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    gbayles's The Walking Dead: Season Two (PC)

    [February 23, 2015 01:40:06 PM]
    As much as I hate violent video games and zombie stories, I'm going to finish The Walking Dead later tonight. It's funny how it's worked out so far, because I really didn't want to like the game. When I first started playing, the art was kitschy and annoying for the most part, and I didn't like the characters or the general direction of the story. As it's progressed, though, I've been able to see some of the logic behind different design decisions, and I've actually enjoyed the story a lot. I find that there are some characters about whom I basically don't care, but there are others who, when they die or leave, it actually means something to me personally.

    It's a hard balance, who to save, because in the end, you realize that you can't really save anyone. You try to save Sarah over and over, and you realize in the end that despite your best efforts, if she doesn't want to live--if she's not burning with life--then she'll be consumed by circumstance. That doesn't mean we don't, though, I guess. I look at Jane and her whole backstory and think how hard it must have been first to see her sister, Jamie, die and then Sarah, and you wish that she would stay, because it means that she sees Clementine as different from the other two. But the fact that she leaves shows that that's just not the case, and even though she puts on a hard exterior, she only leaves because she can't stand to put up with the pain of losing Jamie again and again. You see that even though Jane's independent and "strong," it's only heartache that has done that to her.

    When I got to the part with the Russians, I had to laugh a little bit that game makers were (surprise, surprise) again using Slavs as the enemy. It also didn't help that they were presented as junkies in the earlier encounter with Jane and Clem. It just makes me think that we'll never get over our old biases--we'll never get over our differences or begin to see people as they really are. I guess I had some advantage playing through this part, because I understood all the Russian. Arvo, for me, was the only real character there, and the rest of the Russians were just old stereotypes, blocks that designers can snap into place when they need an enemy faction. Arvo, though, was voiced by an actual Russian (or Ukrainian?), and you he seemed more to be caught in the middle of everything. There was the slight complication of him basically telling the thugs that Clem and Jane had mugged him (which wasn't true), but I just remember him shouting in Russian, "No, they have a baby! Just put your weapons down. We don't need to do this." Knowing Russian provided an added layer of humanization to a character who was already pretty interesting, based on his circumstances. I think part of designing a good game is building in those little things, and maybe they won't impact everyone who plays, but they'll make those little moments so much more rich for those who do.

    Anyway, it's kind of sad, but I'm glad Sarah's gone, and as much as I liked Rebecca, I didn't really react much when we had to put her down. I'm still not sure how she got bit, unless her baby was a zombie or something. Doesn't make a ton of sense, but then again, maybe things will explain themselves in the last episode. All in all, really enjoying the game, and I'm excited for what I guess will be a thrilling conclusion.
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    [February 21, 2015 04:28:26 PM]
    Well, The Walking Dead is growing on me. I still have a lot of reservations—the violence, the unnatural controls, the overall idea of another zombie story—but I can definitely see its positives, as well. In many ways, it elevates the zombie story to something much more noble and human than most of the stuff that has come before it.

    One of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot is our responsibility to tell the truth to protect those close to us. When Pete and the other survivors were discussing whether they should let Clementine stay, they held to a “no bite” policy, meaning that even if someone hasn’t been bitten and is telling the truth, they still aren’t willing to put themselves at risk based on the word of another person, no matter how close they might be. When Pete got bit, there was something inside of me that said we could still save him, and I would have done so all the same if the controls hadn’t confused me and made me save Nick instead. Thinking about it afterward, though, I was glad that it had happened that way, as I realized that I would have had to make the decision later on to kill Pete because of his bite. It was really neat how they kind of force you to evaluate your rationale afterwards, by having you talk with Nick. I felt like it really invited me to contemplate on the implications of my actions, especially since I wasn’t able to do what I had originally intended to do.
    Another big question that has arisen is the idea of preserving innocence, as Carlos attempts to do with Sarah. I still don’t know what to think about all that, but if actions are to mean anything, I am with Carlos in wanting Sarah to believe that the world is still a place of beauty and triumph. I’ve often thought about how I’ll raise my kids—what I’ll tell them, what I’ll let them find out on their own—and I always think that I’ll be very forthright with them, but I wonder if, when the time comes, I’ll do the same thing I’ve done with Sarah: tried to help her hold onto a dream. It’s something I did in This War of Mine as well, so I’m guessing I would probably lean in that direction in real life.

