The Written Dead – Video Games Deserve Better

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The Walking Dead: Season 2. An intense melodrama framed against a backdrop of a society unhinged. Survival key to everything. Language uncouth.

“F–k.”

Telltale Games typically feature the above word, repeated over and over, like a chorus of a modern worship song. As the drama of young Clementine spirals out of control, the characters around her sing out. A fearful hallelujah to an unknown god.

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What did you just say?

I struggle with language in video games.

Coarse language has the appearance of a written shortcut. A writer’s bloody tool to add flavor, character, and meaning without earning it. I want depth. Written shorthand short-changes the player. No matter what the situation, no matter how “realistic” such words might be, I see this as lazy writing.

Weaving characters into intricate plots is an art. Video games are art in motion. While time can be a commodity, a reason to force narrative shorthand, I think that it is an excuse.

– Words NEED to be strung together in such a way that the audience, the player, is left savoring wordplay.

– The English language DEMANDS exploration. So many words lie neglected, dusty, and ready for use.

– Characters NEED to be developed to the point where they have EARNED the very words they speak.

I am not calling for shelter but for thoughtful engagement and consideration of the words used in video games. The worlds we explore deserve better.

The Walking Dead: A World Without God

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I’ve been trying to figure out why The Walking Dead: Episodes 1 & 2 have gotten under my skin so much. Sure the storyline, characters, and environment are compelling but there has to be more to my fascination with this game. The other day, I finally figured out what has been bugging me, the world of The Walking Dead is a world without God.

The chaos of the virus outbreak has left the world in tatters. Law and order have been completely shoved out the door and the basic instinct of survival has taken over. This survival instinct is solely based on emotion. The problem with emotions is that they are often founded on heat of the moment reactions. Logic is relegated to the corner when emotion is involved. There is no peace in this zombie-filled world of emotional rule.

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. – 1 Corinthians 14:33a

Sometimes friends “make” you do stupid things.

There came a point in the game where I was presented with a situation where I had the choice about whether to kill someone. Up until this point, the game had made me highly dislike this particular character. To make matters worse, earlier in the game I was conveniently told that anyone who died would quickly become a “walker” (re: zombie). So here I am, dealing with a man who has just collapsed on the ground, seemingly dead. What do I do? My best friend in the game quickly pushes to bash the man’s brains in (which is the only way to kill a zombie). My emotional response that followed was one based on my dislike for the character and the survival response of not wanting to be eaten. I decided to let my friend kill this man. My decision, though based in a game world, has bugged me ever since.

In retrospect, I feel like the game somehow ripped me off; I felt like I had been goaded into an emotional response. It was either going to be him or me. The basic instinct of survival ruled.

Regardless of the game, I am thankful that I live in a real world created by a God who loves order. The Walking Dead is an intense game based on emotional choices. In the end, I know that emotions lie as they vary from day-to-day. I am thankful that God is my compass and not mere emotion.