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It’s been a few days since I finished the Walking Dead from Telltale Games. I needed the time to unwind before collecting my thoughts on the experience. The Walking Dead is more of an interactive graphic novel than a traditional video game, but the experience is an intense roller coaster with a tremendous emotional payload. I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone, so I’ll keep this post 99.9% spoiler free and just talk about the way I played and the effect the game had on me as opposed to details on the game itself.

Though the Walking Dead is a work of fiction, my choices throughout were based on very real feelings of dread and urgency. Motivated by the survival of the main character Lee and his pint sized companion Clementine I faced each decision as if it was my own life on the line.

What would I do in this situation? What would be the best option for survival? Those are the questions I repeated to myself as The Walking Dead forced me to make snap calls on how to act, what to do, and ultimately who to save. I did my best, but in an impossible situation I couldn’t do everything and unfortunately I couldn’t save everyone.

I felt for those that were lost, I did, but when it came down to it my decisions were calculated by whom and what I viewed as assets versus those I deemed more of hindrance. It was a cold way of thinking, but it guided me through the difficult choices. I wasn’t acting selfishly or recklessly and I stuck my neck out plenty of times for everyone’s well being. It was just that if and when the chips were going to fall I knew my plan of action.

Not every decision you make in The Walking Dead is life or death, but they do all carry weight to them. There are many discussions and situations that you’ll need to tackle with your co-survivors that can easily make a bad situation worse. Occasionally you’ll be given the time to think out your answers, which is useful as saying the wrong thing could brew doubt and suspicion within your group among other, negative outcomes. Cooperation is key, at least so I thought – so I did my best to keep any turbulent situations at bay.

For me, I kept my cards close to my chest, but was honest and truthful when asked. It worked out well for the most part, though sometimes, the choices I selected didn’t quite pan out as I intended. Good and bad though I pressed on with the consequences. The situation was desperate, and the line between right & wrong blurred more throughout each episode.

When it came to Clementine, I didn’t want to frighten the girl, but I didn’t sugar coat the situation. Whether she could or couldn’t process the gravity of what was happening I felt she at least deserved some honestly. I kept her hopeful, even if I didn’t share the same level of optimism myself. Her safety became my priority, driven by the character but also by an emotional tie I felt due to recently becoming a parent myself. That was an unexpected connection for me, which worked to heighten the intensity of the experience even further.

As I alluded to in the beginning of this post, The Walking Dead had an profound emotional impact on me. By the time the credits rolled I was well invested in the characters and their plight and beaten up by all they had endured. The Walking Dead is a dirty little trick Telltale unleashed on us, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next season of the experience.