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At the beginning of this three-episode mini-season of Telltale’s Walking Dead game-serial, Michonne — a main character from the comics and TV show, as I understand it — collapses to her knees after battling a small horde of the titular brain-eaters. Completely exhausted both physically and spiritually, and racked with grief over the recent loss of her children, she considers her pistol. As she does so, the game offers us its first choice: have her put it away, or let her end it all?
A thrill ran through me as I selected the latter option as soon as I read it. Look: I had no illusions about why I was there. I have played Walking Dead games for the overwhelming, almost unbearable despair and hopelessness they fill me with while staying in the safe and controlled environment of a video game. I remain especially affected by Season Two, after I helped guide dear young Clementine into unsmiling cold-calculus monstrousness. As such, I couldn’t turn down such an obviously dark choice, even so early in the game. “Alas”, my thrill turned to disappointment when another character, horrified, slaps Michonne’s gun-barrel away from her temple. Crash-cut to opening credits.
I continued to play out the rest of that episode, as well as the following two, and I liked it fine. But in retrospect, I really wish that the game allowed Michonne — with the player a demon, whispering in her ear — to carry out her impulse, decisively ending both the game and the whole miniseries just minutes after its start.
I know with certainty that I would have felt satisfied to leave it there, not playing the rest. All those hours of playtime, to say nothing of those months of work by developers and actors, all gone from my future in an instant, because of one person’s succumbing to a self-destructive voice. (And, yes, all made so much worse by that voice belonging to a white man, me, commanding a black woman to destroy herself.) It would have felt terrible and delicious and real and I would have considered my money well-spent for the consensual trauma.
But, no, instead I got another Telltale game out of it. It was okay. I liked it fine.
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