When Telltale Games closed down during the final season of The Walking Dead, many fans were understandably upset. Telltale Games struggled a lot, and perhaps its particular genre had started to grow stale. Yet, many had fallen in love with many of Telltale’s works and characters over the year, with The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands, and of course, The Walking Dead standing a cut above the rest.
Telltale’s resurrection (of sorts) came not long after it shuttered its doors, with the announcement of The Wolf Among Us 2 potentially breathing new life into episodic games. Even Gearbox, though not with TellTale, is pursuing Tales From the Borderlands 2 because of how popular the original game was. Among many of Telltale’s characters like Bigby Wolf, Rhys, or Fiona, though, one seemingly stands above them all: Clementine. The Walking Dead was one of its most popular IP adaptations, and now it celebrates its 10th anniversary—giving fans reason to celebrate.
The Walking Dead is Clementine’s Journey
Telltale’s The Walking Dead’s first episode, A New Day, released on PC worldwide and on PS3 on April 24, 2012. It would roll out to other regions and platforms over the following days, but it immediately captured fans’ attention. It introduced players to Lee Everett and Clementine, with the entire journey focused on getting Clementine back to her parents in Savannah, Georgia. They were long gone, likely before this journey began, but Lee and their companions taught her morales and how to survive in this post-apocalyptic world.
It may be the anniversary of the start of her journey, but every episode in every Walking Dead season strengthened Clementine and endeared her to players. They would see her at her best, and they would see her at her worst. They would protect her as Lee, until his death. In her shoes, players had to make tough choices in The Walking Dead Season 2, good or bad. Even though the next season, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, largely focused on different characters, it was fundamental in players shaping Clementine’s character.
Through all of this, Clementine grew from a child who needed protecting to someone formed, for better or worse, by the world around her. She became the protector of AJ, and it’s no coincidence that the cover art for TellTale’s The Walking Dead Season 1 and The Walking Dead: The Final Season draw heavy parallels—Clementine was now in Lee’s shoes. The story of it would walk a similar, if terrifying path.
But it’s only terrifying because many did not want to see Clementine die, and there were quite a few hints she might. She defined each episode and each season, and to this day, she remains a major face of the old Telltale Games. Her story may be done, earning herself a “good” ending despite it all, and it’s unknown and perhaps unlikely that Skybound Games ever continues her story. But Clementine’s story is worth remembering, not just as a high mark for episodic games’ true potential, but of how to make a video game character feel so vivid, so real that their impact lasts for a decade.