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All That You Leave Behind: Walking Dead Season 2 Review

“I’m not going *anywhere*…with you.”

With that line I watched my choices play out at the finale of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 2, and cried.

Doesn’t that seem silly? When was the last time a video game made you cry? Has a video game even made you cry? (and I don’t mean out of frustration) I knew it was going to be emotional, I knew that I was completely invested in Clementine’s story. But I wasn’t prepared for what they had crafted.

It’s no secret I am a fan of Telltale Games’ work. I loved Back to the Future and The Wolf Among Us. Their games aren’t for everyone, if I was to take the most hostile critical view you could argue it’s mostly dialogue choices and quick time events. Some people just don’t get into that.

But that mixture of interactivity made me feel like I was part of the story. In season 1 I played Lee as I like to think I would be. It was role playing in a way a lot of RPGs have not pulled me into. I made choices as I like to think I would in that world to protect Clementine. In season 2, you play Clementine and I played her at first as a bit of a hardened survivor, how I like to think a child version of me would have to be in that situation.

But along the way I discovered something profound.

Playing a young girl in this hopeless world that had been created gave me all sorts of new perspective. By episode three I was playing Clementine not as a child version of myself. I was making her choices as I thought she would make them. I was instinctively doing things I would not normally do. And I realized.

Clementine is probably one of the most important video game characters of the past 10 years.

I’m 100% sure I could do an entire PAX panel on why. The writing is top notch, let’s set that aside my having acknowledged it up front.

It’s far more important that the unique combination of writing, situations, voice acting, and my ability to interact with it as a participant affected me so emotionally that when I sat down to play the finale I actually, in a tiny tiny way, dreaded it a little. I was scared for Clementine. She’s tough, and vulnerable, and surrounded by adults who both expect too much of her and underestimate her. Her story is rich, her character doesn’t just have three dimensions it has four because you play her.

This is astounding fiction.

Clementine is a role model. Because through her narrative, you discover things about yourself. I discovered things about myself through playing Lee but I discovered things I need to learn through Clementine. Everyone expected of her, but held her accountable. Wanted to protect her, but put her at risk. And none of it was too contrived, I felt. Forced to role play that situation I felt informed about what it means to be a “little girl” in a survival scenario. The gender role part is an element, but it’s far more important that Clementine is a person, a human. This is how we teach empathy. This, in a way, is how we help put an end to misogyny.

It can’t be any other way, but The Walking Dead game is M rated so it’s not something I can say you should show to your children or have them play role model wise. However it moved me deeply. Thank you to everyone at Telltale Games for making it.

** EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Telltale Games was kind enough to send me a code for the finale so I could play it a bit early. I think given my tweets and posts about the season up to that point it’s fair for me to say that didn’t influence my views. Smile

Music you need now.

It amazes me how I fell into a circle of amazing musicians. But I did. They inspire me and a lot of them have new music:

Marian Call

I don’t want to bring anything down but I had a beautiful beautiful dog die who was named Remington. He was just 18 months old. Right when that was happening Marian Call sent me a three song sample of her new album that wasn’t finished yet, and her song Anchorage was one of those songs. I listened to it while I drove Remy to his blood transfusions. It remains one of the most powerful songs I can think of in my life. It anchored me.

(To bring things back up here’s her and me being silly.) I adore her and she has a new album I think is awesome. So, it’s worth your time to buy this new work from her. Her cover of Blackbird alone makes me fall in love with her all over again.

Paul and Storm

It’s not a secret that I think Paul and Storm are awesome. Not only did they give me the opportunity to perform at various w00tstocks and Jococruisecrazy they make entertaining music that goes beyond just being jokey and funny but is actually good *music*. They have a new album called ball pit that contains some of my favorite tunes by them like Write Like the Wind and Fuzzy Man. It’s well worth your while.

MC Frontalot

MC Frontalot is…good lord do I even have to say it? He has new nerd raps for you. Go. GO!

Stand By For Titanfall.

This is the piece I performed over the weekend at Emerald City Comic Con. Enjoy!




The words were like a relentless hammer through the communal comm feed.

Prepare for Titanfall.

Standby for Titanfall.

Your titan is ready.

"Sweet honey bunches of oats," Bainer said. "That’s three at once!"

"It’s that asshole Spudman332 I bet. He sets the titans to autofollow then just rushes around killing sentries." This was from Old man Sinsky, a veteran of the video game asset manufacturing industry.

Stand by for Titanfall the voice intoned again.

“Mother fucking miniwheats! Do they even realize we’re building titans for both sides?" Bainer screamed, as he gesturing haphazardly with the arc welder.

