The best game of 2012 is Telltale’s The Walking Dead. It shouldn’t be the best game of the year, it would be easy to argue that it isn’t even a game and just a series of quicktime events forming a choose your own adventure video. It shouldn’t be called the best game of the year because it’s only October and presumably any other contenders for the title have still to be released. It shouldn’t be game of the year because there’s still another episode to be released and it may be a horrible mess and somehow undo all the greatness that has passed so far. It shouldn’t be the best game because it’s a bit glitchy in places. But The Walking Dead is the best game of the year for so many reasons.
Firstly the delivery model is how gaming should be in 2012. Each episode takes 2-3 hours to play and costs less than £5. That’s better than the cinema and a manageable way of playing games. The biggest problem with major games is having no idea how much commitment the require and when or if you’ll be able to save.
Secondly I have never felt emotionally attached to characters in a game like I have with The Walking Dead. I don’t know if it’s the story, the writing, the design, the performances or an amazing combination of all these things. My decisions matter because what happens to these characters matters and that rarely happens in any medium and especially not games.
Thirdly your decisions don’t just affect the game, I’ve found myself seriously questioning my actions long after I have finished playing the game. At a certain moment in Episode 3 I was more shocked by my immediate reaction and response to particular shocking moment. Did I really just do that? Should I really just have done that? I started trying to justify my response long before my character had to. This is powerful stuff. It is only a game, there is an option to rewind and make different choices but I haven’t. I made the choice and I’m sticking to it even when I don’t like the outcome and think I’ve made a mistake. I don’t know how to explain this attachment to the characters and decisions. I woke up this morning feeling bad about one particular decision I made towards the end of Episode 4 but I keep trying to tell myself it had to to be done even if it didn’t feel right.
It may only be a game but for the first time I feel like I am actually part of a zombie outbreak and in those situations perhaps there is no such thing as right and wrong and it all just comes down to survival.