explain the game to those who’ve never heard of it, beyond describing it as an open world, rogue-like multiplayer post -zombie-apocalyptic survival game and suggesting you read any of the two billion well-written articles explaining it. Suffice to say that the chief form of tension, amusement and camaraderie revolves around a player’s interactions with other players, which are more or less (within the confines of a game) unfettered by any game-based rules.

Meet new people and go on adventures? Check.

Meet new people, handcuff them and feed them disinfectant while your three pants-less friends wander around waving their arms in the air and rocking from side to side? Check!

Shoot new people before you meet them? Check.

Wander around an abandoned chunk of eastern European countryside leaving disturbing notes for other people to find? Check.

So based on that rule of internet (freedom from repercussion?) that says for every interesting sociopath there’s a thousand unimaginatively paranoid ones, a large number of people have limited their human interaction to shooting other players on sight. This has always been a central factor in the game since the early days of the mod, with kill on sight (known as KOS) behaviour anecdotally occurring as soon as the mod servers opened to a larger European player base beyond the testers). A combination of perma-death, the scarcity of equipment and food and the limited means of communication available in a gaming context combine to amplify the tendency towards either killing people to take their gear, or to kill someone else pre-emptively lest they kill you and take yours.

This behaviour in and of itself is not too interesting or exceptional; it’s just a representation of our more unsavoury evolutionary traits like xenophobia and paranoia, unmoderated by consequence or significant repercussion (internet). What has immediately become far more interesting has been the evolution of responses to this behaviour within the community following the release of the standalone DayZ game.

The DayZ mod had a rudimentary ‘humanity’ system based on killing other players. If you killed people, your player account (including existing and any new characters) would accumulate negative points until you became a ‘bandit.’ Conversely, killing a ‘bandit’ or administering first aid to another player would earn you humanity points.

Out of this system emerged three classes of players: the ‘bandits,’ who had very negative humanity points; the ‘heroes,’ who killed bandits and had very high humanity points; and the ‘survivors,’ encompassing everyone in between. These classes were further reinforced with the introduction ofa ‘bandit’ skin (mixed camo with a shemagh over the face) and a ‘hero’ skin (plaid shirt and jeans), which were given to players who had sufficient negative or positive ‘humanity.’  These skins were just clothing items like any other and could be swapped out for other clothing, but were automatically assigned at player spawn. So while they were optional clothing sets in an absolute sense, opportunities for changes of clothing were limited in mod when compared to the standalone.

This in no way precluded being killed by a ‘bandit’ who had changed into ordinary camo clothing, or by a ‘survivor’ who looked normal but didn’t yet have enough negative humanity to be a ‘bandit’, or even by a ‘hero’ having a bad day. But it has led to an enduring association between player clothing and player intention amongst the DayZ community, which has carried over to the standalone alpha of DayZ.

The standalone DayZ alpha at present lacks any kind of humanity system and does not (to my knowledge) track player interaction with the same consequences that the mod did. In addition, the DayZ alpha adds an entirely new, more modular clothing system with a huge variety of options, varying from unmistakably civilian (jeans and a bright t-shirt or jacket for example) to military (full camouflage gear, military vests/helmets/gas mask). These can be worn in just about any combination imaginable, resulting in a near infinite number of appearances for the player base.

Despite these two massively complicating factors, a significant number of DayZ players have been using clothing choices as one way of attempting to determine another player’s intentions. Other things do factor in, like choice of weapons, but the system seems to be primarily based on clothing, which is the most easily identifiable thing on a player at distance. In this system of judgement the following types of equations seem to be developing in the minds of players:

  • Full Camouflage (any type) + Face Mask + Helmet = Bandit
  • Full Camouflage + other headgear but no mask = Probably Bandit
  • Civilian pants + Plaid Shirt/Civilian Jacket = Probably trustworthy

There are as many variations of this system as there are players, so it is hard to completely categorise, but this broadly sums it up. Ironically, despite the fact that there’s nothing whatsoever to stop a ‘bandit’ type player from wearing civilian clothing and that many ‘hero’ type players wear full camouflage, the system seems to have become fairly widespread amongst players.

Between the collective memory of how the ‘rules’ used to be enforced during the days of the DayZ mod and the lack of any other system to determine the intent of others, players have essentially created their own ‘system’ out of more or less meaningless information. The fact that this system has a built in routine for the justification of killing other players only adds to its psychological attractiveness. Where in the DayZ mod you would know if you had killed a ‘survivor’ or a ‘bandit’, the standalone leaves players in the dark about the player they have killed. So for those playing as a ‘survivor,’ the ability to justify a kill as self-defence rather than murder becomes very psychologically important.

All this creates something of a self-perpetuating nature too, as the more the system becomes known through the player base, the greater the chance will be of more players participating. This can come in the form of ‘survivors’ deciding to wear civilian clothes rather than camouflage to indicate lessened hostility, or ‘bandits’ wearing civilian clothing to lure in victims, or just people justifying their kills on the basis of clothing –either way, the system is being perpetuated.

