PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch; Telltale / Skybound Entertainment
The concluding episodes of Telltale games’ genre-defining narrative horror story ponder how to preserve humanity in a callous world
It has taken seven years to finish the story of Clementine, the girl forced to survive a zombie apocalypse with no hope of rescue – and we almost didn’t get to see it end at all. In 2012, the excellent first season of The Walking Dead video game made its developer Telltale synonymous with player-driven storytelling, forcing gamers to make choices that influenced how things progressed. But just one episode into this final season, in 2018, Telltale closed its doors without warning, leaving all but 25 employees without work, benefits or access to healthcare. Skybound Entertainment, owned by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, stepped in to see the game through to completion, but due to the abrupt change in circumstances, most of the creatives who spent years working on it couldn’t be there for the end.
The video games industry is dependent on teamwork, but the profit imperative often leads to an unsustainable environment that rarely meets its workers with empathy. Yet empathy is a crucial component of The Walking Dead’s storytelling: if you didn’t care about Clementine and the people she meets, your choices would mean nothing. It has always confronted players with unforeseeable, unpleasant consequences, such as the death of a father figure or groups turning on each other out of desperation. Over the years, it’s taught both Clementine and the player to always expect the worst.