Decision Autopsy: The Walking Dead, Episode One
Instead of Retrospection this week, I’m going to be doing something a little different. Last year, Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead took the world by storm, offering a different spin on the zombie horror genre, one focused more on the fear of making the wrong choice, rather than the fear of danger itself. A narratively focused, decision-making laden game, The Walking Dead became a pillar of the strengths of the medium in unique storytelling. Up until now, I haven’t played it.
So what I’m going to do is use the choice breakdown at the end of every episode to write a feature in which I show what choice I made, explain my reasoning behind it, and talk about my regrets and hopes for the choice in the long run. I’ll do this for each of the five episodes, then in the end, I’ll go back through all of it and discuss how things played out in totality. Naturally, this is going to be spoilerrific, so if you haven’t played the game, make sure you go and do that before checking out this feature.
So with that being said, let’s get down to it with…
I was straightforward with Hershel here because of my experience with men like him in my own life. Half of my family comes from the South, and I’ve met a lot of older Southern men like Hershel in my life, and if there’s one thing they value, it’s people that don’t bullshit them.
As a result, I didn’t try to pull a fast one on him here and was honest with him about my past. He might judge me for what I did, but at least he’ll know I’m not a liar, and I think in the long run that’ll get me farther with him than the lie would have. He strikes me as the kind of person who would’ve seen right through that sort of thing anyway, so I don’t think I had much to gain by trying to be slippery.
This was a fun one because I didn’t really know myself just what it was that Lee had done to wind up in that cop car at the start of the game yet. I had to trust that I wasn’t digging myself down a hole here, and Telltale was smart to make me have to trust Lee myself at the beginning of the game the same way he was asking Hershel to trust him. Lee is a complex character, and I’m getting a lot of enjoyment out of trying to balance his own needs and past with the need to stick with Clem and keep her protected, which quickly becomes the game’s major motivation and moral anchor.
I went with Duck on this one because I was already starting to read something of a father complex onto Lee at this point. I think Duck was in a more escapable situation than Shawn was, but I overrode that logic with the fact that Duck was a kid. It’s possible Kenny would have been able to free Duck without my help, or that Shawn would’ve been screwed either way, but I kneejerked here and couldn’t leave a kid helpless. Shawn bit the dust as a result, which is a shame, because he was a useful guy.
The major downside here is that I pissed off Hershel really quick by not trying to save his son. All the goodwill I might have gained by being honest with him sort of went out the window here. I think, though, that Kenny would’ve turned on me if I hadn’t gone for Duck, and it seems like I was going to go with Kenny in his car either way, so getting Kenny firmly on my side this way might be a good thing down the road. The other negative aspect of this decision is that in the long run, Shawn probably would’ve been more useful to have a live than Duck, since Duck’s just a kid and isn’t really a particularly smart one at that. Alas, my sentimentality won out in the end, and the kid lives. Here’s hoping it doesn’t bite me in the ass down the road.
I sided with Kenny here because we had a rapport building and I didn’t really think Duck had gotten himself bitten from what I’d seen. I think Duck’s mother would have had a much more severe and noticeable reaction if she’d found a bite on her son, and so I trusted her and Kenny not to be lying to me and took Kenny’s side against Larry here. Larry was also being hugely reactionary and irrational, which I just can’t stand in any context. It bothered me when Hershel did it, and it bothers me with Larry. People who can’t keep a cool head won’t ever get my backing, so this one was easy.
The downside, of course, is that Larry sure isn’t a fan of me now and there’s a lot of tension amongst our group. Most people seem to have been pretty okay with the way I handled it, but Larry’s definitely not in my corner and is going to be the first one I throw under the bus after what he did later in the episode. Kenny is now firmly my bro, and I’m going to try to keep it that way as long as I can afford to because Kenny has a car. It’s like being high school: make friends with the dude who has a vehicle.
The stats here actually surprised me, but I think that’s probably because most people saved Shawn instead of Duck and I imagine Kenny is far less charitable to you if you didn’t attempt to save Duck. Since this choice flows from that one, the majority there is probably the same majority here. Since I saved Duck, though, Kenny seems like a legit bro so I’m glad to have him on my side.
I didn’t give Irene the gun, although the game didn’t really give me an accurate way to convey my opinion on the situation at the time. See, the game tried to frame my refusal to hand her the firearm as some kind of empathy, but what I really wanted to do was axe her myself because guns are loud and zombies come to loud things. I would’ve liked to have an even more heartless option to just execute her quietly with the fire axe. Yes, I’m a bastard.
She got the gun anyway and proved me right for not wanting her to get the gun, because the gun was loud and zombies came to the loud thing. See what I’m getting at here? Given a choice between Loud Option and Not Loud Option I’m gonna go ahead and go with the latter. Irene was pretty screwed anyway, so this didn’t really seem like much of an ethical quandary. Also, I’m really hesitant to give anyone a gun in this game, let alone someone who is both crazy and turning into a zombie.
I don’t really know how much this one is going to come into play down the road. Maybe Carley would think less of me if I had given it to her, so I guess it’s good that I held off on that one. Granted, they probably wouldn’t have been a fan of the “kill her myself quietly” option that I wanted to take. We’ll just remain comfortable in the fact that they don’t know I’m willing to behead any of them the minute they become a threat.
I went with Carley here, but this one was a toughie. Doug’s technical expertise would have been pretty useful at times, I feel, and Carley is kind of useless with technology so if we ever need her to fix something, we’re in trouble. She’s a good shot, though, which is a skill that I am unwilling to undervalue. A person who is great at shooting things in the head is someone I want on my side in the zombie apocalypse over someone who can reprogram remotes. Sorry, Doug.
It also seemed like Carley was a more sure bet in the rescue. Doug was kind of screwed, as he was basically being pulled through a window while Carley was just sort of being loosely held by the leg. It’s possible on that same note that she didn’t need my help, though, so it could be a double edged choice. Either way, I went with the brawn over the brains and saved the sharpshooter instead of the smart guy.
To be honest, I also sort of liked Carley more, and although I like to think that didn’t play into the choice much, it was probably more of a factor than I’d like to admit. Carley is levelheaded and competent, and if we ever wound up in the situation where we needed to repopulate the world, having more diversity of sexes is sort of a good thing. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
So far, I’m pretty confident in my decisions, although I think Telltale made a good case for both points when given the chance. I really love the way the game is making me come to snap choices in any case, and I’m curious to see just how much my choices in this first episode are going to echo through the other four. I’m also curious to see if any of the saving choices are not truly binary; I went with the person in less danger both times, and I’m wondering if it’s possible for Duck to live even if you choose to save Shawn, or the same for Carley and Doug. Stay tuned.