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  1. #1
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    A Walking Dead Retrospective: Making choices that don't matter, matter.

    A WALKING DEADRETROSPECTIVE:
    Making choices that don't matter, matter


    I beat The Walking Deadvideogame yesterday. It wasn't a triumphant victory, like the onesI'd been conditioned to expect from audacious action-adventures wherethe big hero saves not just the day, but all the days. Probably thewhole month to be honest. No, it was a much more sombre and harrowingvictory, one that felt narrowly earned and bittersweet but somewhathopeful. Like actual life I suppose.

    I sat there and stared atthe rolling credits, taking in the fitting country-esque music thatabsolutely nailed the duality of being incredibly uplifting, whilstmaking me want to kill myself. I stared not just at the black borders ofthe screen but through them, into the abyss behind, dead pixelsreflecting a dark image of my own face; one that I'd been forced toconfront more than once before in the last hour-or-so of gameplay. I waited for the inevitable post-credits scene, taking the opportunityto roll a cigarette, a rarity these days that normally only occursafter some bullshit masturbatory indie film I overly relate to or aparticular hard-hitting episode of Mad Men. The cigarette was anecessary tool for the 3:30 AM excursion to the parish green acrossthe road where I would sit on a park bench and contemplate thebottomless depths of reality, albeit this time after a videogame andnot a sexually-charged spat/drunken kebab (the only valid type ofkebab in England).


    In retrospect, the thingthat shocks me the most about this series of games isn't how muchthey affected me; I've been affected in similar ways by good examplesof media from every medium... rather it's in how these gamesengrossed me in the experience, made me feel like my choicesmattered, when none of them actually mattered. The game itself isessentially a linear series: you move from sphere to sphere,one-by-one in succession, solving puzzles and making hard-hittingdecisions that ultimately never change the path you're on. No matterwhat dialogue options I selected throughout the game, I wasinevitably drawn along a path that would always, ultimately andforever, lead to that final room. It was a force more powerful than I: the voice and hand of a God, not a religious one, but thekind that coordinates development and gives direction.Not an omnipotent or omnipresent individual, but certainly one whocould shine a light on my life to better reveal who and what Iam.

    In some ways "non-linear" linearly-modelledexperiences like that of The Walking Dead are an apt and powerfulmetaphor for life. Whilst our lives give us the illusion of absolutenon-linearity, they ultimately have fairly strict criteria: they endup being a series of scenarios on which we have little influence,and no matter who we are or how well we do we are all going to end upin the same place in the same way. We are always going to end upin that room. It was destiny. There was no escape.

    And thatright there's the ticket. That's the nail-head hit. That's the zombie bite in the apocalypse. In a world wherewe all end up in the same place via the same basic route, the journeymatters so much more. The decisions I make might not affect theprogression of my story but they certainly affect who I am, and thepeople around me. The fear of being seen differently whilst walkingthis straight path drove me to invest myself further than any othergame in recent history. When I reached that final confrontation, asinevitable as it were, I could stand tall and openly back the choicesI'd made. The journey was my journey, even if the actual steps I tookwere the exact same steps everyone else took. I could learn about andsubsequently lose friends over their treatment of Clementine, such is the power of those immaterial decisions.

    Ultimately the games are a working proof that just givingplayers the ability to impact their world, however small andultimately insignificant those impacts might prove to be, creates anexperience of immersion that just raises the bar in terms ofdeliverance of a story. If you haven't played them, play them, and ifyou have played them but mistreated Clementine, give me your name andaddress so we can settle this like men.

    tactful.tactful@gmail.com

  2. #2
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    Ultimately it's all about how you play Lee, and how it sits with you in terms of the choices you make and how those play out with your fellow survivors. There's a degree of unreality to the traditional model of the action protagonist whose every action changes the course of events, so yes in away it's quite refreshing to play a game that operates on a more macro level, and recognizes that rationality doesn't always prevail when it comes to others.

  3. #3
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    In some ways "non-linear" linearly-modelledexperiences like that of The Walking Dead are an apt and powerfulmetaphor for life. Whilst our lives give us the illusion of absolutenon-linearity, they ultimately have fairly strict criteria: they endup being a series of scenarios on which we have little influence,and no matter who we are or how well we do we are all going to end upin the same place in the same way. We are always going to end upin that room. It was destiny. There was no escape.


    So unbelievably stupid.

