Rhetoric in Telltale’s The Walking Dead Game

Rhetoric is found in Telltale’s “The Walking Dead: Season One, Episode One: ‘A New Day’” in a few ways. The player obviously leads the action in the game and has to kill zombies, but the player also participates in conversations by choosing what to say. This element of choosing conversation leads the player through a sort of choose your own adventure type of game experience. The options that are given demonstrate rhetoric by allowing a certain range of responses, which yield different results and responses from the other characters. While the game restricts the ways that a player can interact with the situation, there are still several outcomes. Based on the way that a player responds, other characters remember things about the player. If you want to make it out alive, you have to treat these people with respect or you will have no one that will help you. In this way, the game suggests there is a right way to act in order to progress further in the game. This game also questions a player’s morality by allowing a player to be honest or deceitful and selfless or selfish.

Right before the zombie attack on the farm, I was talking to the old man in the barn. Based on my responses, he warned me not to lie to strangers – or at least to get better at it. He said that to stay safe as I go on my journey, I will have to rely on strangers, which will be easiest if they thought I was an honest person. Just after that, the zombies attacked. I chose to try to save the man hoping that someone else would try to save the boy, Duck. I could not save the man, but Duck’s father was able to save Duck. The old man was very angry that the man did not help his son, who was in much more danger than Duck at the time. After the conversation that I had just had in the barn with the old man, taking this action to prove that I was a stand-up guy trying to do the right thing was important. To even further my chances of making it in the game, I diffused the situation when the old man was mad at Duck’s father for not attempting to help. Then, I was able to get a ride with the family when they left right after that. If I had blamed Duck’s father for not attempting to save the old man’s son, I would probably have been stuck at the farm.

Bogost would argue that procedural rhetoric is found in this tension between helping others and making it out alive yourself. There is a careful balance that needs to be kept so as not to get into arguments and bad situations with other players. After giving certain responses, a player is directly able to see the response that other characters have. By this, they learn the way they should respond to get the best help from others, which essentially boils down to a question of morality.

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