Hi, I'm Ross Things have changed, but this generally covers me. In fact, lots of things have changed. Anyway, I like to play videogames, talk about them, and write about them. You may have seen me posting a few comments on the front page; it's rare, but it happens. You may have also seen me in the Forums, which I occasionally rear my head in as Brightside. Send me a friend request, here, there, or on any of my consoles. I'm sure we can be friends forever.
Pardon my dust I'm having a little trouble getting the blog's layout right (*shakes fist at Niero*), so bear with me. Also, Imgur decided it'd be cool to kill loads of my images, so don't be surprised to see lots of broken ones if you're looking through my old shit.
[Warning: Major spoilers for all episodes of The Walking Dead follow!]
The Walking Dead is one of the most harrowing games I’ve ever had the masochistic pleasure of playing. I, quite honestly, abhorred every minute of it. Sitting down to play this title was not my usual escapism; Hell, real life was my escape from The Walking Dead—a welcome retreat, a holiday from my PC. Playing it was stressful and jarring and, often, emotionally painful. I don’t think I had ‘fun’ with this game. I don’t think I was meant to.
Yet, somehow, the notion of my morality being picked and prodded at, my emotional well-being being ripped from side to side, like a toy in a dog’s jaw, fascinated me. This was one of the first times in a game I’d felt really invested, like really invested. No, invested isn’t the word for it; one doesn’t invest all they have—I was wholly with this game, in this game. For the couple of days I played it, it was everything to me: I was Lee, and his band—my band—of survivors were at the forefront of my mind.
But the most important of which, of course, was Clem. That cute little girl that I’d Lee had rescued. Now, I’m not a paternal guy. I don’t have any kids, I don’t have any younger siblings—my thoughts about kids generally extend to ‘what a little shit’. But not Clem. I honestly don’t know how Telltale did it. Normally when I’m charged with a ward, I feel burdened, anchored. But not this time. Not with Clem. I wanted to help her, save her. I would do everything I could to make sure she made it through that mess of a world alive. It was this burning conviction that propelled me through my playthrough. You’re goddamn right I’m gonna steal that food; too right I’ll drop you, Ben, you cowardly sumbitch; move out the way, Lilly, Larry’s head’s getting’ smashed!
I knew I could only take her so far, though. I knew Lee was going to die. How else could it end? The Walking Dead’s no fairy tale. Throughout my time with the group, all of the families’ stories had ended that way: death. Kenny’s arc was the grimmest. Duck and Katjaa… Yes, Lee was going to die; I was sure of it. But I’ll be damned if I was going to let Clem share my fate (this, I thought was a real possibility, what with Telltale’s readiness to deal with child-death in Duck).
It was at the time I reached this resolution, towards the end of Chapter 4, that one of the game’s most resonating scenes took place. Lee cuts Clem’s hair. He teaches her how to shoot. He comes up with a plan. He prepares her for life without him, in their new, infernal world. For Lee to be doing this just as I had reached the same conclusion as him, was truly moving, to say the least. We were becoming one, Lee and I.
That wasn’t my ‘favourite gaming moment of 2012’, though.
The last scene of Chapter 5, pre-credits, was so fantastically painful it hurt to breathe. Lee and Clem are in a locked room. His scleras are yellowing. The bonesaw amputation didn’t work. Lee’s about to die; Lee’s about to turn.
And so am I.
In the last moments of Chapter 5, the player directs Clem, through Lee, in a slow, heart-breaking finale. The act of—in proxy—playing as Clem, is truly poignant. Lee is passing the torch; she’s the leader now, she must fend for herself. But first, she has to escape the room, or be killed by Lee, her protector, her guardian … her father. I’m not going to lie. My neck tightened. My hand rose to my mouth. Involuntary whimpers escaped. My eyes reddened. Cheeks burned. I sniffed.
‘I’ll miss you.’
That was it, then. The end of the game. Of Lee.
You might think this is a absurd ‘favourite moment’, surely it should be something I enjoyed, but there is simply no question that this was the most engaged I’d felt in a game all year—a year of games that tried, and failed, oh so very hard to capture my empathy: Mass Effect 3 and Halo 4, the main culprits. The Walking Dead set out with lofty goals, and hit each one. Muddy textures and single endings be damned, this game is a masterpiece. And that’s why I chose the game’s final shaking breaths as my ‘moment of the year’: it sums up the power this title held over me, and the power it holds over all of 2012’s titles.
2012 is dead. Roll on 2013, the year of Season 2. Probably.