[Major spoilers for all episodes of the Walking Dead]
People always go on about the storytelling ability of adventure games, that they are loved so much for their capabilities to tell wonderful stories and present deep characters. I never really got that. I completely agree with Craig D. Adams (Superbrothers - Sword & Sworcery) when he said that traditional adventure game mechanics - inventory puzzles, for example - don't hold up, as they are blocks that interrupt the storytelling. What I do think adventure games are great for are describing or setting otherworldly places - I still fondly remember places such as Blood Island from Monkey Island 3, all the Voodoo Lady Swamps (OH MY GOD THAT MUSIC
) or even places from recent games, such as the Crossroads from Episode 5 of Tales of Monkey Island. But, onto the topic of this entry - The Walking Dead. How this game pulled my heartstrings. How it toyed with my feelings. I can't remember the last time I was touched this much by something of interactive entertainment, let alone by an adventure game. Yes, The Walking Dead knows how to tell a story.
If I was going to talk about the whole game, this would be far too long, so I'm going to focus on my favourite moment, the ending. Everything came together so very perfectly. It all starts with that
conversation in that hotel room. Never in the game had there been such an eerily silent and tense conversation. I sat in my room, the glow of the monitor on my face, slowly tapping A, B, Y. And then it all breaks out. I quickly find myself choking the man who kidnapped Clementine, and although he did something terrible, after hearing his story, I sympathise with him, and as the game has taught me over 5 harrowing episodes, I decide not to kill him and try and spare him. That doesn't turn out well for me, but I hear a gunshot, and find Clementine's hand shaking, as smoke rises from the chamber of the pistol. I immediately thought 'Like Father like Daughter'.
You see, back in Episode 1, when all but one was alive, when Clementine asked me about the man I was convicted for killing, and whether he was alive or dead (a zombie) when I killed him, I replied, "It's complicated" - I never thought she truly understood why I did what I did, and the morality of it, but after seeing her killing the man, I (Lee) had never felt closer with her. It was brutal, and frankly just depressing, to see the innocence of this happy child slowly break down, to a point where she is forced to apply zombie guts on her clothes, bash a walker in the head with a baseball bat (while seeing blood spray on her face), shoot someone she loves, and escape a city full of walkers.
And man, what a character. Throughout the game I found myself caring for her, and making every decision based on her well-being. I have never cared for a character in a video game to such a degree, and Telltale have done a truly astounding job of making me feel as if I'm in the game, and that I am Lee, and creating a child character who isn't simply there for the ride, slowing me down, or just a straight pain in the arse.
During the last scene before the credits, I found myself shaking as the scene played on, thinking about how everyone was dead, and it, in the end, came down to Clem and I, and arguably more importantly, Clementine. Lee sat against the wall, incredibly sick, one-armed, ready to turn, as Clementine picked up the gun. She hesitates, and after that brief and heartfelt conversation, with the camera focused on her face, I, trembling, hear the loud bang, flash, as the room around me lights up for a moment, before the screen cuts to black.
Oh, what an experience. And once the beautiful credits song
began I teared up, shaken, exhausted, shocked, and more than anything, touched.
The glimmer of hope afterwards though, that's what gave me closure. Seeing that Clementine had made it, and finding Christa and Omid (I hope), I was able to move on. Still, after it all ended, I walked around my house for around ten minutes, thinking about what had just happened. I was dazed; I lied down and I slowly calmed down, my body physically relaxing from the world I had lived in for the past week, and the characters that I
had interacted with and taken care of.