I adore The Walking Dead. So when I heard about this drag of a Facebook game Kate wrote about, I worried. This is a game that represents one of my favorite graphic novels, so I worry that the experience of the franchise will be tarnished for a horde of perhaps non-gaming Facebook users. We can do much better than just a series of microtransactions that neglect one of The Walking Dead's strongest features: interactions.
Interactions, social dynamics. The Facebook game is missing what makes The Walking Dead so good: the drama of how people treat each other while in a crisis. And how drastically that drama changes the social dynamic.
In the history of The Walking Dead, social interactions are not exactly typical compared to those we're accustomed to in this the-dead-stay-down world. They're far more exciting. And for a game to be based on a platform that boasts millions of users, that spans continents, gamers and non-gamers alike, social interaction shouldn't be a problem.
Here's how I propose we solve the problem that shouldn't have existed in the first place.
We're all survivors. Every Facebook user starts off as a survivor. Or maybe there are factions—the survivors versus the walkers—if we agree that that'd be cooler.
Since we all already have our own circle of friends, it'd be easy to abide by my fictional game's request to band together in groups. As for the odd ones out, they'd be randomly shoved into groups, just to spice things up a bit. After all, The Walking Dead communities are always composed of strangers who meet even more strangers along the way.
You pick a city, pick an assortment of limited weapons, items, and a starting zone. A house, a farm, a prison, a grocery store. Maybe, if you're lucky, you get a vehicle and minimal gas. Then, you fight to survive. The game throws obstacles at you like road blocks and herds and encounters with other surviving groups. Will you attempt to steal this new group's supplies? Can you lead the herd astray and sneak away to safety? That's up to you, your group, and the game.
You'll undoubtedly have conflicts. People who think taking a left turn is better than the right turn you suggested. Maybe your own group member decides to abandon you. Or worse, they decide to feed you to the dogs (or, you know, walkers). The game will guide your steps, creating drama where its needed, but mainly you'll be meeting other groups and deciding how to react to that. You'll face devastation and have to make on-the-moment decisions. Hard decisions.
And if you get attacked by a flesh-eating fiend, you join the ranks of decomposing soldiers and set out in new group, with a new mission.
What kind of a game would this be? My immediate thought is a text adventure. The game would give you a prompt, set up your particularly morbid situation. You might be the group that has a psycho waiting to be born. Maybe the game would even give each of us particular roles to play. Or maybe each group would have AI. Some are helpful, some are not. It'd send waves of roamers and lurkers your way. Maybe each new event would be associated with an image to be more immersive. They could zombify your profile pic if you end up turning! Nifty.
The downside is that the genre is considered outdated or too unfamiliar for non-gamers. The beauty of The Walking Dead is that it captures a very real scenario in a fictional environment. You have groups of people trying to survive, each with their own story, but with different levels of morality. You watch good people driven to the brink of insanity, committing horrific real-world crimes out of desperation. It's an interesting topic that's been popularized into a successful, mainstream TV show. And any chance we have to get non-gamers involved in our favorite hobby is a good thing. That shitty Facebook game out there right now? It's a slander. It's a missed opportunity.
So maybe it shouldn't be a text adventure, if we want the game to be as accessible to as large a group of people as possible. It should be easy and fun enough for every Facebook user to grasp, but intuitive enough as a game to actually work. Role-playing is a definite must. I'm open to suggestions.
Thinking about that Facebook game that is now mucking up a non-gamer's gaming experience, and a non-The Walking Dead fan's zombie experience, I ask you: why can't we just take a hugely social environment and set zombies loose in it? Then we'll see where the Facebook users take it. Just like how The Walking Dead panned out. It didn't take much to make those fictional characters crazy. Throw an epidemic and a little disaster out there, and the people will do the rest. And sometimes that makes for a worse apocalypse.