Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Walking Dead Interaction
Now, after quite a bit of praise from the critical community, I have turned to The Walking Dead episodic game series by Telltale Games and I am hooked. I have played the first two of the five announced episodes and it has salvaged the world when I had almost given it up for lost.
My appreciation of the game stems from sharp writing, not incredibly evocative gameplay. Most interaction involves picking one of a variety of choices. Save the geeky nerd or the sharpshooting heroine? Side with the paranoid zealot or the family-focused yokel? This is not new or particularly inspired forms of interactive. When action does take place, it usually asks you to move the point over a well-marked location on the screen. How quickly can you push a button?
Even so, this minimal interaction enlivens the personality of Lee, the titular character, in a way the comic books cannot. Some characters still act irrationally, and maddeningly so, but the game is about my reactions to that environment. Minor decisions, particularly when they have lasting effects on those I care about, are important because they bring the destruction of the world with all its quiet tragedy back down to human scale. The protagonist of the comic book series is out to protect his son, I get that, but I never found that story compelling until Clementine, voiced by Melissa Hutchison who pulls off a great rendition of a vulnerable but brave child, was threatened and I, by my decisions or inaction, allowed it to happen.
Even when some characters behave erratically (I'm looking at you Kenny), I feel isolated from their madness. It genuinely helps to embody an individual in this story because it both isolates me from the others characters and binds me to them. My decisions effect those around, but they are also my own.
I know that compared to other survival horror games, The Walking Dead closer to being a television spin-off than a game. Yet that little bit of interaction helps. I eagerly await the next episode. When the series wraps up, I am sure I will have more to say on the game. In the meantime, if you have been playing it, let me know what you think? Is the game as compelling as I seem to think?