Difficult Decision in ‘The Walking Dead’

TellTale Games is a company famous for their episodic games that have heavy emphasis on moralistic – and usually extremely difficult – decisions that the player must make.  Probably the most widely recognizable game that TellTale made that follows this formula, and likely pioneered the formula, is the Walking Dead series.

To cut to the meat of this blog post, I’ll start by stating what I thought was the most difficult choice: Whether or not to kill Andrew “Andy” St. John.  For background, Andrew St. John was a dairy farmer before the Zombie Apocalypse.  At some point during the events of the Walking Dead video game, Andy – and his whole family for that matter – turned to cannibalism to survive.

At the end of his introductory episode, Lee, the protagonist and player character, gets to decide the fate of the St. John Brothers and witness the death of Mrs. St. John, the men’s mother.  While it was easy to decide the fate of Danny St. John, Andy’s brother,  it was much harder to decide Andrew’s fate.  For context, I spared Danny’s life, as he seemed like he had lost his mind during the apocalypse, and I couldn’t bring myself to gratify his request for death.

Andy, however, was much, much harder to decide.  He wasn’t so twisted by the zombie apocalypse, at least not in the way that Danny was.  His actions were the result of his logical reasoning, making him almost more evil.  The decision for Andy’s fate comes after deciding Danny’s fate and then facilitating the zombie-induced death of Mrs. St. John.  I think that this order of events added to my hesitance to make a decision, although it was not the only reason.

On the one hand, Andrew St. John was a murderer who ate people to survive the apocalypse.  In trying to survive, he willingly gave up his humanity. He even attempts to murder – or at least threatens to murder – several members of your survivor group.  He also does effectively murder one member of your party and his actions are directly responsible for the death of another member.  These are all valid and compelling reasons to seek out justice against him and end his life.

However, on the other hand, Andrew St. John is a man who was trying to survive the apocalypse the way his family thought was best.  He was trying to provide for those he had in the world, and was trying to figure out what was best when it came to surviving this new world.  Although his actions are reprehensible, when its revealed that his family is out of commission, for the most part permanently, it’s clear that he’s been broken.  We’re reminded that this man, for all his faults and for all his crimes, is still just a man.  A human being who now has nothing.  He’s too pathetic to kill, and doing so wouldn’t bring anyone back.  It would only serve to dehumanize Lee further.

In the end, I decided it was better not to kill him.  For the sake of my own conscience and the moral fiber of my group. His continued life could no longer disrupt my group.  I felt he had been sufficiently dealt with.

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