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The Characters of Telltale: Part 1 - Ladies First

My experience of Telltale's episodic game series goes back to the first season of The Walking Dead (TWD). If you've never played a Telltale game I recommend starting with that one. I'm mostly focusing on female characters this time round, as this blog was spawned from a previous one discussing Minecraft Story Mode.  

If you've never played a Telltale game I recommend starting with TWD Season 1. You play as Lee, again another well developed character and not a stereotypical hero-type. You're tasked with looking after Clem (short for Clementine), a little girl who is only 8 years old when we meet her. Clem is one of the strongest most likable female characters I can think of. She's vulnerable but brave and when it comes to the second season she's the hardened survivor that know's what's what... If only people listened to her a little more often. Having seen what Clem came through in Season 1 though, you realise that Telltale have managed to craft her into a believable, adorable bad-ass. Season 3 of TWD is due to start before the end of this year, we'll get to rejoin a considerably older Clem for at least part of it and I cant wait. This is the reason I can't look at Christmassy Citrus without tearing up just a little...

Telltale have also handled characters from TWD books, dedicating an entire miniseries to Michonne. Zombie hacking apocalypse survivors may not be the best role models but they make for some great characters , rounded by strengths and weaknesses like any human. I’ve not long found the time (and courage) to play this one. I already heard that it tackles themes such as parenthood and within the Walking Dead Universe that never ends well. Michonne is as kick ass as always but at the same time she is vulnerable and trying to come to terms with the great trauma(s) she has faced. My version seems to have played out as a rather erratic Michonne, sometimes selfish and defensive, other times righteous and heroic. She’s much more impulsive and easily affected by what people say, I don’t know whether this is a reflection of her mental state or my own whilst playing! Either way, I’m still enjoying this kind of organic character development.

Before Minecraft Story Mode (MCSM) came along, Telltale had mostly handled dark and serious properties, apart from their take on Gearbox’s Borderlands franchise. There’s still life and death and a bunch of Mad Max type shenanigans, plus face-pizza, but Tales From The Borderlands (TFTB) has much more humour. It’s almost the grown up version of MCSM, but instead of picking your gender you get two main protagonists. I could probably dedicate an entire blog to the game or to Reese, the male lead. I really enjoyed and recommend this one, the issue that people have about big decisions being inconsequential is mostly irrelevant as you can play the whole game for a laugh, even picking options purely for comedy value. Anyways on to Fiona, the lady’s got style for one and an awesome voice actor for another but she’s another great example of a female lead in a video game that has an actual character. She’s survived the world of Pandora with her friend/sister as a con-artist double act. Fiona thinks fast and can talk her way out of anything... mostly. She’d make a great leader for the group and the series is as much her story as it is Reese’s. Fiona starts off focused on survival and looking out for herself but she brings a certain street smarts and maturity to the group. Fiona still has a lot of issues to overcome (trusting others and letting them trust her, plus new responsibilities) and you can see her develop as a character over the course of the 5 episodes, again she’s one of those fully developed 3-dimensional characters that allegedly don’t exist in video games.

You might not be so familiar with the next franchise, The Wolf Among Us is based on the Fable comics. I’ve not read them yet but the game series has a certain film-noir feel to it, set in a world where fairy tale characters secretly live alongside humans. There’s not so much a female lead in this one but I feel like Snow White deserves a mention in this article, without sounding patronising she’s self sufficient and independent with a deep sense of duty, how many times have you seen a princess that doesn't need rescuing?

That brings us to the final series that I want to cover, Game of Thrones. GoT is no stranger to strong resourceful female characters. This time around you have Elissa Forrester, mother to several of the characters you play and full of advice, she knows what she's talking about, but for better or worse I played the game pretty much ignoring everything she said. You meet women in other families that practically run their House from the background including the indomitable Cersei. Having to match words and wits with her is an experience I won't forget. Later you also meet accomplished warrior/brawler, Beshka and have a brush with the Mother of Dragons herself. Some of the most pressured sections of the game involve the political machinations in King‘s Landing and this is left to Mira Forrester, she may not be doing any fighting but can potentially have a big impact on her family’s fortunes... she has more to lose than anyone and still risks it all for her family (depending on how you play the game).

You could be reading this article and wondering why it seems Telltale hate men...I don't get that myself but the world (and particularly the Internet) is made up of a whole range of people. In fact my writing may seem a little biased but in truth Telltale has developed some strong male characters too. They may not all be conventional, they may not all be strong leader types but they have their strengths. Themes of fatherhood in TWD, brotherhood and friendship in TFTB, redemption in Wolf Among Us; all still "manly" qualities but without relying on bald heads, muscles and gruff voices. I could write a whole article on Telltale‘s male characters, one on my favourite characters and maybe another on the strongest or most interesting but I’ll save that for another day, it just happens that inspiration for this topic hit me first.

Somehow it's always the semi-naked DoA “babes“ and ridiculously armoured female rogues that make the news or the memes, yet videogames can do strong characterisation, sometimes they even represent female characters better than most Hollywood movies.

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