In The Walking Dead: Season Two, you are Clementine, an orphaned girl who must learn to survive in order to…well, survive. What else is there to do when there’s an apocalypse? When a world’s gone crazy mad, is it really worth living? As we saw in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, another story about an apocalypse (though not undead), when hell has arrived on Earth, we feel no pity for those who decide to seek a better world.
A child’s instincts and motives are pure. She feels fear and so she hides or runs. She wants help. She wants to trust. She wants to be cared for and loved. But more than anything, there’s only a desire to live. And it’s a desire not driven by a higher purpose or love. It’s an instinct, one as basic as a Zombie’s instinct to eat brain. There is no reflection on the meaning of life when the undead are grabbing at her. It’s put a bullet between the eyes and get the hell out. A child is also unformed in her morals though Clementine is old enough to know right and wrong. Of course, you can’t assume a child is all innocent. We’ve all heard tragic stories of young children in places like North Korea who, driven by starvation, do horrific things. But a child acts instinctively. It’s simple and that’s the draw of taking the POV of a child in a zombie game.
Having said that, undead games are all the same. Our protagonist(s) trying to survive and not become a zombie. But again, what is so terrible about becoming a zombie? Is it worse than death? If you were a Marine on Iwo Jima or Okinawa during World War 2, you lived in constant fear. There was no respite, but you fought on and survived because you had a family to go home to, because you didn’t want to let your friends down. There was hope for a life after. But if you are in a zombie world, you are in constant fear, not only of the undead, but also of other people, of starvation, of sickness, of wild animals, everything. And is there truly a hope for a life after that is great enough to endure the agony of fear?
Most apocalypse or zombie games, books, movies and shows ask this question, but I haven’t come across one that has presented it in any interesting or original way. If it isn’t a deus ex machina, it’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Even a great writer like McCarthy didn’t give us an interesting ending, although his book was more about the journey, the “road”, than the destination. There was one Romero movie (can’t remember which one) where the guys get to an island, which they think is their haven, but turns out it’s infested. That was somewhat interesting because it’s like, “No, there really is no hope”. But I would like to see a game have a different take, something that disrupts the zombie genre.