So you just finished The Walking Dead. No, not the show. The game. The show’s fine and dandy; it revels in its B-movieness and the moments of brilliance nestled amongst bafflingly poor choices made by characters. But the game! Holy hell. If Telltale had written the script for AMC’s show, I think we’d see the fall of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.#
I finally finished the first “season” of the game – Telltale releases installments of the game as episodes, the first game being the first season – and, full disclosure, I bawled my eyes out. I knew it was going to end that way. At the end of the third episode, I went downstairs and hugged my dog. It was an emotional drain, and, while there was a bit of a lull of that in the fourth episode – aside from the end – the fifth just absolutely wrecked me.
So, if you haven’t figured it out by now, spoilers ahoy.
So, as the credits rolled and Clem saw the silhouettes on the horizon# I did what any good nerd would do: I ran to the Internet to see if people figured out if the silhouettes were Omid and Christa.
I was disappointed. No one had a definitive answer because Telltale was smart enough to make the silhouettes into ambiguous figures so no one could tell. It is, in other words, another instance of “Lots of speculation for everyone,” the hated phrase coined by the Mass Effect community – taking inspiration from a behind-the-scenes feature – during the ending fallout. But there’s a difference: Are you ready?
This time there is no damn reason why anyone should react that way. Yes, even me. If I end up spearheading a movement to send cupcakes to Telltale Games, then I want you – all one of you readers – to remind me of what I’m about to say:
If – and I have no evidence that will happen since all of the forum posts I’ve seen are applauding the game – if such a thing were to happen, it would be because people did not get the ending they wanted, not because Telltale told a bad story.
They did the very, very opposite.
Now, there is one article I read last night that threw me for a loop. I forget which site wrote it, and I can’t be asked to do research, but it did lead off with “Your choices did matter.” And I thought about what it says if this is what some media outlets have to lead with after a choice-based game like TWD ends.
Then I thought about what could have prompted that, and the only conclusion hit me: Somewhere out there, there was someone so distraught with the ending of the game that they looked at their life and thinking, “In the end, what does matter?”
DING DING DING! Congratulations! You’ve just discovered existential nihilism!
Of course, despite what our friend Walter says, nihilism has a long, storied history of… er… being a thing for intellectuals to slapfight about.
It starts – like so many modern things – after the Industrial Revolution. The aristocracy suddenly realized that they could chain the lower classes to factories for eighteen hours a day, thus freeing up their time to do stuff like think and write novels. One of the results of this newfound free time was existential nihilism: the philosophical tenet that all things result in nothing, that all morality is worthless, and the world is intrinsically shit.
At the end of the day, we all die. So, then, what is the point of accomplishing anything? What is the point of, well, living?
If you’ve heard of Albert Camus – the pied-noir writer and philosopher – then you know he wrote L’Etranger, or The Stranger or The Outsider, depending on the translator. L’Etranger is a novel about a guy who does not apparently feel feelings. One day, after his mother dies and he feels nothing – thus inciting rage in his neighbors who do feel things – he takes a walk on a beach and, blinded by the sun, shoots an Arab several times and kills him.
Now, subtle commentary on the immigration patterns of France aside, this absurd little event triggers the philosophical discourse section of the novel. Our hero, hounded by a legal system that has apparently nothing better to do than chase down nihilists, engages in a self-righteous explanation of his behavior that an Ayn Rand hero would yearn for.
Now, friend, I wholeheartedly recommend that you tell Camus to sod off. While there is no intrinsic meaning in existence, because we’re all a result of biological and chemical reactions over millennia and millennia, what he seems to ignore – or just leave out for some reason – is that we make our own meanings.
Now, of course, that may not apply for the universe of The Walking Dead. As Molly says, “The dead always win.” So everything will probably collapse and any sense of optimism you may feel for the characters in Season 2 will be rendered moot by the first episode.
But hey! No reason for you to go all nihilist, strawman-who-I-randomly-created! Save that for the zombie apocalypse.