The Walking Dead

by bhayden
10. June 2013 21:53

In all my years of playing games I’ve never played a game that has pulled on my emotions as much as this one.  From the moment you have to decide between saving Duck and Hershel’s boy (I saved Duck because children are the future, you know?) you’re put on a rollercoaster ride where ups and downs come at the pace of Secretariat.  This narrative is no joke. 

Written as good, if not better than, the TV show of the same name you follow the story of Lee and Clementine as they try to navigate Hell on Earth.  It always surprises me, these post-apocalyptic themes where humanity seems to have lost all sense of reason.  Perhaps it’s because I believe the best in people.  If this ever does go down I’ll likely get shot first because I trust in the good of people.  I tried to steer Lee in that direction.  I wanted him, and through him Clementine, to demonstrate that yea, this world is fucked up, but that doesn’t mean that we have to abandon that which makes us human.

I feel too many stories like this lean upon the cruelty of man, which is no doubt a cruel creature but at some point it is also a social and not a solitary creature.  As the members of Lee’s group cycle through like the seasons I can’t help but reflect upon what this story could have been.  I don’t need triumph of the human spirit and everyone singing songs by the campfire as the world burns, but those moments are too few and far between. 

As many accolades as Telltale racked up for this game, and they were well deserved, there was a point somewhere in the third episode where I realized that I wouldn’t ever replay this game.  Perhaps it’s a desire for my experience to be pure as a first timer through the game, but it’s more that the actual game here is rather ho-hum.  It’s standard point and click adventure stuff that Secret of Monkey Island perfected in the 90s.  That’s not to say the gameplay is bad, but as I was playing I couldn’t help but think about how I’d definitely replay this if all I had to do was cycle through the conversations and choices that you make as Lee.  The game shines in its narrative and at times I felt like the game got in the way of it.

The choices are important, and they’re not.  If you’ve read at all about this or played it you know this.  I took Lee’s choices as a way to reflect a man who was trying to be better than the situation around him.  Who tried to lift up and keep his companions together.  It was devastating as they started to fall one by one like wilted rose pedals.  The end choice had me in tears.  Yea, tears.  I couldn’t believe what I had to do, but I felt it was the right thing, so I did it. 

Still the illusion of choice is an important one.  It gives us hope as gamers that we can change things even if all that changes is a few points along the way.  We don’t want to pull back the curtain and see that there’s no wizard.  Right up till the end I was hoping, but hope in a world of zombies is fickle, and in this narrative it exists in very little droplets, collecting upon the leaves of rotting corpses and crushed ideals.  There is more that I could say, or might want to say but the bottom line is this.  Go play this game.  Now.  Then join the rest of us in the agonizing wait for season 2.

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