How The Walking Dead and Other Games Let You Off the Hook
Instead, we’re let off the hook because there’s no one else. The Stranger holds us to task for what we’ve done, but he’s crazy, so don’t worry about it. Mass Effect asks us what we think about the krogan, the geth, the Collectors, even the Reapers — but it never holds you accountable for any number of genocides. Deus Ex: Human Revolution gives you the chance to shape the next phase of human existence and you’re never made to question whether you’re equipped to make that choice. Even Far Cry 3 implies you should wonder why you’re so damn good at killing without holding you accountable for the thousands of carbon-copy accented pirates you mow down — to say nothing of animals or the friendlies you can leave to die, like, all the time.
It seems as if most games are unwilling to really put the question to players. After all, who wants to be asked what kind of person they are in their escapist pastime, right? But then, isn’t art meant to ask us the hard questions, to make its statements, and occasionally make us uncomfortable?
It’s a real failing of video game storytelling to put so much emphasis on interactivity and choice, and then never bother to hold players accountable for those choices. They let you off the hook in one way or another. I stole the food and supplies that ultimately cost a family their lives; I led a child into danger, killed a man in front of her, and sent her to fend for herself.
If The Stranger hadn’t been crazy, isn’t it a fair question whether Clementine would have been better off with him than Lee? Unfortunately, we’ll never know the answer until video games start being ballsy enough to ask.