I will begin by thanking Amras from The Gamesmen for being the one who finally forced me to play The Walking Dead by gifting it to me on Steam. (I was told, erroneously, by the website Can I Play It? that it would not work on my machine. I’ve since heard folks say that such websites operate on wild speculation and should not be trusted.)
I agree with all of the superb reviews I’ve encountered, and I’m happy to admit that I was foolish to avoid playing this game for so long. I’ve only finished Chapter One, and I’m eager to play the rest. That said, three problems are picking at my brain, and I want to get them out before I proceed with the rest of this superb adventure.
These are concerns I’ve had with other games, so please don’t think I’m picking on Telltale Games. It’s also worth noting that I’m quite impressed by the storytelling, character development, dialogue, and pacing of this game so far. This article contains spoilers for Chapter One of The Walking Dead, as well as Mass Effect and Heavy Rain.
To paraphrase sage green dwarf Yoda: ‘Blue skies? Happiness? Pah! A gamer craves not these things!’ Please do not sue me, Mr Lucas. My net worth would barely pay for your weekly beard trimming session. There was once a time when we all played with hoops and sticks, gathered around the wireless for the weekly drama, and played games on spectacularly rustic machines, with the processing power of a P.E. teacher. These classic titles had a limited palette to pain the screen with, and thus we found the rise of happy-happy, joy-joy ‘blue sky games’. After all, it was all that the hardware was capable of: gaudy primary colours, and game worlds vivid and roseate. All of which is a lie. As my good friend Marcel Proust tells us: ‘Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.’ And he wrote his best work in bed. No arguing with that.
The advent of the processing capacity, and graphical potency, of the progressively advancing systems, meant that, finally, we could appreciate game worlds and universes of colours and themes other than golden platform worlds. Such happy places are the dream of the marketing department, a lowest common denominator of aesthetics, and pleasing to that coveted mass market demographic. It takes a deft sense of vision and creative certainty to be able to weave a digital world sombre and bleak, and to keep it as compelling as it is despairing, with that L.S. Lowry ambience of subtle dismay and industrial futility. Weary of the buoyant worlds of Sonic and Mario? The answer is here. One final point. It is all too easy to simply regurgitate a list of depressing game endings, and sell the concept short. I am equally concerned with the holistic experience, games that emanate the brilliantly lugubrious from the first moments, unto the end. Put aside that Wii party game, and consider some of the bravest, saddest titles created…
SPOILER WARNING OMG! WTF! BBQ! I may be revealing information pertaining to the plot, or the ending, of the games covered. If you don’t want to risk accidental revelation, then just skip that game’s section. The Lizard has warned you. Seriously, though. Aeris dies. It’s been over a decade. It’s hardly an epiphany.
Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for the games Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins, and Heavy Rain.
Okay, so I’ve never actually fallen in love with a character from a video game. But I have felt a certain connection with some video game characters (especially Non-Player Characters, or NPCs); you probably have, too. As games develop, we’ll have more of these friendships — and they’ll become more meaningful. The possibility for genuine human connection with virtual beings is becoming more and more powerful as time goes on. The amazing thing is: It has almost nothing to do with technology.
I’ll admit right up front that what follows is kinda long. There’s lots of words here, and I won’t be offended if some people take an attitude of TLDR. But these are important philosophical concepts, and I want to see the conversation move beyond the stale, boring black-and-white argument of “yes it is”/”no it isn’t”.