  4. #4
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    "Hay this game offers no player choice but keeps prompting you for choice like it affects something! Then you press Q a bunch of times and occasionally click the left mouse button!! But that's okay cuz isn't that all life is? LOL!!"

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    "Hay this game offers no player choice but keeps prompting you for choice like it affects something! Then you press Q a bunch of times and occasionally click the left mouse button!! But that's okay cuz isn't that all life is? LOL!!"
    Shouldn't you be answering those questions in the other thread George? Also maybe learn to use the edit button whilst you're at it?

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    Fix your goddamn space bar.

  7. #7
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    We are failing to:

    Quote Originally Posted by The Rules
    1. Be excellent to each other.

  8. #8
    Lesser Hivemind Node frightlever's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jams O'Donnell View Post
    We are failing to:
    I miss the old days when there was a sub-forum for long-form introspective opinion pieces. Inevitably as you scatter words on the screen you will, quite possibly without even meaning to, declare something to be the absolute truth that others will consider heresy.

    Consider that expressing an opinion invites disagreement.

    But yeah, there's disagreement and there's ad hominem.

    At least when it was in a sub-forum I could avoid these thinly veiled blog posts that no-one would otherwise read.

    EDIT: ah, here we go, the original blog post:

    http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Tac...--239810.phtml

    I'm not saying there's anything wrong with posting in two places at once. I'm actually posting this exact same message on a Recipe forum. Nothing wrong with that. But why not just link to your blog instead of making it look like you made a considered decision to post here?

    Also, we can not all be prima ballerinas, and this sort of public audition has a slim chance of making a difference.
    Last edited by frightlever; 05-12-2012 at 12:07 PM.

  9. #9
    Lesser Hivemind Node Shooop's Avatar
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    But will that room always be the same no matter what choices you make? Sure you may always end up there because some linearity is necessary to tell a story, but will the situation in that room change based on your previous choices?
    Virtual Pilot 3Dô NEVER NOT SCAM!

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    If you buy some ice cream, you have to choose between 50 flavours but you still end up with ice cream.
    That's The Walking Dead. You have agency - but it's not complete.
    Life railroads you into predetermined outcomes all the time.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by SirKicksalot View Post
    If you buy some ice cream, you have to choose between 50 flavours but you still end up with ice cream.
    That's The Walking Dead. You have agency - but it's not complete.
    Life railroads you into predetermined outcomes all the time.
    yeah man tottally, like right on, like isn't life just like on rails man, like a big puppetmaster and we're the puppets aaaahh yeaah pass the bong this shit's tight, yeah

  12. #12
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    Even granting the ludicrous argument that all of life's major choices are essentially false and non-existent, and even granting the absurd notion that a person in the midst of a zombie apocalypse like Lee is powerless to make any substantive decisions, that lack of agency does not make for a compelling 'game.'

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    Even granting the ludicrous argument that all of life's major choices are essentially false and non-existent, and even granting the absurd notion that a person in the midst of a zombie apocalypse like Lee is powerless to make any substantive decisions, that lack of agency does not make for a compelling 'game.'
    Tell that to the judges of the VGAs Troll.

    Also when are you going to quit with the double posting? There's an edit post option for posts.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sketch's Avatar
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    Meh, I wouldn't bother, he's clearly just saying crap for the sake of it and has no interest in proper debate.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woundedbum View Post
    Meh, I wouldn't bother, he's clearly just saying crap for the sake of it and has no interest in proper debate.
    True enough. I wonder if he's going to become like a 'that's not a game' Wizardry and haunt the forums for years popping up whenever TWD is mentioned to repeat his mantra. :)

    Still interesting times.

    The games detractors are putting the win down to the popularity of the TV show now it appears (judging by the reaction on GAF) even though there's not any real crossover between them (Hell the shows producers have been pimping the upcoming activision shooter, not Telltales game at all)

    I did particularly like this though in response to the GAF thread 'Does The Walking Dead winning GotY at the VGAs meaning anything for the industry?': -

    It means that "Hey, we should actually hire some competent fucking writers."
    Definitely hoping that indeed happens (long overdue). Beyond TWD & Spec Ops:The line I thought overall it was a pretty turgid year for games writing. ME3 certainly had some good moments, but Bioware really need to move away from the slightly patronising /hand holding binary 'good/evil' 'renegade/paragon' conversation/world model and make it more about the conversation. Your average gamer (apparently av age is now about 37) doesn't need to be told what's right or wrong any more.
    Last edited by Kadayi; 08-12-2012 at 09:43 AM.

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