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Telltale's 'The Walking Dead': An Unfinished Classic

Keep that hair short, Telltale.

We chose the wrong ending.

The first time I heard about The Walking Dead was eight years ago in the summer of 2012. I was a young soul struggling to do well in school and appease my parents as well as keep myself from going insane. One of the few things that eased my mind from falling into dark places was video games. And around the time my sister was graduating we told the rest of our family about "AMC's The Walking Dead" (Glen is still the best character), and to keep a long story short I saw a free demo for the first season of Telltale's The Walking Dead, and before I even thought about it, I was downloading it on my Xbox 360.

I played it once, then twice, then with my dad, then with my sisters. and every time I played it I never got bored. Seeing every choice you could make and every consequence from your decisions was riveting to me and kept me playing that same demo nonstop until I noticed I needed money to play episode two. Growing up with Call Of Duty and Halo mixed with Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, this was eye-opening for my young mind. The game never allowed you, the player, to make decisions for the characters, who would live and die or who you'd save or kill. The power of choosing is what made this game different from so many others.

And just like many others, I loved it.

Hell and High Water

8 out of 10s, 9 out of 10s, perfect scores to some and even the winner of 2010's video game awards, nearly everybody loved this game as well as its two leading characters; Lee and Clementine. This father-daughter bond was strong enough to reach out of my television screen and grip me. I wanted to protect Clementine with everything I had, but I was also wanted Lee to stay with Clem in this messed up world where cannibalism runs in the family and strangers are trying to take her from him.

Unlike other games where you kill to kill, in this game the only reason you'd ever kill was to either protect or defend.

At least... that was how I'd play, which was the magic of Telltale games in general. The aforementioned "Choice" in the episodic series. 

A plethora of games would gather inspiration from this successful first season, everything from indie titles, to triple-A games. Originally you'd call this a trend but there are even games as of 2018 utilizing the parent-child bond to develop a compelling storyline in video games. It's easy to say that I fell in love with Telltale and their Walking Dead series the moment I found it and this would progress all the way until the final season.

Where the unexpected happened...

The Announcement

Earlier this week Telltale Games announced that it was closing down, only having 25 of an original 250 person staff to its name. This is not new news to us, however. Earlier this year, Telltale was removing workers from its studio following mismanagement. The only difference is this time they won't recover from it. 

And neither will fans, as they announced that episode 2 will be the last release of The Walking Dead Final Season (as well as a Minecraft deal they made with Netflix) before they close their doors for good.

This wasn't easy news to take in. Many fans (including me) are heartbroken knowing that they'll never see another Batman game, Wolf Among Us, or even The Walking Dead.

Many fans were outraged, many were saddened, many were questioning refunds, and then there was me. I'm not the type of person to care about money. The money I put into buying the season pass equated into trust I had for the company to produce an amazing finale to one of my favorites video game series, but all that remains eight years later is a company dealing with bankruptcy and fans dealing with heartbreak.

To many, this was more than a game, it was more than a narrative. It was its own entity. In my opinion, Telltale's The Walking Dead had surpassed the comics, the show, and future video games with the same title all in one fell swoop, all in one season. Very few developers can make a first impression that ground-breaking.

Aftermath

In the end, the series of bad luck can all be sourced back to mismanagement with Telltale Games and after the dust settled, there is no one person to blame that will bring the hope of finishing Clem's story back to us. At the end of the day, it's all business. Unless the remnants of TTG create a GoFundMe or Kickstarter, I see no future for Clementine and AJ as of right now.

It breaks my heart to even be writing this, someone who was a fan of the series for eight years, back when I was in high school. Many fans will say that the following seasons were never as good as the first season, or that Telltale never reached the storytelling highs that they did with TWD season 1, but as a longtime fan of not only the company but of video games in general, I've learned that if you want to see the true potential of a video game (especially one in a series) it's best to see each individual installment as its own thing. Season two and three were fun journeys in their own right, and they entertained us just like a movie or novel would. 

Nas will never create another Illmatic, Star Wars will never create another A New Hope—they've already been done so it isn't right to compare their later works with their greatest hits (these are strange analogies, I know).

If you are to take anything from this article, take this. 

In our lifetimes there will be that one video game, or movie, or book that stands out of the crowd and shines above all the rest that will be followed by the creator(s)'s next work that won't add up to it. Don't be upset that they didn't create a carbon copy of the original, be happy that they attempted something different whether or not it's good or bad, be happy that you were around to experience the original, and be happy that it exists instead of dwelling on nonsense.

There will always be ups and downs, with the downs creating a storm and rattling a creator's sails, but it is the wave (the fans) that will keep them afloat through it all.

A company is nothing without its fans, and I will forever be a Telltale Games and Walking Dead fan, through good and bad.

Hope lives on.

Rest easy, Telltale. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

Thank you for reading this.

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