Choice in The Walking Dead

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November 28, 2012 by Devin

So I made a splurge and decided to get into the Walking Dead phenomenon. I just finished Episode 1. I know I am somewhat late to the party, but I am not usually interested in this genre, so I hesitated in jumping in. However, I heard so many good things that I had to jump into it and see it for myself.

And Telltale Games did not disappoint at all.

Oh wait, did you think I was talking about the show? Nah, I’m not talking about that. Instead, I’m referring to the criticallyacclaimed, highlyrecommended video game. It is an adventure game released in 5 episodes, and now people can buy the whole season. The adventure genre is a genre I’ve dabbled in before but never really gotten immersed in. Well, so far, I’m hooked.

The main reason I’m hooked is because of the amazing story and the way it involves the player. Choice is a huge element in this game, but unlike games like Mass Effect, choice matters.

What I mean by that is that choice in many games is an extension of the player power fantasy. Choice in Mass Effect is the difference between playing Han Solo or playing Captain Kirk. Both are amazing in their own right, and often choice simply means that the player will have to spend twice as long to see all the cool details.

In Mass Effect 1 at least, there is no wrong choice. All choices lead to similar outcomes, and at almost no point will the game fault you for choosing to kill or protect one way or the other (there is one exception in one of the sidequests). The game empowers the player by allowing you to think that your decisions are the right ones, no matter what. Choice for the player is simply choosing one flavor of awesome over the other.

Choice in The Walking Dead is a diminishing force. For example, during the episode, I had to choose between two characters to save. I chose one, and the other died. Death in this game is brutal. It is gory to the point of uncomfortability (but not to the point of absurdity). Furthermore, the death sticks around, affecting the player’s character and the other characters in significant ways. The player has to watch the consequences of their actions and think, “Did I make the right choice?”

And they might not have.

I found out later that, in that scenario, both of them could have been saved had I made the other choice. At first, I was a bit annoyed at this fact. After all, is that not just the developers being too unwilling to kill off a character?

But then I realized that it wasn’t. I realized that when I made the choice in the first place, I thought I might be able to save both of them for some reason, and had chosen accordingly. I simply made the wrong choice, and now I had to live with those consequences.

And that’s when I realized that this game was special.

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