The episodic point-and-click adventure game, The Walking Dead, is one of the finest story driven video game I have ever played. Throughout the entire season that comprises of 5 episodes, I want to highlight a particular character in the game that I personally feel strongly about.
In The Walking Dead game, Ben is a high school student who appeared in episode 2 with Travis, his classmate and their high school teacher, David. You came across their group in the forest, with one of David’s legs trapped in a bear trap without any safety release. You (Lee, the main character of the game in which you gain control) are in a bind; the zombies are surrounding you and you either a) chop off his legs to save him or b) leave him to die but letting Travis get eaten alive by the approaching zombies. Either way, to cut the story short, both of them die and you are left with Ben.
Ben, then becomes the newest member of the group until the finale. However throughout the game, he played an integral part in the overall plot of the story. It is because of him and the decisions that he made whilst in the group that created a lot of tension and friction between group members. And while tensions arises every now and then, you are forced step up to make difficult decisions, the sole cause of it lies with Ben. In one part of the story, as you hunker down in a motel that is fortified by hastily built walls made out of planks of wood and trash bins to keep the zombies at bay, you also faced with periodic attack by thugs who roamed the surrounding area. However, recently, these attacks were no longer happening but at the same time, supplies that you collected and salvaged from a nearby town to be kept as rations started going missing. It turns out that, Ben have been secretly stashing small amounts of their rations and giving it to the thugs in exchange for some peace. As you investigate who within the group have been stealing the rations, suspicions arose between members of the group, and soon a deep sense of distrust permeate among them, threatening to break the fragile group dynamics. It the end, the tensions came to a boiling point and fingers were pointed at each other to the point that it was literally cutthroat. Some of the members were wrongly accused and you ultimately had to make a decision on who is the culprit and whether to let him or her stay in the group. (As a punishment, you can force him or her to leave the group and leave him to fend for him or herself.)
Throughout this tense period, as you investigate the culprit, Ben, was, to me the least likely suspect, and it resulted in me making some really bad calls in the game that led to loss of lives within the group. The consequences of the decisions that I made and of the action done by this mysterious person had far reaching effects as you progress through the game. But never at anytime you suspected that Ben was the culprit at the very beginning. After he confessed, I was rather angry at him, for not being honest to me and the group and to be the sole cause of having so many lives lost. I hated him from then on. Hell, there were times when I just wanted to abandon him and just let him die in the hands of the zombies (if the opportunities presented itself in the game and there were a few) but somehow, I kept him alive. I started to feel sympathetic for him.
Towards the end, he confessed to everybody within the group (those who survived throughout from the very beginning). The response was met with vitriol by the members of the group, and he was immediately casted as the bad guy. I feel even more sympathetic for Ben. I started to understand why.
Throughout the game, as he realises his mistakes and the lives that costed him because of his bad decisions he made, he tried very hard throughout the game to make amends. Things like, trying to confess that would be detrimental to his survival (because if he confess, then the group will surely put him as an outcast). But then I realised that he is just a kid, who was suddenly thrown in this chaotic post-apocolyptic world in which he doesn’t know what to do. He has yet to understand the responsibilities of being an adult, and all the bad decisions he made, though stupid, are what an ordinary teen would make in his life which most teens by then would have learned the hard way. But for him, there wasn’t any second chances. What he did today, affects the very lives of the people tomorrow and he somehow didn’t grasp that concept yet.
Thee was also an internal struggle within him. As I persuaded Ben not to confessed, unless you risk yourself being an outcast of the group and abandoned to survive on his own, he couldn’t bear the fact that he had a guilty conscious. As the game progresses, he started to realised that he made several grave mistakes that ultimately costed many lives including a child. Essentially their blood was on his hands. That was why he chose to confess, and that was the moment where I realise that he was just a kid who is lost and shaken by the entire ordeal. What I initially thought of him as a stable, dependable person who knows his way around in life and his purpose in the group, all these began to collapse all around him and from within, it revealed a very scared, lonely and lost teenage boy. That was the moment that I began to feel sympathetic.
So to all players out there, who thinks ben should be killed, spare a thought for him and just think for a minute how he feels from his perspective. Seeing his friends and teacher die, not being able to say goodbye to his loved ones or know what had happened to them, and being lost out there, to be welcomed into a group of strangers whom he knew little about. These circumstances would surely shake him to the core. And as a teenage boy, just a boy, trying to find his purpose in the group, mistakes are bound to be made. Unfortunately in his world, mistakes are fatal.