Laevatein’s Campfire Tales: An Analysis of the Choices in The Walking Dead: Episode 1

The Walking Dead game was certainly a surprise.  No one was expecting a modern adventure game, and no one was expecting it to be certainly that good.  The Walking Dead seems to have subverted everyone’s expectations, and become one of the best games this year.  I’m only currently going through it, however, and rather do something like review it, I thought I’d give my thoughts on the choices of each episode.  Kicking off this zombie apocalypse is Episode 1!  Also, beware of spoilers if you haven’t played the first episode yet.


As of writing, I appear to be make some pretty unpopular choices, but not too unpopular.  Guess that says a whole lot about me, already.

Lie to Hershel?

This seems to be the second least divisive choice in this episode.  This choices occurs when Hershel patches you up after you escape the zombie-infested neighborhood.  Hershel asks you how you got that injury.  At this point, you can either tell him you got yourself cut, or lie about it.  However, there’s more to it than that, as I soon found out.  Hershel doesn’t stop there, and presses you for the circumstances (guess he’s trying to find out if you’re one of them, which is a little odd, considering he was skeptical of everything before; guess he was just joking around?).  At one point, he asks you who you were in the car with.  I said nobody, but I soon realized my mistake, as Hershel pointed out that Lee said “we”.  This got me a stern talking to the next day.

Simple mistake on my part, but I wouldn’t have changed my answer if I had to do it again.  Instead, I would rather Lee have refrained from using we, but I can’t change that, now can I.  I was trying to be a little evasive, and tried to avoid the subject of Lee’s arrest (and his crime, by extension).  I guess most people who lied thought similarly, and didn’t intend much (if any) malice toward Hershel.  I mean, Hershel doesn’t appear to be someone who would betray you (unless you deserved it), so I guess most people saw fit to tell him the truth.  Not like crime and punishment matters in a post-society environment, really.

Duck or Shawn?

The result of this choice is a little surprising.  On the one hand, we have Shawn, who saved Lee and Clementine by bringing them to the farm.  Shawn’s a really swell guy, too.  Duck is a kid whose only characterization would be “He’s a little… slow… but eager!” or something along those lines.  On the other hand, Shawn was stuck under the tractor, and didn’t look like the zombies could have pulled him away any time soon.  Duck, meanwhile, was being pulled over the fence, which meant he would’ve been pulled away faster.  Rescuing Shawn would’ve required getting that tractor off him, and that would mean it would probably be a good idea to rescue Duck while you’re at it.

What baffles me is that, though only slightly, more people chose to go after Shawn first, despite how much “safer” he seemed.  As we later found out, he dies either way, as the zombies bite him, despite the fence in the way.  Perhaps people knew this might happen beforehand, and attempted to save him from that grisly fate.  Still, I had to prioritize Duck, as he seemed like he would’ve bit it quicker than Shawn.  Still, this choice was the most divisive one in the entire Episode, and many of the reasons you could give for one choice clash with reasons you could go for the other.

Remember everyone, if you want to approach a zombie, make sure they can’t actually do anything to you first!

Side with Kenny?

Now here’s another very divisive choice.  Lee, Clementine, Kenny and his family (including Duck) meet up with another crew of survivors in a drug store, after almost being overwhelmed by some walkers.  Duck is all covered in blood and stuff, and Larry, one of the new survivors, argues that he should be abandoned, as it appears that Duck was bitten.  Kenny argues he wasn’t.  I sided with Kenny, as I can verify he wasn’t bitten.  At the time, I was also under the impression that people who get bitten turn into zombies pretty quickly (though I’m not familiar with the setting at all, so I could very well be mistaken).  That being said, this choice is interesting, as anything short of getting up in Larry’s face along with Kenny seems to be counted as not siding with Kenny.

At any rate, this choice breakdown fits the previous choice.  Duck survives either way, so maybe some players just wanted to abandon Duck (surprise surprise, you can’t), logic be damned.  However, I think it’s more likely that players were damned sure he had been bitten, and it was safer to abandon him.  Of course, I say that watching him in case he turns would have been a better scenario (he needn’t even be killed in a very loud way in case he does turn, either).  I suspect other players may have been tried to take a neutral approach, and been stuck with siding with Larry, instead.  Who knows.  All I know is that, based on this choice and the last choice, roughly half the player base wants the… slow Duck to be given the axe, or bite, as it were.

Gave Irene the Gun?

The Walking Dead sure wouldn’t be a game about choices without a euthanization one, after all.  At one point, you meet another survivor, who has been visibly bitten, and requests you put her out of her misery.  Simple choice.  However, if you don’t, she kills herself with the gun, anyway.  Oh well.  At any rate, euthanasia is still a very widely discussed ethical issue.  Simply put, Utilitarians agree with it, practically everyone else (such as the law) doesn’t.  In the game, the split between people who are and aren’t above mercy killing is quite close, so much closer than current studies show.  Now, this means many things; that the game’s sample size is small, that causation does not imply causation, etc.  I’d like to think that The Walking Dead shows that players have slightly different moral compasses than the general populace, however, which makes this choice very interesting, even if it does not matter in the long run.

Doug or Carley?

Ah, finally, a choice that actually matters in the long run (unless they pull a Bioware)!  Such a shame that it’s the least polarizing option, too.  Anyway, let’s take a look at the facts.  Doug and Carley were both being attacked by zombies.  The zombies were attempting to pull Doug through the plywood covering the windows.  Carley had a zombie attached to her leg, and another one was coming right at her (meaning these zombies were inside the store already).  Carley may have had a gun, but her clip was empty, and she couldn’t reach for another magazine in her bag because of the zombie attached to her leg.  Carley was seemingly in more danger, but if she survived, the group would have someone with a gun on their side.  All Doug can bring to the table is tech skills, I suppose.

While the choice seemed pretty obvious, there are some factors it seems a lot of people fail to consider (even me, at the time!).  A good pistol whip, for instance, may have gotten the zombie attached to Carley’s leg off, which would have given her the opportunity to fetch a new magazine.  Doug also mentioned a while back that the plywood coverings were definitely not sturdy, so Doug didn’t have as much protection as one would imagine.  However, this choice is excellent at showing that, under stress, players may resort to emotions and immediate thoughts rather than logic and conclusions.


None yet.  The last two choices have shown some interesting results, along with the second choice, to a lesser extent.  The other two choices are not substantial enough to really draw any big conclusions.  I’d like to see where the writers went with the later episodes first, before I start determining what they tried to do with their choices.  Regardless, The Walking Dead Episode 1 lays the foundation for what may be a pretty thought-provoking adventure series.

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A mad scientist who's so cool!


A mad scientist who's so cool!

One Comment:

  1. Great article. I was one of those who chose to save Carley. Perhaps naively, I didn't realize it was an either/or. My thinking was that if I got her the ammunition quick enough, she could save herself *and* Doug, since she'd shown she was such a crack shot multiple times. Conversely, running to Doug meant Carley was a definite goner. Ranged weapon > all. Just not in this case, I guess.

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