"No Going Back": The Telltale Model as Thought Experiment

Antranig Arek Sarian

Abstract


Since the release of The Walking Dead in 2012, the "Telltale Model" of interactive narrative has attracted a lot of criticism for providing choices that 'don't matter'. This paper is a response to this discussion taking place both in academia and popular games culture. While Telltale's choices indeed 'don't matter' this overlooks the ways in which they actually function. The Telltale Model works in a way that is analogous to the philosophical thought experiment. It presents a sequential series of moral dilemmas that all communicate a common theme. The penultimate choice in The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 5: No Going Back (2013) performs as a final lesson - testing the player to see if they have properly internalised the themes of the series. It then responds not to the accumulated memory of their choices, but to how they respond to the final 'test' that bookends the series’ many ethical dilemmas. Telltale's choices may not have any long-term consequences, but they do serve an informative pedagogical function - just don't expect Kenny to ever "remember that". 


Keywords


The Walking Dead; Telltale Games; The Trolley Problem; Newcomb's Paradox; Ethical dilemmas; Thought Experiments; Choice; Interactive Narrative

Full Text:

PDF