A lot has been said about The Walking Dead video game, last year's surprise episodic hit from Telltale Games that has many in the industry voicing their praise and a few others their disdain for the game. I haven't completely finished the entire series yet (just finished up Episode 3 last weekend) as my family decided to play through the game together whenever our schedules align, which seems to happen every few weeks or so. Yes, for family night (I can sense the anti-video gamers cringing in shock now) we all gather 'round the living room TV with one of us (so far just my daughter) in charge of the controls while the rest of us sit there yelling...

"Go over there."

"Check this."

"Pick that up."

"B. Pick B. NO, I said pick B!"

"Mash the button. Mash the button. Come on, faster."

"My word, I can't believe that just happened."

"Phew. That was pretty graphic."

"What the..."

"Who did we lose?"

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

"Don't open that, there's a zombie in there."

"Wow. I didn't see that coming."

"Ouch. You didn't mash the button fast enough."

"Just try it."

"Well, try it again!"

"Use that over there."

"There's how many of us left?"

"Can you pick that up?"

"Why can't you pick that up?"

"You ought to be able to pick that up."

"This would a lot easier if you could pick that up."

"You know whichever you choose, the other one is going to die."

"OMG, did you really just choose that without consulting the family?"

One of my favorite parts of The Walking Dead is probably not yours. Maybe it is and I just don't know it yet. It's something I haven't really seen anybody discuss, at least in the various articles and stories I've read. It doesn't have anything to do with the story telling or the characters; it has nothing to do with the game mechanics that require you to make life and death decisions; it certainly isn't the Quick Time Events (QTE) you have to perform to avoid being eaten by a zombie.

Now, some of you might be thinking you have it figured out, that playing the game as a family and experiencing the pain and heartache of every decision is my favorite part, which would obviously not be your favorite part. Well, I do admit that is high on the list as I am a firm believer in the family that plays together, stays together.

But no, that's not it either. It probably should be and maybe deep down it is and I'm just not admitting it to myself, because truthfully, I don't know why I am so fascinated with this particular part of the game that I am about to share with you.

And don't worry...this is spoiler free.

My favorite part of The Walking Dead video game is - at the end of each episode, at least on the Xbox 360 version and I assume on the others as well, there is a summary screen that shows all of the decision points you have to make throughout the episode and how you and others who have played the game responded.

(All the important info has been edited out - spoiler free)

Sure, I'm satisfied with the experience the game delivers (I dare say I'm enjoying it). And yes, I absolutely love playing it together with my family - listening to each member debate the morality of their choices or offer up solutions to the puzzles. It has resulted in some rather entertaining family nights, for sure.

But as we play each episode and each time one of the tough decisions come up, I consider first, what would I decide; second, what will my family decide; and finally, what did everyone who has already played this before decide.

I don't (or should I say we don't) rush to get to the end, but seeing the summary report at the end of the round is certainly the highlight for me. Perhaps it's because I'm fascinated with statistics and the lengths developers go to predicting gamer behavior. It's a topic I've discussed in other blogs - how can I do something that I feel is completely and totally off the wall, yet discover the developers took it into consideration. And not only took it into consideration, but expected me to do that. I suppose it's that whole chaos theory of finding order and patterns amidst the confusion.

Three episodes in and the results have been mixed thus far. My daughter was working on independent ops with a few of the choices in episode 2. As she made a choice contrary to what the rest of the family thought was the best choice, we'd sit there with dropped jaws in disbelief. But by the end, as we reviewed the summary report, we discovered she was far from alone with some of her decisions.

Episode 3 seemed far more balanced, but even we were surprised with how the overall population of gamers responded to some of the morally demanding decisions. I can only imagine how things will play out in the final two episodes as the game finally concludes but I eagerly await the results - our own and those of our fellow gamers. I hear I'm in for a real treat (tear jerker might be more appropriate).

One of my favorite parts of The Walking Dead, is probably not yours...unless of course your favorite part is the final summary report highlighting the tough choices you made along the way that got you to that screen in the first place.

Before I close though, consider this feature and how it could be incorporated into other games. Sure we have games that highlight other individual stats and comparisons made with our peers at the end of the round, but most games that offer you "choose the red pill or blue pill" scenarios...seldom do we get to see what most gamers choose by comparison.

"You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."


Some games are natural and obvious choices like Mass Effect - how many of you who played Mass Effect 3 let Garrus outshoot you in scene on the Citadel where you take a break for a little bro-time? I think it would be amazing if at periodic intervals, or perhaps even a feature available on the terminal in my cabin, if I could pull up a summary report that shows the choices I was faced with, what decision I made, and how other gamers responded to the same choices (and if it does exist and I don't know about it, then I am embarrassed I somehow missed it). Where this might be particularly interesting is the Suicide Mission from Mass Effect 2 - seeing how gamers as a whole chose the characters they did and what the success and failure rates were.

"Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination." -Vin Scully

In closing, The Walking Dead is truly a unique experience that proves not all great games have to utilize a traditional format or be published by a big name publisher; that a game with great artwork, interesting characters and a tense plot line can be successful; and that the choices you make can have a huge impact on the outcome of the game. Now if I could just get a summary report for who agrees and who disagrees, I'd be set.