Published on January 10th, 2013 | by Ricardo1
GOTY 2012 — Ricardo: The Walking Dead
2012 was an odd year for me and games. Where oftentimes I find myself struggling to narrow down my ten favorite releases, this year I’m stumped to find even five games I can muster great enthusiasm for; certainly a symptom of my own increasing cynicism and not the quality of releases… at least I’m willing to assume.
One game that had my complete and utter enthusiasm, however, was Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead. Well, perhaps “enthusiasm” is not the correct terminology — what constitutes enthusiasm in The Walking Dead is when the game allows fifteen minutes to pass without having something terrible befall one of the characters it’s spent such time making you love.
And the storytelling here is most certainly ace, but to that games have never really told a story the way this episodic game told its story is not necessarily true. Bioware has done a good job delivering that “tailored experience” before with its Mass Effect and Dragon Age games; Fable (however horribly disappointed I am with it as a series) has delivered entire worlds that react and change to your actions.
The difference is these games have always made sure these elements work in service to the game play, and not the other way around. After all, these are “games,” right? They need to have an additional hook outside of just, “it tells a really good story,” don’t they?
The Walking Dead suggests otherwise.
Telltale’s team has flipped the proverbial script and made a game where presentation and game play are both slavishly in servitude to its story. By putting a time constraint on every question from “How are you feeling?” to “Who needs to live and who needs to die,” the game inserts you directly into the pressure, the conflict and the uncertainty of its characters’ world.
You are, for all intents and purposes, Lee Everett. It is you, not Telltale, who decides what kind of person you will be in this nightmare. You will do this with decisions, not actions, and just what you decide might reveal more about yourself than you might care to know. This is a depressing tale, and it’s one that is not for the faint of heart.
Again, The Walking Dead does all this not with soul-crushing difficulty or addiction-fueling multiplayer. It does this with story. I could go on and on about the quality of the voice-acting and the way I loved how the game’s presentation worked in service of its graphical limitations and not against it- hell, I could even go on and on about its faults — but I fear I’d be getting off point.
The point is this: In sea of sameness and in a medium where how many hours you can squeeze out of an already soulless experience is somehow valued over how much fun or how impactful of an experience a game offers, The Walking Dead stands as the most memorable gaming experience I had in 2012. It is an experience unlike anything available anywhere else, even in video games.
Like Bastion in 2011, it is the game that left the biggest emotional impression on me and on the way I look at games; a year where I struggle to remember ten games that left me with anything to ponder has five of its slots filled by all five episodes of this extraordinary story.