If there’s one thing I love most about Telltale games, it’s that when I play them, I often regret my snap decisions.
In these story-centric, episodic games, you’re presented with dialogue options that include a timer bar, which gradually depletes as you start running out of time to make your dialogue choice. If you don’t make your decision in time, you’re stuck with a default choice (or, like, silence). The games give you a ton of other decisions too — who will you save from the approaching zombies? to whom will you give the limited food rations? will you torture the criminal or try to bribe him into talking? — and they often have time limits, too.
In other words, it’s a lot like real life. We face decisions every day, and we have to think fast. We don’t have five minutes to review dialogue options before we carry on with our conversations. We have tough choices to make, and we don’t always know which is “right” or “wrong.” As much as I love my Mass Effect games, life doesn’t give us color-coded responses to hint at how others will perceive them. We go into life blind, we make snap decisions, and we have to live with them.
Similarly, there are no easy take-backs in the Telltale games. Once you make a decision, you’re stuck with whatever consequences unfold — whether they’re good or not. I don’t look up anything about the episodes before I play them, but afterwards I love checking out other people’s playthroughs and seeing what could-have-been. But I don’t replay the episodes. Not right away, at least. I have to play through the entire game first, living with my first decisions even when I regret them pretty much immediately after I make them.
An easy example is in the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, when you get a chance to name your prime suspects in a serial murder case. I named Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum as my prime suspects. Minutes later, I had Tweedle Dee and the Woodsman (another suspect, though a little more downtrodden and less likely, in my opinion) in a bar, and they were both making a run for it. I had to act fast — who was I going to chase down and arrest?
Given that I had just named Tweedle Dee one of my prime suspects, I should have gone after him. But I didn’t. My immediate reaction — not my brain, but my gut instinct — was to run after the Woodsman.
As soon as I made the call, I realized what a dumb thing I had just done. Why hadn’t I gone after the more suspicious guy?! He was getting away! But that’s the beauty of Telltale games to me. The games force you to make quick, instinctual choices and then live with whatever happens next. It’s almost like giving the reins to your unconscious mind.
I might replay the Telltale games again, but I’m not incredibly motivated to see every possible decision’s outcome. Even when I make choices I regret, my canon playthroughs feel right to me. My brain might not be very happy about my decisions — some of them are pretty silly — but they belong to me even more because of that. They’re not over-thought. They don’t come from the part of me that tries to manipulate video games or strategize through every single detail. When I play Telltale games, it’s just me, thinking on my feet like I do in real life, and then seeing what comes of it.