    I’ve also been thinking a lot about what family is when society falls apart. When Luke and Clem are talking on the way to the bridge, Luke suggests that all people want one thing, and the thing I chose was family. What I really mean by that, though, is the feeling that we belong somewhere. I think that’s what Luke and Carlos and everyone is to Clem, and while I don’t necessarily think that family is a social construct, I am thinking more and more that family is the people whom we let into our hearts—the ones whom we allow to hurt us or to really love us—and everyone else is a stranger, foreigners to our minds our hearts. Rebecca talks about her trepidation at bringing a baby into “a world like this,” and I kind of had to think to myself, “That’s always a concern. A world like this.” It’s a whole lot easier to see the dangers of the world when they come limping after you with a bite mark on their arm and rotting teeth hanging from a disconnected jaw, but in many cases, it’s just as much of a sacrifice to bring a life into this world as it is into any other. There’s something brave and beautiful about mothers, about motherhood in general, and while I’m sad that Rebecca’s story is so caught up in the middle of Carver’s politics, the child seems to kind of make all the struggles more worth it in the end.

    I think I like that the game shows you your choices as compared to others’ at the end of each episode, because again, it gives you a chance to reflect, both on the story and on who you are as a person. It’s a little bit subversive that they label each one with a virtue or positive attribute, as it makes it feel a little bit like there is supposed to be a right answer, but sometimes, when the world starts falling apart, the whites and the blacks seem to kind of fade to gray, and all we can ever do is try to keep pushing forward and being a good person, despite the mistakes we make.

    So, in short, liking the game a lot better now. Still wishing that the controls were different, because they can be cludgy (and deceptive) at times, but I’m managing all the same. I wish death had more of an impact, because it seems kind of inconsequential, but that’s just a constraint of a linear narrative I suppose. Anyway, that’s all, for now. Next up, Episode 3!
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    [February 19, 2015 11:10:40 PM]
    Well, I've never been much of a fan of zombie games (or movies, for that matter), and so far, this isn't proving to be much of an exception. I haven't played a ton so far, though, so maybe things will take a turn for the better.

    So first off, going into this game, I had high hopes, because I had heard it was a new kind of storytelling and it was really creative and ingenious and all that. Well, it definitely is a new type of storytelling, but the delivery is not my favorite at all. I've played plenty of games where you have different options or where you have live response triggers, but in this, I feel like that actually detracts from the story. It's like they want us to be invested but not too invested, and that rubs me wrong, I guess.

    So far, I've been underwhelmed by the characters (especially Clementine, who talks to herself way too much, and in unnatural ways). Again, a lot of this may just be because I've only played a little more than a half hour, but I feel like the designers would have been better off NOT having her say some things than having her verbally reaffirm every single action. "Nothing here" does a lot more to detract from the experience than would a sigh or slouched shoulders.

    Next, forced engagement. This is going back again to this idea of investment, but I hate that the game forces you to respond within a certain amount of time. It's interesting, I guess, but it means that you don't really get to think about the implications of what you are saying or deciding. I guess that's real-to-life, but in a game that's supposed to be about story, it sure would be nice to have a chance to mentally explore the narrative possibilities. The time gauge just frustrated me more than anything, and the trigger responses (push left, right, down, tap the R trigger, etc.) seemed too simple to be really meaningful. Also, the signaling wasn't very clear in situations where you had to tap A, which means that I died at one point simply because I didn't understand the instructions that they gave.

    That being said, I think the game has raised some interesting questions so far. Is it humane to kill something that was once human but is not any longer? If yes, then is it humane to kill a "human" who has lost his/her human sensibilities but who is still, for all intents and purposes, a human? One topic that I've been thinking about especially is what it means to be alive and human. For example, is the girl in the bathroom near the beginning of the game alive in the fullest sense, or has she, even in humanity, become a member of the metaphorical walking dead in choosing to prey on other survivors? Is deadness a condition of physical frame or of soul? Another interesting question involves personal accountability, specifically in the case that one is infected by and set to turn into a zombie. Is the just thing to do to commit suicide? If one is unable to do that, ought one to somehow restrain oneself? What about a loved one? The man tied to the tree, strange though it sounds, seemed to still have a little bit of humanity in him, and that made it all the harder to kill him, knowing that A. he had allowed or insisted that he be tied to the tree and that B. when we try to get close enough to the knife, he seems to ward the player away rather than grabbing her and attacking. In any case, I get the feeling that this question of what it means to be human and alive will surface a lot within this game.

    So far, The Walking Dead isn't my favorite game (interactive story), but all the same, I'm excited to see where it takes me in my own understanding of humanity.
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    gbayles's The Walking Dead: Season Two (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Thursday 19 February, 2015

    GameLog closed on: Monday 6 April, 2015

    gbayles's opinion and rating for this game

    It grew on me over time. I don't love the linearity of the plot, but it was a good effort at interactive storytelling, and I really connected with the characters.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

    Related Links

    See gbayles's page

    See info on The Walking Dead: Season Two

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