Does Telltale’s The Walking Dead Prove That Gamers Are Chauvinists?

The Walking Dead

I know that it’s been over a year since Telltale Games released the first episode of The Walking Dead, but something has been bothering me about it and I’m only now starting to put my finger on the problem.

Though, before I launch into what will inevitably be a long and spoiler-filled argument, I should probably give anyone who hasn’t played The Walking Dead a chance to click on a different story. That was your warning.

At the end of Episode 1: A New Day, Lee Everett is forced to make a life or death decision about two of the game’s minor characters, Doug and Carley. In the scene, Doug and Carley are simultaneously attacked by zombies, and Lee is forced to help one and abandon the other. This is the first time that we’re forced to make such an important decision. And, because The Walking Dead‘s storyline is dynamic, the consequences will follow us throughout the rest of the series.

I chose Doug.

Truth be told, we really didn’t know much about Doug. He remained relatively quiet throughout the campaign, and we only really started getting to know him just before the last wave of zombies attacked. On the other hand, though, we knew a great deal about Carley. She’s an attractive newscaster who knows her way around a firearm.

In the moment, I was genuinely trying to make a decision about who was in the most danger. Doug was being pulled through a boarded up window, with no weapon whatsoever, while Carley had one zombie attacking her ankle. Plus she had a gun.

Carley And Doug Attacks

Granted, the gun was out of ammo, but Doug’s situation was obviously in a far more dangerous than Carley’s ankle zombie.

I was actually a little surprised when Carley didn’t make it out of the situation alive. I expected her to be a little miffed that I chose to rescue Doug, but I didn’t expect the writers to kill off a character that they had spent so much time developing. But the biggest surprise came after I polished off the episode.

The Walking Dead collects data from every person who plays the title. So, after you complete an episode, you can compare your decisions to the rest of The Walking Dead‘s community. The results are displayed in a handy bar graph, but the graph at the end of my episode showed that only 23.6% had chosen to save Douglass.

Everyone else saved the hot chick.

Carley And Doug Stats

AMC’s The Walking Dead has been repeatedly criticized for it’s stereotypical gender roles, so it’s only fair that we put the game under the same microscope. Except in this instance it’s actually the players that are under investigation; why did so many people choose to save Carley, a character who had repeatedly demonstrated her combative capabilities, and leave Doug to the zombies?

Jake Rodkin, co-project leader and co-writer of The Walking Dead, reasoned that the gap in decision making was due to the lack of character development on Doug. “We never gave the player the chance to learn who Doug is as a character,” said Rodkin during an empathy and character choice panel at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.

But this explanation doesn’t exactly hold water for me. Sure, we knew nothing about Doug, but everything we knew about Carley told us that she’d be capable of holding her own for a few minutes while we rescue the IT guy. So, for Rodkin to be correct, players would need to ignore everything that they had learned about Carley during the episode. Plus, Carley’s threat level was significantly lower.

Part of me wants to blame the video game industry itself. If titles like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda have taught us anything, it’s that women need to be saved by virile young men. So, why would we treat The Walking Dead any differently?

The silliness of this question doesn’t escape me, and I’m certainly not trying to elevate my ethical decision making over 75% of the population. But the question itself is valid; are we learning something that’s fundamentally untrue about women’s ability to handle themselves?

But I’m probably just overly sensitive considering all of the press that video game chauvinism has been getting.

What to you think?

  • carodwen

    I have to say I see the Pros and Cons of saving one over the other.
    Carley- She gives you the side objective of revealing your past to everyone, thus softening the blow when the fallout happens in episode 3 not to mention she is one heck of a dead shot..
    Doug- Doug is an innovative and tech savvy guy. A brainiac if you will. He places alarm systems into place that prove very very useful in episode 3. As well as help you to defeat an entire heard, based solely on the direction the bell pings come from.
    Yes Carley is a dead shot and that ability comes in handy, in the end they both suffer the same fate and so it really doesn’t matter who is saved. I wasn’t too surprised when I seen how many saved the girl over the guy. Some did it because it was a girl, some did it because she was good with a gun and they figured he was a liability. (when actually he was very useful) But the side quest to reveal the past to me trumps it all so next time, instead of saving Doug, I will save Carley. Because getting the past out in the open is something very important to the game play. But you are right, it was pretty Chauvinistic. Lol but then It was pretty predictable the one with the besom was saved at first instinct. Nerdy Nerdy boys! lol. On a high note I cannot wait til Friday’s new episode!

  • Daniel Revas

    The Developer provided a more than plausible explanation, the “Writer” already had a narrative in mind and wasn’t going to be deterred. Yawn.