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Challenging the Artistic Choices of the Walking Dead Game

by William Schwartz

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One thing that always bugged me about the Walking Dead Game, you don’t really get any choice whether or not to give and train Clementine on how to use a gun. With the recent mass shooting in Connecticut just before Christmas and the American gun culture being questioned once again, the Walking Dead Game just doesn’t feel the same, even though it did always go a little overboard at times.

There’s a reason why you can’t harm kids in Bethesda’s games like Fallout 3 and the Elder Scrolls series, they’re just kids! And it’s just a video game! I’m not even sure if the Walking Dead is a video game, at least not a traditional one.

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One thing that always bugged me about the Walking Dead Game, you don’t really get any choice whether or not to give and train Clementine on how to use a gun.  With the recent mass shooting in Connecticut just before Christmas and the American gun culture being questioned once again, the Walking Dead Game just doesn’t feel the same, even though it did always go a little overboard at times.

There’s a reason why you can’t harm kids in Bethesda’s games like Fallout 3 and the Elder Scrolls series, they’re just kids!  And it’s just a video game!  I’m not even sure if the Walking Dead is a video game, at least not a traditional one.

I’ve seen violence against children and the gun culture in modern art forms handled much better, and more subtly.  The gratuitous nature of the Walking Dead TV series and the Walking Dead Game always seemed overdone to me.  I’m not a zombie fan or splat-gore geek, mostly because the people in it act like cartoonish idiots, but that’s one of the hallmarks of the horror genre.  And that’s mostly what the Walking Dead is.  That’s probably why the TV show was left out of the Golden Globes nominations for best drama.  But now that the Walking Dead Game has won multiple GOTY awards real arguments are starting to be made about its artistic merit.  This is a good conversation to be having about video games, and it might be unfair to compare the Walking Dead Game to recent tragedies, but if video games are to grow up, such cultural comparisons have to be made.  And be done the right way, not the NRA way.

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Lee still is the most well developed character I can remember in the entire Walking Dead series, mostly because you have a partial say in how to develop him.  I haven’t read any of the comics and watched only until about halfway thru the second TV series, when that other cop friend of the main character killed a redneck and used him as bait to run away from a horde of zombies.  That’s when I stopped watching.

I’ve lived through a natural disaster, the 9.0 Earthquake in the Sendai and northern Japan region.  For me, it was only a week without power, a few without gasoline, and about a month without hot water, but others were in much worse shape than I and the world didn’t fall apart.  There was no looting or sacrificing people, and if I remember correctly, it was mostly the rest of the word losing their shit over radiation!  I’m not at all going to compare this to a zombie holocaust, because there is no such thing!  And I don’t even want to try to compare Japanese culture to American culture and how they each deal with hard times.

Zombies are popular in America, it doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.  Then again, guns are too.  Neither are likely to disappear any time soon.  Maybe that’s the reason why the Walking Dead is so popular, two of the most popular forms of American culture up front and center, at the same time.  Guns and zombies!

The Walking Dead Game went a direction I didn’t want, and now that I’ve started a second play-thru, with pretty much the same thing happening, it appears it’s another ‘interactive narrative’ that only plays lip service to giving the player choices.  The game says it adapts to choices that you make for Lee, but it doesn’t.  There’s only one ending, almost all the characters die.   Maybe that was the point, or an artistic choice.

On my next play-thru, I’m just going to make Lee sit and wait at the tree house, not inputting any commands and leave my PS3 running forever.  So I always know where Clementine is.

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