This article includes SPOILERS for the following Telltale Games titles: The Walking Dead series, both Batman titles, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, and Minecraft: Story Mode (season one). These and all of TTG’s creations are far better with as little spoiled as possible, so if you haven’t played these yet, do yourself a huge favor and go play them immediately!
Friday, September 21st, 2018 brought with it perhaps the worst gaming news I ever came across. This was the day that Telltale Games put out a statement after firing around 250 people from one of my favorite gaming companies of all time. This news was made far more painful when discussion on Twitter brought up the cancellation of the third and fourth episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season (Note: at 7:39pm Eastern on September 24th Telltale tweeted that “[m]ultiple potential partners have stepped forward to express interest in helping to see The Final Season through to completion”, but that they can’t make any promises at this time) and that these 250 people were given no warning of what was coming, and that one had even relocated to work at TTG only a week prior to the closure!
It took me a few days to gather my thoughts and come up with words for what’s happened, and I didn’t even work there! Telltale Games meant a lot to me personally; they consistently put out terrific narrative experiences in all sorts of worlds, including The Walking Dead, Borderlands, Batman, Minecraft, and Guardians of the Galaxy. What made the games so magical was that, because they tasked us with playing the part of the main character and making so many choices (some as small as a simple joke or the wording in a reply, others as huge as who may live or die), they made us feel everything. I grew up quoting funny bits from movies like Airplane! and Spaceballs, but I can’t think of any movie, book, game, television show, or song that could make me laugh, cry, smile, and fear like Telltale Games titles did. “…will remember that” is still one of the most heavy statements I’ve ever read in a game, especially since it often followed some impossible choice between two bad possibilities. “Keep your hair short” is advice, sure, but also one of the most touching moments in gaming; and “Still not bitten!” is the ultimate rallying call for resilience and strength. It was through the power of choice that John Doe made such a unique version of the Joker, one who could become the ultimate villain or the worst sidekick (despite trying so hard!) based on your interactions with him.
I personally only buy around 5-10 new games a year, most of the time I wait until they’re on a good sale, but I religiously preordered every new Telltale Games title they released, even the ones that I didn’t expect to be interested in. I thought Batman was a boring superhero until I put the digital cowl on myself in Batman: The Telltale Series (two seasons total), and playing as Bruce Wayne was perhaps even more interesting than the dark knight himself. Minecraft: Story Mode consistently added unique elements to the popular things one can find by powering the original game up. Plus, come on, who the hell ever imagined that an animated pig’s heroic sacrifice (Reuben, Jesse’s pet pig) would bring a grown man to tears? I’d killed countless pigs in Minecraft before I played the Tellale Games series and never felt bad about it at all, even when I tossed their raw porkchops in a chest never to be eaten. Now I feel like I’m honoring his death every time I eat a Reuben sandwich or see a pig in the game.
The games also managed to get me more fully invested in worlds I already loved. My first TTG series was The Walking Dead, and I enjoyed the first season so much (despite already knowing a bit about the ending) that I immediately went out and bought The Telltale Games Collection (xbox link, the version I own) that included practically every other Xbox One game they’d made at the time. For anyone familiar with The Walking Dead seasons, you know just how memorable and deep the experiences within are, and for those who don’t, there are far too many terrific moments to list in a book, let alone an editorial post. Lee and Clem are the most iconic duo of all time in my humble opinion, and I still smile every time someone jokes about the series ending with Clem waking up to hear Lee tell her it was all a bad dream. This helped make me feel even more attached to the television show, and every time I think about the series I still consider going and buying the comics. The same was true with Batman: The Telltale Series; I enjoyed the story so much that my desire for more had me seeking out comics, trying to figure out where to begin. But more than any of the other series, the Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series game releasing between the two movies really added a lot of depth to the characters and world. Some of the characters and events were similar enough that I already had a connection to them, such as deciding whether to trust the Collector or Nova Corps with an important item (I chose the Collector as I assumed whoever it was left with would end up dead and I didn’t want Mr. “I don’t believe anyone is 100% a dick, ma’am” getting hurt). But it was getting to see Drax take down a huge beast (somewhat similarly to the introduction of the second movie actually!) and the backstory of Rocket Raccoon that really stole the show for me. I’ll never forget how touching the loss of his friend was, nor the frustration, anger and utter devastation he felt when he tried to revive her. When the second movie released I felt that I knew much more about these characters and why they acted the way they did, and it greatly added to my enjoyment of the film. It also gave me a greater appreciation for the team being able to stick together since a great deal of that game revolved around doing just that, balancing your choices to where none of the team felt completely ignored or unhappy.
The loss of Telltale Games means that now there are no narrative experiences I can count on throughout each year. Sure there are lots of other developers who craft magnificent experiences throughout the year; the first episode of Life is Strange 2 releases a mere 2 days after The Walking Dead: The Final Season‘s episode 2, for example. But no other developer was as prolific as Telltale Games, putting out episodes every 1-2 months all year, every year. There was always something to be excited about, and the social media team knew how to keep that hype alive almost 365 days a year.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is… All of you who have ever worked at Telltale Games, all of you who lost your jobs without warning mere days ago who won’t ever have their work seen by the world, and all of you who are still there today… Thank you for putting your time, your love, your enthusiasm, your creativity, and your talent into your work. I hope you all move on to terrific new jobs and inject your skills into various other titles to keep making the world a better place.