Best Writing – Drama: The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is not a game about zombies. It’s about a small group of strangers desperate to survive in a world that became unimaginably dangerous and terrifying overnight. Robert Kirkman, creator of the original comics, gets the credit for establishing the zombie apocalypse premise and for setting the survivalist tone. But Telltale takes home our award for Best Dramatic Writing for their gripping portrayal of an ever-shrinking group of survivors on a daunting pilgrimage with droves of "walkers" nipping at their heels. Controlling Lee Everett, a convicted murderer with a heavy conscience, the player grapples with impossible choices that run the gamut from who gets to eat to who gets to live, and these weighty decisions account for much of the game’s dramatic tension. Even more wrenching are the inevitable tragedies that befall a group divided from within and far outnumbered by the hungry undead that crave their flesh. But almost as often as it makes you cry or cringe, The Walking Dead makes you smile at the tender relationship between Lee and Clementine, the orphaned child he befriends and eventually becomes a substitute father to.
From the graphic death and dismemberment of family and friends, to the torment suffered by the people left behind, to the sweet friendship forged between Lee and his young charge, The Walking Dead is much more than a “sad” story or a “scary” one; against the backdrop of unbearable tragedy and carnage it explores the spectrum of human emotions that carry us through daily life. Its standout writing is obvious in its dialogue exchanges, where nuanced options allow you to choose the tone and tenor of Lee’s responses, often with long-ranging consequences. But this Aggie is not awarded for words alone. The designers’ storytelling choices also play a major role in the unfolding drama: the unrelenting pendulum swing between frantic zombie encounters and quiet moments shared by survivors, the startling situations that make us question human nature, and the gradual, gut-wrenching realization that this tale will not have a happy ending for all. It’s a rare game that truly puts you in the shoes and the skin of the character you’re playing – but here Lee’s choices are yours, his quest for survival is your own, and the losses you experience together are devastating. And it all works thanks to the incredible writing. Without that, The Walking Dead would have been just another game about zombies.
Runners-Up: Resonance, The Cat Lady, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, Primordia
Readers’ Choice: The Walking Dead
While its zombie apocalypse story provided an engrossing basis for a heartfelt (and often heart-pounding) survival experience, the real genius of The Walking Dead was its ability to make us connect with its characters emotionally through realistic dialogue (not an easy task in such nightmarish circumstances) and intensely personal player choices. Telltale wrote the words, but they were so believable in context that every decision felt like yours, along with all the agonizing consequences that followed.
Runners-Up: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode One: The Hangman, Resonance, The Cat Lady, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
Next up: Best Character... the envelope, please!