[I promise you I’m gonna climb out of my little writing depression, but give me a little time y’all. It’s taking me long periods to organize thoughts. Thank you for reading.]
So, I played The Walking Dead Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us within one week. Only, that week was about two months ago from the day of me writing this. In between that time I’d been thinking about how we choose our adventures with media -- and how that reflects our daily lives. Though I can’t predict how the average person who has a 9-to-5 plays games. I’ve just begun scraping the surface on how I decompress after a long day with games.
I’m not particularly challenged in my day job. This isn’t to say I don’t like having a job. Obviously, I do -- rent gotta get paid. But this leads to me being more open to challenges outside my work. For some reason [Sony had a sale], this led to me to playing Walking Dead: Season 2 within a few days and chasing it with The Wolf Among Us.
Playing through both games, within seven days was probably the “incorrect way to play” for some. Binge gaming helps me process what I like and dislike about my play habits. Given how much the Walking Dead didn’t grab me [this time around], I found it was best to play it as soon as I got off of work, but before I’d go for my nightly runs. If given the choice to play through Season 2 again, or going on 8 mile runs -- in sub zero wind chill temperatures -- I’m putting on my running shoes.
It’s not that The Walking Dead: Season 2 is a bad game. It’s just not challenging. It didn’t tax me mentally. One of the notes I took while playing the last episode said, “this game feels like Call of Duty, but with zombies… oh wait.” Meaning from a design aspect, the player is given this story. You’re given “choices,” but all result in the player being funneled down this straight line path, with characters who aren’t given enough development to create an emotional investment. So yeah, not a bad game, but something worse -- forgettable.
So I decided to play The Wolf Among Us, the bar was low -- in every sense.
There is something so dime store novel about The Wolf Among Us that I really did enjoy. The neon lights. That amazing score. Characters that had more than one note -- namely Molly. Mind you, I’m coming off The Walking Dead finale, where my options were to kill the person I didn’t want in my story to begin with, or killing the “strong woman” character [who is conveniently depicted as fairly conniving and cold]. The Wolf Among Us story is victim to similar issues -- it just put some better puzzle solving in between the mess. I appreciated that.
I can’t chart where my interest waned and peaked with either game, but I was most fascinated with how they masked decision-making and the facade of choice. The Wolf Among Us didn’t always tell the player that looking at a painting or vase in Beauty & The Beast’s apartment would influence Bigby’s interrogation questions. The Walking Dead often has moments where you want to calm down a heated argument amongst your group, which would result in your character Clementine, saying everyone is an idiot.
Both frustrated me -- in a good way. It reminded me a lot like actual decision-making. Where I’ve opted to build a relationship, or discuss nuances within it -- not knowing how it may come out my mouth. And even when the words came out right, you aren’t guaranteed the listener(s) are going to interpret your meaning the way you intended.
I just wish I didn’t have to deal with, well, you know -- the white guy problem. I’m sure very well-meaning white guys, but still -- white guys.
It’s pretty clear white guys wrote both of these stories. Yes I’m very familiar with The Walking Dead comics -- less familiar with Fables. There are these archetypes that have been echoed in all media and games seem to want [and not want] to have this conversation. I’m of the mind that “the conversation” should be had at all times, in every venue, and not just with words. How is it the 21st century and we still think a strong woman should be depicted like a callous loner? Or, JUST a callous loner.
Poor Clementine. The only 9-year-old, woman of color, whom everyone expects to be both a child and also a grizzled military veteran. Poor Sarah, a girl depicted with having a social anxiety disorder and never given her due, because the writing couldn’t overcome its own ablelism.
What is the best way to build tension for a pulp noir story, centered around fairytale characters? How about murdering a sex worker? And for a split second, my male ape brain almost got invested in this story. “Oh, well see the story involves a criminal who has kinks of women being murdered and that…” actually, no. The story of The Wolf Among Us further explains, that not only was there no excuse for the murder of women in order to advance the plot. There was no excuse to murder ONLY women. Only women are capable of dying in Fabletown, and possibly a pimp.
White guys, help me out here. Aren’t you tired of “almost getting it” right?
We go on these adventures for multiple reasons. Games, as a platform, gives developers and players a means to educate, escape, find something -- anything. There is nothing more joyous than finding someone you can share these stories with. Over a dinner. A water cooler. And, yeah, I guess the internet.
*climbs off soapbox*
With social media spreading as far and wide as space travel, it’s disappointing to see us get hung up on “a hashtag movement” centered around ethics and objectivity [I’m kidding, it isn’t]. Which isn’t to blame the victims who have suffered in its wake, but that the wake is still there -- grabbing for attention.
I want more personal stories. Personal accounts of peoples’ experiences with games and how they’ve affected their -- our lives. I want those stories told over and over. Annoy me with your “video gamey adventures.” This adventure of life I’m on, feels less lonely knowing someone else out there had a similar experience. Or better yet, an experience counter to my own, and we could discuss that. It might even make us better at whatever challenges we want to create in the future.
And, yeah, I’m happy to be a small part in an indie adventure game series. This isn’t an advertisement for that [you’ll hear/see more on it later]. But us marginalized folks are doing our part to counter the, “well if you want to see change why don’t you…” yeah -- we are. So could you hold up your end of the deal here?
The Walking Dead: Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us helped me get closer to what I find necessary in games -- attachment. Nobody wants to go on an adventure with characters trapped within a narrative that pushes the player away.
We are bored. Aren’t you bored?