The Walking Dead. I’ve seen the show so I knew this would be wild. I started playing the game at 9am under the bright sunlight from my window and in the safety of my room. 9:07am. I scream loud enough to alarm my neighbor. The zombie police officer made a quick move for my leg. I knew he was going to attack me; a dead body in the walking dead is not just a dead body. Despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen and I was in a relatively safe environment, I nearly had a heart attack so I paused the game.
4pm. I force my friend to sit beside me while I play the game. My anxiety levels are through the roof. I pause the game again and make her play for me. We each have one ear bud in and make decisions together on what Lee says and does. She is holding my iPad and does most of the tapping but I sometimes tap in when it’s a speed situation and you need to strangle a zombie. I think it is so weird how even though I was still a little scared and anxious while playing the game, having someone else physically hold the device for me and touch the screen for me, immensely relieved by fear and stress. I think this is because she was essentially my human controller. She was a reminder of reality and the fantasy of the game. It was also nice to have someone beside me to talk to and laugh with. Plus, she wasn’t scared at all, which helped. When I played alone, I had both headphones in, my knees to my chest with my iPad resting on them, and my shoulders tensed. I still screamed while playing the game with my friend just not as loudly and not with so much fear.
I think a lot of the fear had to do with having to act in such a scary world. For example, scary movies are very different than scary games. Things happen on the screen to other people on the screen. Whether you are watching the movie or not, the scary things will still happen on the screen. The game is different however. What you do could cause a zombie to attack you, or something to pop out. You have to do things in order for scary things to happen and even if you don’t want to be scared, your active participation is necessary for the game to proceed.
For me, what makes this game worth playing is Clementine. I want Lee to live so that he can protect her. By making Lee’s companion a young girl, the game creators establish a sense of vulnerability and play on our society’s view and protectiveness of children and girls. I am a little ashamed to admit this but I was entirely willing to risk Ducky’s life for Shawn’s. I felt really bad about it afterwards when I heard Ducky speaking with Clem after the escape from the Drugstore and are at the rundown Motel. He was so cute and I felt terrible for being so apathetic towards his character.
Moreover, I think a large part of the empathy that is fostered also comes from the level of the graphics. I honestly thought the character were going to be on par with the first generation of The Sims or the DS game.
What I didn’t expect was this:
I will admit, I have not played many high resolution video games but this is some next level stuff for a phone/tablet app in my opinion. It is really beautiful–the textures, the color scheme, the level of detail. It made it feel all the more real to me.
In addition to this, all the diegetic sounds/distantly heard conversations also add to the experience.
But as I said, what I think makes me want to play this game the most is Clementine. The adult characters are mostly disposable to me. Either because they are shown to have no real storyline in the game or because they’re jerks. Clementine (and Ducky) are innocents and I want to help them. I also want to see how long their innocence will last.