Joel was born in a small, rural town in Tennessee to pastor Joel Paine II, and his wife Lucille. Joel, along with his parents, his two brothers, his sister, his son Jason, and the majority of his father's congregation came to Chernarus on a volunteer mission after the outbreak of the civil war. When the infection started to spread, the volunteers stayed to help treat the sick and wounded. One fateful day their camp outside of Kameka was over run by a swarm of infected, leaving many dead including Joel's father. With his father dead, and his people in need of a leader, Joel led his congregation to a rumored safe place to the north. Between bandits, the winter, sickness, and starvation, Joel's flock started to dwindle until he was the sole survivor. The death of his congregation, the death of his family, and the death of his son in particular took a toll on Joel, and eventually drove him to madness. He has recently taken up the belief that his family was taken up in the rapture, and that he must lead any survivors of the outbreak on a righteous path toward salvation.