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Walking Dead, The [game]

Entry updated 10 July 2018. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2012). Telltale Games. Android, Kindle, IoS, Mac, PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox360, XBoxOne.

The Walking Dead is a Survival Horror Videogame Comic by Telltale Games. The game takes the form of an interactive story where the player makes decisions, interacts with objects and fights Zombies, although the emphasis is on strong narrative and characterization. The game is based in the same world as Robert Kirkman's comic book series The Walking Dead (2003-current), and has won multiple awards and commendations.

The Walking Dead is a graphical adventure game (see Graphic Novel; Interactive Fiction), released across multiple formats in a series of episodes. The graphical style and pace of the game are intended to mimic the format of a comic or serial television show. Each episode takes 2-3 hours to play and contains a standalone story that follows the tale of a young survivor called Clementine or "Clem". In the first season, which consists of five episodes (2012), the player takes the role of Lee Everett, who meets Clem in the first episode and becomes her informal protector. In this respect the game echoes Naughty Dog's The Last of Us (2013), which also offers a harsh depiction of survival in a Post-Holocaust society, counterpoised with a strong portrayal of the complex relationship between a young adult and an older protagonist. In the second season (2013-2014), the player takes control of Clem directly and continues her story. A bridging episode; 400 Days (2013), takes place between the two seasons and also has Clem as the protagonist.

The Walking Dead bears some similarity to point and click adventure games popularized in the 1990s by game development company LucasArts – including Beneath a Steel Sky (1994) and Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle (1993) – but relies less on puzzle solving and more on the decisions made by the player during the game. These choices are usually presented on a "dialogue wheel" (or in this case, a list), which gives the player a series of options to choose from. Responses to "Quick Time" events, where the player must respond to a crisis by acting swiftly or making a fast decision, also feature within the game and usually drive the action in the game. These choices are a critical part of each game. Decisions made by Lee or Clementine affect outcomes and events throughout the game, Making alliances, choosing one person over another, or acting in a certain way will change the behaviour of other characters towards Lee or Clem and affect the overall story. In this way The Walking Dead emphasizes the complicated moral choices needed to survive (often there is no "right" answer). When these decisions are made, a small message appears on the screen, informing the player that the character will "remember" their choice, a device which is extremely effective in making the player constantly aware of the moral implications of their actions. Because of these choices, it is also possible for the game narrative to evolve in several different ways, with Lee or Clementine depicted as strikingly different personalities as a result.

If The Walking Dead is played in sequence on the same device, the game will recover memory from 400 Days and use this to determine which recurring characters appear in the second season. This is a similar dynamic to that of the Mass Effect (2007-2012) series, where characters are carried over (or not) from game to game, and where some element of player agency occurs from decisions made during play.

The game was praised both for its emotive characterization and narrative, and for revitalizing the adventure narrative game. It won several Game of the Year awards in 2012. The innovative art, which echoes that of a comic book, means that the game is also a good "entry level" game – a player does not have to be skilled in traditional videogames to enjoy it, nor to they need the stereotypical qualities of a gamer in order to play. The intense relationship between Lee and Clem and the depiction of Clementine as a powerful, interesting female protagonist has also been commended for introducing important new forms of relationships and narrative development within videogames. [EMS]


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