Yeah, things are scary. Yeah, they might not ever go back to being okay again, not really. And maybe the way forward is dark and obscured and terrifying, but at least we won’t be alone.
There’s a strange distance between the player and the character he controls, a gap which widens the more that character becomes a person in their own right. As they gain autonomy, they start to find their own way through the story, and we the players are relegated to the backseat as guides. Or, perhaps, we are the ones being guided through the fiction by these characters, natives of their own story given to us guests to see us safely through.
The relationship the player develops with Lee Everett is complicated. There is a strange chain of paternity, where we protect Lee but also become him, he protects Clementine and we become her too. A kind of resonance emerges here, between our relationship to Lee and Clem and the form of the ‘Adventure Game’. By the contract of this style of game, by tradition, we know that we are not in danger, that there is no failure than cannot be immediately recovered from. We know that we can see this thing through, as long as we stick close to Lee and do what needs to be done.
Why are we fascinated by the apocalypse? Maybe we wish to be driven together, to have the distance that comes between us destroyed by calamity. I can’t speak for anyone else, but sometimes I do feel stranded by my own exploration, feel that I’ve carved my identity out of lonely pursuits and now I can’t find my way back, feel unable to reach anyone else because I’ve cast too far out from myself. Maybe this is why I find it so comforting, sometimes, to spend just a little while being someone else.
It’s a kind of travel.
So this multiple-identity, where we are Lee and we are Clem and we are us, creates a kind of tension. We do not act as Lee, solely to protect Clem, but also act to uphold her and our belief that he is a good person, despite what may have happened in the past. We also make other connections, characters we grow to like and admire and want to protect, however futilely, and try to push the story in that direction. Which of these impulses takes supremacy guides the choices you will make on your journey, and for maybe for a lot of us, a lot of the time, there is actually only one choice– with that one choice being different from person to person, and emergent from their personality..
If the goals of the game were simple, the choices would be a mere optimization, However, the goals we have as players are shifting and multi-faceted and emotionally charged, and which one of these goals we have chosen to pursue at any given time will shape the choices we make.
Do I want to protect someone who is dangerous to the group, even if it will endanger everyone else?
Do I want to take care of an important task myself if it means risking being separated from those I must protect?
Am I prepared to do whatever it takes, and say goodbye to whatever I have left to protect the things I have decided are most important?
Once you know what’s most important, once you’ve decided who you are, most of these cease to be choices, and become processes, doomed to complete in their own shape, in their own pattern, in their own time.