I also posted this on IGN here. I will be your best friend for life if you read it and leave a comment.
The Walking Dead: The Game came out last year and blew me away. I wrote a huge article detailing the many reasons why it's not only my pick for game of the year, but also my all-time favourite game, ever. With that in mind, I won't be discussing that here.
The problem I have is with people who decry that The Walking Dead: The Game shouldn't have won game of the year, because it isn't a "game". Why? Because it doesn't follow traditional patterns of what it means to be video game. It doesn't come with an obligatory boss fight, it doesn't have big action set-pieces, and it doesn't have levels or high scores. But is that what makes a video game? Is this medium so easily defined?
I don't think it is. I believe a game is defined by interactivity. What makes a game so great is how you interact with it. It's this medium's greatest strength; we as players actually get to take part in the story, and how it unfolds. The Walking Dead does this. Other games let you interact with them on different ways. Borderlands is all about loot, Grand Theft Auto has running over prostitutes, Dark Souls has its insane difficulty, and so on. The Walking Dead: The Game puts the player in a tight spot and forcing you to react and make a choice. It's not just a story. It's a story in which you truly feel immersed. You take part and react to the story, and you feel more invested in the narrative as a result. Games are capable of delivering this kind of story to us, and The Walking Dead emphasises this strength. It represents what video games are capable. They're more than a series of reaction tests and shooting galleries with cutscenes and a story thrown in. Games are an interactive medium, one that has the possibility for much more expressive depth than any other, in my opinion. The Walking Dead: The Game does all of this, and more. So why are so many quick to judge it?
All of the hate (or butthurt) for this game's many awards likely comes from the same people who were upset that Journey won IGN's GOTY. Their reasoning is about the same. The way in which you interact with these games is fairly simple. So what's wrong with simple? Some of the best games are easy to understand, and are highly enjoyable. I hear all the time that these games are too short or too easy, but since when does a work of art have to be confined by such arbitrary standards? I'll use Journey as an example. When IGN declared that it was their GOTY, people in the comments section cried that it wasn't a real game. It was just two hours of walking. Well, isn't that was Super Mario Bros. is? You run and jump. Which is exactly what you do in Journey. So why are these games being so unfairly crucified?
The Walking Dead: The Game isn't hard. It doesn't have a steep learning curve, and you can play the entire game in one day if you buy the entire season. It doesn't have boss fights, traditional levels, health bars, or collectibles. So what? Why are why restricting what a game can be? The Walking Dead is a game that truly allows you to interact with its world. Too many are quick to write it off as a movie with buttons thrown in, when in fact, it's the other way around. Games like Call of Duty are the ones that can be more easily summed up as "shooting galleries between cutscenes". Here, there isn't any segregation of gameplay and story. It's telling an interesting story, and the gameplay is in service of that. Instead of slapping story elements on top of gameplay, The Walking Dead: The Game seamlessly combines the two, creating an immersive experience. It's a game that made me think, feel, scream, cheer, and cry. That's what a game is supposed to do. Allow us to feel like we are a part of something.