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My Parenting Skills Improved with Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead

by on January 25, 2013
 

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By Now, chances are you already know Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is a great game. What with it winning Game of the Year awards from various outlets and selling well, too.

But what makes it an excellent experience? While I can’t speak for everyone, for me it went into a place I didn’t thought possible — and that’s making me want to be a better father. Without going into boring family stuff, I’m already a dad. My daughter’s 5-years old, which isn’t all that far from Clementine who’s 7 years old by the time the first season wraps up.

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When I first played The Walking Dead, it was your standard adventure game. Yes, I could make decisions that would determine who died or lived, but for the most part, it’s your standard old-school adventure title that relied more on your analytical skills rather than having fast fingers.

Again, I can’t speak for everyone nor do I dismiss what childless people might have felt, but from the moment my character adopted Clementine, Lee – or rather I – had a purpose. The emotional investment was instantaneous; from that moment on in Clem’s house, I was her guardian, her keeper, her parent.

I was always thinking of the child whenever any big decision came up. I pondered on her safety, food and how she will survive. It made me question my own morality on whether I was being too selfish in putting her best interest ahead of everyone else. But every time I second-guessed myself, I always thought, “what if this was in real life and I was taking care of my daughter?” Whenever that sentiment popped into my head, making harsh decisions got easy…regardless if I thought it was the right thing to do or not.

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Should I be ashamed or guilty that I wasn’t as concerned as much for the other child (Duck) in our party? Maybe you’ll think that it’s natural since Duck has parents to look over him and we were never given a chance to bond other than being the food-gatherer? But you also need to remember that early on, we knew Duck was a “special” child — one that needs more attention and care than your standard kid. Yes, I admit, that lingered on my mind from time to time, but for the most part; I thought of Clem first and sometimes only remembered Duck when he was there.

For Clementine, though, it made me reflect on what I would do for my daughter in times of need. And the short answer to that is: anything. I would travel to hell and back if it meant I had to rescue her from the clutches of some mad man. I’d cut off my own arm if it meant making sure I would be around to make sure she’s safe or see her grow up.

One scene in the game’s final episode really resonated with me, but one that some players had issues with. What I’m talking about is Lee’s “Rambo-walk” to the hotel. With one arm, Lee went down a street full of walkers armed only with a cleaver. From then on he proceeded to lop, chop, smash and decapitate his way through. Some people who played through this saw this as Lee going John Rambo, but if you’re a parent, you’ll see this sort of thing as something you can do in real life.

I’m not saying I can slay hundreds of zombies using only one arm and a knife, but if my daughter was in danger? I’d sure as hell try and I wouldn’t bet on myself failing, either. It’s one thing to be driven by adrenaline, but it’s a whole other ballgame when love is involved. It will make you capable of things you never thought possible…capable of things you thought you would never have the stomach to do.

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If you ask me now why I thought The Walking Dead was deserving of all the Game of the Year accolades it has received thus far, I’d point to that example I’ve just given. No other game in the past year – or in recent memory – has made me feel this way before and I applaud Telltale for doing something I never would have thought possible.

Telltale, your ending for The Walking Dead Season One, made me angry, it made me sad, it made me regret some of the things I’ve done, but more importantly, it made me want to be a better father to my kid. And for that, I thank you.

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