Playing buddies and the Walking Dead

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.

My face every other second
                           My face every other second
My friend
     My friend

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.

Sims 2 DS game…I played this game over, and over
Sims 2 DS game…I played this game over, and over
First generation of The Sims
First generation of The Sims

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I didn’t expect was this:

Walking Dead Game screen shot
Walking Dead Game screen shot

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.

2 thoughts on “Playing buddies and the Walking Dead

  1. I’ll admit that I laughed at your pictures and this was a really great post! Last year, I had a similar set up while playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent. My friend and I shared her laptop, I controlled walking (WASD) and the lantern while she had mouse controls (which dictated where you were looking and what your hands were doing). We played exclusively at night, with all the lights off, and it was //terrifying//. I actually almost threw a heavy metal bikelock at a mutual friend when they unexpectedly opened the door.

    I do have to say that I find that I’m less afraid of horror games than I am of horror movies (not to say they don’t scare me; again, I almost brained my friend) because in games, you have the [illusion of] control. I straight out do not watch horror movies (the last one I watched was Disney-produced, “Don’t Look Under the Bed” when I was ten. I had nightmares.) but I love horror games. I think a big part of it is in what you mention: my active participation is not necessary for the movie to be scary. All on its own, it will progress, whether I want it to or not.

  2. I love this post – some really solid points accompanied by giggleworthy pictures. I would, however, like to offer an alternative perspective – I feel like once you’ve played enough horror games, you will eventually become desensitized to their content, and as you get more and more genre savvy, the games will slowly but surely become almost completely predictable. You’ll be able to see every single jumpscare coming a mile away, and what used to be an anxious feeling of suspense will turn into “Oh my gosh, get to the point already”. That’s where having a playing buddy comes in for me. Whenever there’s someone in the room that you can talk to about the choices you’re making in the game, or someone you can exchange ideas with, or just someone who’ll project their own anxiety onto you, the game suddenly feels so much more real, and it’s so much easier to get completely off guard. I’ve had some perfectly synchronized freakouts at The Last of Us just this weekend 🙂

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