Thursday, October 24, 2013

Playing Detective in The Wolf Among Us

My latest PopMatters article is now live: Playing Detective in The Wolf Among Us

I use this article mostly to praise Telltale's ability to take the same core systems from The Walking Dead and apply them better in a pulp detective story. I love The Walking Dead, don't get me wrong, but The Wolf Among Us capitalizes on the natural output of their interactive elements, self-doubt and mystery, to harmonize so well with the narrative and their wonderful world-building.

Now let's put that aside for a moment and talk a bit about actual Fables, the comic series by Bill Willingham that inspired the game. Aside from maybe  the first story arc, Fables is not some pulp detective story. In fact, at times quite on the nose, the story is more an alegory for modern-day Israel and its large diaspora community than anything else. Yes, the narrative draws heavily on classic fairy tales, but it's also its entirely own work. The story doesn't just get dark, it gets downright deeply upsetting. While occasionally Fables can be a little disappointing, it's still one of my favorite comics for its willingness to take pre-established story tropes and tweak them to deliver its own powerful dramatic moments.

Like its own source, I fully expect The Wolf Among Us to deviate from its source. Bigby, and certainly my version and reading of Bigby in The Wolf Among Us, is actually quite calm and measured than Willingham's Big Bad Wolf. He's a keen detective instead of a Sheriff who is more hired muscle than wise law man.

Other character also follow suit. Snow White, in The Wolf Among Us, is surprisingly docile and meek. In her first appearance in Willingham's work, Snow establishes as a strong and boisterous character, more than a match for Bigby's own temper. As a fan of Willingham's work, it's actually a little disappointing to see her so timid and even afraid in Telltale's work. The reason they made the change, I suspect, is to add more pressure on the player to take on the detective role. She asks Bigby who she thinks the killer is precisely because Telltale want's to remind the player to constantly consider character motivations when interacting with the world.

That being said, the subordinate and passive role of women in pulp fiction, historically, is immensely common. There are certain genre conventions that may undermine the existing Fables story for fans of the comic series. Even so, there's still a lot of Wolf Among Us yet to come, and I'm eager to see what Telltale has planned for the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment