What makes The Walking Dead video game franchise so compelling?
I haven’t really played many video games, but I have watched my brother play. One of the games that really captivated me was The Walking Dead, which centers around a zombie apocalypse. The protagonist in the first game is a man named Lee, who used to be a professor before being charged with murder. The onset of the zombie apocalypse happens as he is being taken to prison. He manages to escape, but is then hunted by the “walkers.” While on the run, he meets a young girl named Clementine, who is all alone. Lee offers to protect her and the two develop a close relationship.
Similar to The Last of Us, this game tells the story of a two characters who form a father/daughter relationship as they fight for survival together. In the end, Lee gets bitten by a walker, and Clementine (the player) has to make a choice whether to shoot him or not. In his final moments, Lee’s only thought was to get Clementine to safety. At the end of the game, Clementine escapes and leaves Lee.
The next games in the franchise have Clementine as the protagonist. As the games progress, the player sees Clementine change from a vulnerable little girl to an independent, strong, and intelligent character. She changes because she has suffered through many difficult situations, including witnessing two fatherly figures die: Lee and Kenny. Throughout the franchise, we see Clementine have flashbacks of them, not her own birth parents, because she has suffered the most difficult situations with Lee and Kenny. Her childhood memories have also become engulfed with those of the apocalypse.
The player sees Clementine change especially when she makes the hardest decision of her life, which is to kill someone to save them from turning into a walker.
Clementine soon becomes the protector of a a little boy named AJ, and immediately the player sees the parallels between Clementine and AJ and Clementine and Lee. She has to be the guardian now, and has to make all of her choices based on AJ’s safety.
Although she is only a young teenager, she has made several adult decisions. Again, similar to The Last of Us, we see an innocent young girl being thrust into life or death situations that force them to grow up at an early age. Since the outcome of the game depends on which choices the player makes, the player ultimately develops an emotional attachment to Clementine, which makes the game extremely compelling.