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Why the limited choices and ending are perfect

posted by iamjohnsname on - last edited - Viewed by 203 users

This game isn't just the best I've ever played, it's amongst the best experiences I've had with art. I've heard meaningful songs, seen meaningful films, but rarely have I been lucky enough to have experienced a game like this.

The film critic Roger Ebert has said many times that video games can never be art, and though I flat out disagree with him, I agree with one of the reasons he gives as his justification: he says something along the lines of "if the user can influence the outcome then the narrative isn't something chosen by the work's creators and hence, has no real meaning."

I'm paraphrasing, but I agree with what he's getting at, even if I can think of plenty of examples that prove him wrong.

The way The Walking Dead balances the ideas of "freedom of choice" with "meaningful story arc" is perfect: you get to basically write the dialogue to the game/movie/TV show as you're playing it. You influence the supporting characters' feelings and actions by your own choices, and even some important character choices for Lee (will he cut his arm off, will he be considerate, selfish, ambivalent, etc...) but there's no influence over the ultimate narrative arc. Lee is gonna end up dead/zombified no matter what we do. And that's the way it ought to be.

The (extremely talented) writers of this game crafted a beautiful story around Lee and Clementine and to have allowed the player to have Lee survive would absolutely have compromised the emotional impact of the whole journey. The first shot of Lee in the game is of his hands, cuffed together in the back of the police car. The last time we see him, his hand is cuffed again, but our feelings about him are very different now. There's a kind of poetry to that storytelling that is beautiful and highly sophisticated and simply wouldn't exist at all if we could simply avoid that scenario or have him escape his fate.

Basically what I'm getting at is I see lots of people complaining about the lack of real control over the outcome and fate of the characters (which is totally justified if that's the experience you're looking for in a game) but for me, I saw the experience more like watching a movie with a gripping story and powerful ending, where I was lucky enough to be able to influence some of the events and characters along the way. And in that respect, the game is perfect.

I hope that Season Two is just as well written with characters just as compelling and a narrative just as perfect, where our influence over the events will not ultimately effect the outcome of the plot. Additionally, I really hope that we are introduced to some entirely new characters rather than seeing Clementine return. Lee and Clementine's story is told, and it was told wonderfully. To elaborate on what happens to Clementine now is up to each of us in our imaginations. Lee never got to find out what happens to her, so neither should we.

4 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • The story is grade A, but making hard decisions without them affecting anything thats an illusion.It should say the dialogue is tailored to how you play.

  • You make some bold statements, but you never really go into detail. How exactly does severely limiting player choice automatically make the story more "meaningful"?

    It may be easier for a developer to focus on specific aspects of the story when there aren't very many variables involved, but it hurts the "suspension of disbelief" factor to find out that your decisions have no real impact. The player is less likely to be empathetic to the world and its characters if the player does not feel that he/she is a part of that world. I have watched hundreds of movies, but I have never felt any genuine connection or emotion, because really, who cares what happens to these people? The Walking Dead gives you a reason to care, because YOU feel that YOU are a part of this universe.

    The game falls short in that the storytelling aspect is very transparent. You've played the game once? You know exactly what is going to happen, and the thrill is gone. Sure, you still want more of the universe, you can still enjoy the changes in dialog and other relatively minor differences, but in the end, the experience didn't change.

    You don't even really have to have completed the game to notice this. For example, if you choose not to steal the supplies from the Stranger's car, his encounter feels very contrived. He has no real reason to hate YOU, he followed you for hundreds of miles and concocted an elaborate plan to torture and kill you because you... were in a group that stole his supplies? He outright acknowledges that you weren't involved in his family's demise, and yet, he hates you no less than he would had you stolen from him.

    Also, Clementine should return, but not as a "daughter". She needs to be treated as an individual group member, as to not hurt the bond that she had with Lee. Having a repeat of the first game would hurt the experience, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the reappearance of a character of much emotional importance. You have a special attachment to her, and you genuinely care about her well-being. Telltale would be foolish to not take advantage of this attachment.

    Not to mention that Clementine's reappearance would present Telltale with a wonderful opportunity to carry over some of the player's choices from the first season.

  • The game doesn't give you complete control over the story, it gives you just the right amount of control where you start to really feel something.

    Eg. saving Carley instead of Doug may not have affected the entirety of the plot but it did let me enjoy the company of a really awesome character and then actually feel something when she was lost.

    Having those feelings really made this game awesome.

  • I'm hoping for season 2 that Telltale will allow us to have substantially greater control over the story, including the option of multiple endings. It's frustrating that particular events in the game are "fixed" and no decision on your part can really alter them (Lee's bite probably being the worst).

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