In the end, the funniest and most interesting thing to me is knowing that in a game which is almost entirely based around human interaction but lacks almost every human behavioural cue, players have created their own system to infer meaning from inherently meaningless information. How far will it go? Who knows, but it’s going to be intriguing to see…

13 comments (Leave your own)

Very interesting article, love reading about rule-sets that emerge from chaos.

Nice one :)


i dont care if your smiling or not, you die if you dont have a use; having said that im normally a really nice person.
too bad you cant find really horrible chemicals in this game and choke people with them, or suffocate them with play -dough


ths is why i have trouble in the game

i play a hero type player, i find it very hard to just kill random ppl, i’ll never ever kill an un armed person or somone without a rifle, but

i am always dressed full camo gear (with the exception of wearing either the blue UN beret, or the new cowboy hat, mainly cos i would much rather be spotting ppl before they spot me, so i can decide whether to interact with players or by pass them.
the ones i do chose to interact with ( usualy rifleless players) im still very apprehensive aboot geting too close or standing still for longer than 2 seconds

i also never trust a group of players 2 or more

cos numerous times ive been tricked , either by one walking behind me and axing me for my gear or the person i talk to being a decoy and getting sniped when i stop moving
and its always a case of they shoot me on sight

at the moment im carrying 2 rifles so i cant sling em both the SKS in hand and m4 on back but i never run around with it in firing position

perhaps i should try next life to stay in bright civie clothes?….

anyhoo good article and completely agree

Nasty Wet Smear

Any word on single player yet?

In other news, I was recently on a trip to Finland. Those of you who did more than 2 seconds of geography know that it borders Russia and they share some landscape and buildings. When I was there, most everything was covered in snow, however I was blown away when I saw… Well… I saw the buildings from DayZ.

Not: “Hey, doesn’t that look like that town in DayZ?”, but “Hey, that’s exactly the same shape, colour, size and style of building!”. While the insides of such places were much nicer, with real bedrooms and lounges and flat screen TV’s, the outside layout and even the way the buildings were placed were identical. There was even a group of apartments that were standing next to each other exactly like one of the groups on the map.

The guys who made those Arma II maps did an amazing job!

So, naturally, I started shooting everyone on the train and took their beans.



did you atleast check the apartments for loot?

Also if you have trouble killing people, just remember.
people are dicks, easily enough you can be too! happy hunting :D


I’m in full camo, gas mask and a hat but I wouldn’t go on to say I’m a bandit.

Yes I will kill the player if they don’t comply or if they make a funky move but I’m mostly there just to handcuff and take their pants. :D

I really believe this bandit phase will grind to a halt once there is something else to do in game. Right now you spend an hour or so gearing up and then you’re left with twiddling your thumbs or looking for other players. (yes yes I’m aware it’s alpha)

Nasty Wet Smear


did you atleast check the apartments for loot?

Comically enough, it seems I had the opposite ability. I have, in fact, lost a pair of pants… They aren’t in my luggage…


nastywetsmear: Comically enough, it seems I had the opposite ability. I have, in fact, lost a pair of pants… They aren’t in my luggage…

I deny any allegations.


There are only 2 types of player that I see.

those that have a long range weapon that I should be careful to sneak up on and kill and those who don’t which I can kill without having to be too careful.

The former need to be killed because they can kill me easily [and 99% of the time would try to do so if they saw me first] and the latter need to die because they don’t have enough to lose and might just take a desperate run at me for my gear while I’m looting and with how buggy/laggy the game is you could get axed while they look like they are still 10m away.


Thanks for the responses guys! Great to see I’m not the only one interested by this. :)

spike4379 : What, is oral or intravenous administration of your poisons in DayZ not good enough? I’m SURE there’s the potential there for the gas masks and respirators to finally do something. Even if it’s just in the mods that they’ve said the Standalone will eventually support…

Ball0fire : Thanks mate! I play pretty much like you for most of the time I’ve played DayZ, due to as you mentioned preferring not to be seen. These days though in standalone I tend to wear less camo but still brown/green civilian clothing. I will say this, it’s still always better to get to decide when you want to be seen, even if you do play nice. No yellow raincoats here.

Nasty Wet Smear: No word on SP as far as I’ve heard. Once private hives and modding are enabled though, who knows.

SomeXspeC : That’s actually more realistic ‘bandit’ behaviour, and rationality doesn’t come into it. This IS DayZ we’re talking about. Sometimes the thievery seems to be more fun in proportion to how stupid the items being taken are…



a saline bag full of pee



a saline bag full of pee

No words, only emotions…


lol , always people claiming to be “nice” …

I havn’t found 1 person that hasn’t tried to kill me as soon as they saw me , even when I surrender.

Interesting read , although I don’t agree… As said there isn’t really much else to do other than gear up and go on the hunt.

In the mod I was nice to people I came across and gave them stuff to help , but now everybody else’s play style has forced me not to trust anyone other than my friends, kinda sux as I hate playing like that , but I have to to survive.

Love the game though , can’t wait to see what else they bring into it.

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