It’s holiday season, fellow game enthusiasts! I’m not talking about those ones about turkeys and fat men getting intimate with your chimney. Halloween is next week and that means candy, costumes and more candy. Maybe even costumes full of candy! That makes it the perfect time to focus on the scary stuff like zombies, vampires and an entire commercial break full of nothing but campaign ads. One of my current favorite franchises is The Walking Dead which consists of graphic novels, a TV show and, of course, video games. There’s a shooter coming out some time next year based on the series, but my current fixation is on Telltale’s episodic adventure games about surviving a surge of undead in the peachy state of Georgia. It is with great pleasure that I take a moment to pontificate about Telltale’s The Walking Dead. That means I’m going to lump a lot of praise on their zombie game. Radio brrrrrraaaiiiinnnnns!
Everyday they’re shuffling
Zombie murder simulators became a dime a dozen not long ago in the video game scene. Cutting down mindless enemies with machetes, rifles and MacGyver-style inventions is no doubt a guilty pleasure, but worlds populated with zombies don’t have to be all about the undead body count. The Walking Dead is such an example. While the world is indeed in disarray from the shuffling hordes of hungry dead people, the majority of the tension is based on interactions between the survivors as they try to cope with their new lifestyle.
As of this moment, I’ve ventured a little ways into Episode 3 of Telltale’s game which promise continuity of choices the player makes between episodes. Unfortunately, I’ve been afflicted with a curse of game launch issues and saves not being loaded. While a disheartening problem, I’m not going to delve much further into that downer territory. When it works (and even when it doesn’t), I find myself truly invested into standing by my morals or trying to do the right thing. Due to time limits in making choices, things get really hectic when a friend you’ve sided with expects you to have his or her back and you just aren’t sure they’re right that time. There have been quite a few times I’ve gotten lectured by other survivors about my tendency to be like Switzerland. If there was a button to let me say, “You two work this out, cause I think I heard my phone ringing waaaay over there”, I would have pressed it on more than one occasion.
Nothing lasts forever though and not everyone can stick around for the long haul. When zombies happen, they happen hard and choices demand a lightning quick reaction. Do you save the person with firearm skills, or do you save the guy who knows electronics? Does a person who might have been bitten need to be put down as soon as possible? Some of these decisions are tactical, but the truly heart-string decisions involve your actions as the player in the eyes of your group and mostly Clementine, the young girl you hope to protect. At the end of Episode 2, I made a decision that I didn’t have to out of disgust and anger. Clementine saw me do this and her impression of me altered.
To clarify, the game gives you the option of being told when an event like this happens and I’ve opted to turn it off. I can say for sure that she was phased but the look on her face and the tension I sensed between us. I felt bad. The Walking Dead legitimately made me feel so bad. It changed the way I handled myself and that speaks volumes about the connection that a video game can extend to its player. Clementine and the other survivors aren’t real, but I think of them as being as flesh and blood as myself. I want their approval and I dread their disdain. Experiences like these should really be why I want to play games, even if grabbing a bat and pummeling a clown car’s worth of dead-eyed zombies is a great stress reliever from time to time.
Into the dark
I sense my full time with The Walking Dead will be memories that stick with me for the rest of time, or at least until more games go down this road of welcoming this kind of introspective downtime. When the choices flash in front of me and things go wrong, I can’t help but think, “What if?” Why did I make the choice I did? How stressed was I when it happened? And then I live with it. I accept that I might have just sealed the destiny of someone I’ve grown to care about or maybe even myself. Sure, it’s all just a game, but I want to see things through and make it right for these characters. And if just a couple of us can find the light together by the end of Episode 5, then even my mistakes will have been worthwhile.
Incredipede – This brainchild of indie developer Colin Northway and his wife Sarah is finally available and it’s as charming as it is bizarre to guide a one-eyed creature through short puzzling levels as you manipulate its limbs in the funniest (and saddest) of ways. Please check this one out!
Punch Quest – Free apps are the best in price, but not always the best in quality or execution. This infinite running quest full of monsters and punching is pretty fun though, but that should be no surprise from the concept alone. So much punching.
As always, I’ll be keeping my ears open to the world of gaming and you should too.
Radio Waves is a segment where Aaron aka BGRadio takes some time out of his video gaming schedule to reveal his latest game fix, favorite gaming story and mention a taste of what’s over the game horizon in general. It can be whatever you want it to be, except that it’s actually about what I want it to be. That cool? So put on your robe and your favorite fuzzy slippers, let’s chill and talk about what’s currently on the weekly radio.