“The Walking Dead” video game is the first one that I’ve watched someone play in its entirety, and felt enough attachment to enthusiastically complete again. The game’s narrative can be toyed with, and deposits my own psyche into the midst of zombie apocalypse. It’s my decision to chop off someone’s legs to save his life, or leave a woman to fend for herself, or save one teammate over the other. These are not easy choices, and bravo for the game’s designers to have written them in. “Show your stuff,” they say instead of me stating, “Why would that guy save him instead of her!” to the TV screen. With an abundance of zombie movies and shows as well as games, it was also nice to have a pretty original character. What’s offered in this post are personal experiences and collected lessons I hope to use for my own walk on this earth, furthered slightly by the game.
Writers suggest getting inside the head of someone who is completely opposite from your gender, ethnicity, social status, etc. to build an arsenal of personalities and motivations. While the main character is the same race, his life fails to resemble mine. He’s been through quite a lot, especially further in the game, but two more things we do share are absolute compassion for children and a strong will to survive. That joins us with the majority of humanity, just as Tell Tale Games must have planned it. As I (Lee) am hulled off in a police car, something mysterious and evil lurks ahead because it’s too quiet. The driver of the car tries to make small talk, and I get to choose whether to play nice and engage him or tell him where to take his small talk. From the moment our car crashes, I am pitted against monsters called walkers for the rest of the game.
I’m going to re-iterate some takeaway from zombie culture: dead inside and hungry for a former brother’s flesh, stage for survivors to love or hate, a desperate race to carpe diem against the clock, realizing the best in life, and defining humanity. The picture is oh-so ugly, but ridiculously beautiful. What was I doing before all of these life-or-death situations began? Who did I love? Why did I hurt them? Can I attempt a Christ-like errand if the little girl I’m left mothering needs me to die in order to live? Once you’ve placed me in a ten-hour box with these questions, stunning animation, great control, and cinematic effects, I will make time to spend there.
Hanging on the thread between thought and action, every scenario in the game oozes possibility. If I pick up the wrench instead of the saw, will that protect our team later when we’re ambushed? Should I have a drink with the man whose family just died or leave him alone? Much like adventure books, this game runs on the adrenaline of choice. Having so many choices all the time has proven crippling, yet it also frees us to feel more responsible for our destiny. And in the long run since I don’t believe we are responsible for deciding that ultimate destiny, this liberates my conscious even more to do what’s right in a simple video game. I’m holding on to Lee’s righteousness because I know the outcome will be joy, pending the grace he doles out while he’s around. That would make a pre-zombified existence wealthy. And if I choose to play him as a donkey’s crack, well the grace given to him later will make his life worth it.
Having put the controller down, I can meditate on the loveliness that is available for dwelling and attempt to choose a little wiser. Drowning out anger in social media and during traffic will mean a step closer to eternal hospitality and sweet, shimmering forgiveness.