The Walking Dead

Today I tried something new, something I never thought I would do. Something that I never quite understood the appeal of, for other people.

Today I saw someone play a video game from beginning to end on YouTube. That person was the famous Pewdiepie, playing the latest episode of “The Walking Dead.”

I finally figured out why people enjoy doing so. It’s a way of enjoying a terrible game. Seeing Pewdiepie play didn’t give me any desire to play along; if anything, it convinced me that if I played it, it would be a waste of time, an annoyance.

The “game” has almost no game to it; the plot is pathetic; and the dialogue sucks. Except for a few moments of tension (which would be much more powerful in a movie), the only thing of value during the 2-hour session was the commentary. Having the YouTuber comment on the ridiculousness of what has the presumption of being a dramatic story was, indeed, entertaining.

But I’m not writing this to declare that I’m joining the cult of the Swedish gamer. I’m writing this to note how the cult of poor quality, the lack of craftsmanship, took over the world of video games. 

Shortly before Christmas, the video game media joined in solidarity, reporting the “terrible” loss that was the closing of Telltale Games studios, responsible for the series “The Walking Dead” in video game format.

(This episode that Pewdiepie played was completed and released later, by another studio that took the charge of finishing the work of the previous one.)

I’m not sure of how to swallow this. On the one hand, on a personal and humane level, I suffer for the people who have lost their jobs and livelihoods (and so close to Christmas Eve). On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that we are better off without studios like Telltale, that produce this kind of garbage.

Because this is rubbish. Firstly, it is a bad video game because it has almost no interactivity. But if it was a movie, it would also be a bad movie, because the characters are not interesting, and the narrative is a catastrophe. There are video games that suffer from lack of interactivity, from not having interesting mechanics, but make up for it with story, or with audiovisual spectacle.

This game, this series, does not have any of that. It is a mere regurgitation of Telltale’s first great success, a game that never excelled in interactivity, but which, at least at the time it was released, had an audiovisual quality and was something unusual, fresh. And it had interesting characters, and between these characters, the storytellers managed to generate real conflicts and tension.

It might not have been a fantastic game, but it felt unique, and it shone in other ways.

But since then, Telltale has been resurrecting the corpse of this first game, making it shuffle its feet through the market every year. And every year it has a little less meat on its bones, every year it smells more of rot, every year has a hollower look in its eyes.

How can we justify the existence of a studio that coasts on this, from producing – not even art – but product, mediocre entertainment? Should the public buy these games from a place of piety, to justify the jobs of the people who work there?

I wonder how they manage in the movie industry, when a huge-budget production falls flat? I am very ignorant when it comes to the business of Hollywood, but I don’t recall hearing of big studio closures, of large losses of jobs. Is there a model to replicate?

I have no answer for the human drama. I can only say that I do not shed any tears about losing Telltale as a company, as a studio.

Perhaps now the dead can rest in peace.