The lights are on
Power Member - Level 8
It finally happened, people. Last night, or should I say at 4:00 this morning, a videogame actually made me cry. And I don't mean like a stoic little tear slowly crawling down an otherwise hardened and emotionless face; I mean I full-on bawled like a b*tch. It was a cathartic experience, looking back on it. I think we all need a good cry now and then, whether you think you do or not, and it's good for my ego when I can have one and then blame it on something completely unrelated to my actual life.
That game was Telltale Games' The Walking Dead, and while I won't spoil what actually happened to emotionally destroy me, I'll just say “Episode 3,” and those of you who have played it will no doubt know what I'm talking about.
Once I returned to my emotional baseline, I was fascinated by the fact that a game had actually managed to make me cry. I cry more often than I'm man enough to admit, but I've only been made to cry twice before by some sort of entertainment medium: I cried when I was a kid and I watched a polar bear maul a penguin to death on National Geographic, and I cried during an episode of Criminal Minds called “Normal" (and those of you who have seen that episode will also no doubt know what caused it). No movie has ever made me cry, although Lilo and Stitch came close, and no book has ever made me cry, and in fact none of them have ever come close (and yes, I did read the entire Harry Potter series).
Though it was only after I grew up that I started (almost) crying about it.
Tragedy in games is not a new concept, but most videogames' attempts to strike an emotional chord with their audience usually end up falling hilariously short (see: every death in Halo: Reach and Gears of War 3). The Walking Dead defies this trope, however, through sheer characterization and proper pacing. The tragedy we watch unfold actually manages to drive home the emotion it seeks to because we actually like the character's involved, and because the entire scene doesn't just start and then immediately conclude in the span of time it takes for me to not give a ***. In fact, one could say it's the way this scene so obstinately drags its feet that makes it all the more painful.
So why can't I help but feel somewhat disappointed by it?
Well, while The Walking Dead does hold the useless honor of being the first game to make me cry, it didn't really take advantage of the fact that it's a game to do so. An overall lack of actual gameplay has been a complaint lobbed against Telltale Games' The Walking Dead from the beginning. For the most part, the tragedy that unfolds in Episode 3 happens mostly in cutscenes, and while there are a few instances where we're allowed to choose from some dialogue options, none of them really amount to much except for the final one. The most interactivity the scene involves is if the player decides to take it upon themselves to personally... ahem, “resolve the tragic situation,” but it was pretty easy for me to do, if only because there had been enough pain and suffering for one night and I was ready to put it all behind me.
I'm probably being a bit too unfair, though. In fact, I'm being very unfair. I wanted to say that this scene probably could've worked just as effectively in something like a movie, but then again not many movies these days have four hours to dedicate to proper storytelling. Maybe it would've worked in a TV series, and if AMC's The Walking Dead had taken a course similar to the videogame in this respect, it might have actually been good. In fact, there's a lot AMC can learn from Telltale Games.
Like how to include more characters that don't make me want to punch them in the teeth.
While the setting may be cliched and the characters occasionally grating, The Walking Dead is an absolute triumph of storytelling. I played through all of the first three episodes in a single, sleepless night, just because I had to know what happened next, and I can't wait until episodes 4 and 5 are released as well.