"Watch it kid!" Old man Sinsky said, "I’ve been welded once before by accident and it makes getting lemon juice in your eye feel like an orgasm. Besides, this setup is nothing. Do you have any idea how many hats we had to make during an average night of Team Fortress? Or how many crates we had to put together by hand for Half Life 2? Seriously, This is nothing. Start bitching to me when you have to deconstruct an entire village for the winning player in an Age of Empires match. The words over built are not in those players vocabulary"

"I’m not here for ancient history chief. Yeah that’s right, I chiefed you,” Bainer said, ratcheting a Titan knee joint. "I’ve paid my dues. I was part of the halo warthog strike of ’05. Those things were near indestructible, it put entire construction teams out of business."

"Watch your arm joints" Sinsky barked. "if the weld doesn’t hold they break apart on impact from orbit."

"Yeah yeah, kiss my winking pink browniecake"

"Kids think you are so smart" Sinsky said under his breath.

Prepare for titanfall.

Prepare for Titanfall

Stand by for Titanfall.

"I’m not finished with the first one!" Bainer screamed at the ceiling. Sinsky chuckled and slapped a Titan on the ass on it’s way down. "Kid you’re going to give yourself a heart attack."

"Yeah well at least that’s covered under the health plan." Bainer replied.

"Enough banter, back to work" the boss barked from the catwalk overhead. Sparks rained down on the massive assembly line of the large mechanical battle kits known as Titans. All were awaiting delivery to various game matches and battles going on. It was the industrial manufacturing of fun.

Thurmon was the quiet one, silently making his Titans to spec and shipping them off. But he piped up all of the sudden, and Bainer and Sinsky stopped what they were doing in shock that he had even made a peep.

"Do you think they know?" Thurmon said quietly. "Do you think they realize how silly this all is?"

Sinsky scowled "Get back to work." But Bainer asked "What? what are you talking about?"

"It’s a battlefield where none of them can truly win. Each victory is just a fleeting moment before everything is reset and the battle starts over. Titans rain down, get destroyed. Flags are captured or enemy teams are eliminated. There’s a pause to take note of your miniscule accomplishment then everything starts back from zero."

Thurmon slapped a weld on his Titan and punched the button to send it down.

Stand by for Titanfall.

"Shut up Thurmon" Sinsky said again as he started on a new chassis. "Who cares what they know or don’t know?"

"They fight these battles for false pretenses under stress from their own lives that they cannot cope with so they engage on a battlefield that has no purpose or goal. Not really. They control this point, jump up walls or spin around using thumbsticks when most of them can’t walk a mile in less than 30 minutes. They fire guns and pilot mechs or control buildings or vehicles without any real world skill or acumen."

"Thurman I swear to all that is deep fried I am going to punch your neck right in the balls if you don’t shut up." Sinsky said.

Prepare for Titanfall

Standby for Titanfall.

"Bainer you said it yourself, we’re making Titans for both sides. Do they even have a clue?" Thurmon looked at his welder as if it held the answer to all of his questions.

Bainer at this point had stopped building Titans entirely. He was experiencing, as the poets say, an epiphany.

Thurmon sent another Titan down. The boss noticed Bainer standing there. "Bainer you miserable bag of rectal sweat, get moving!"

Bainer stood still, lost in the focus of rethinking his life’s work. You know, like you do.

Sinsky nudged him. "Get moving kid or we’re all screwed."

Bainer looked up at the boss on the catwalk. "But…what is it all for?"

The boss carefully took a baseball out of his pocket and with an expert throw beaned Thurmon on the crown of his head. He looked back at Bainer.

"Listen closely kid. Other people make the guns, we just make the bullets. Other people make the drugs, we just make the needles. Other people distill the liquor, we just put it in the bottles. You made the mario mushrooms, pacman dots, tiberium crystals, wood stone or gold, Today you make Titans. now get back to work.”

Bainer stared at the conduit where his unfinished Titan chassis stood, ready to be built and deployed. He looked up defiantly at the boss and said softly "No. Not today."

He stepped into the conduit himself.

Prepare for Titanfall.


Thurmon looked over the edge, his head still smarting from the boss’s discipline. Sinsky joined him, there was a break in the action.

"You think Spudman332 knew what he was getting when he called for that Titan and Bainer shot down from orbit instead?" Thurmon asked.

"No," Sinsky said, "but judging by how many quad rockets blew Bainer into smithereens one second after he appeared I would say they both experienced an equal measure of surprise."

Thurmon sighed. “I suppose I should take some of the blame."

Sinsky laughed, "You could. But we have work to do."

"Still, I always feel bad when they fall for it so easily."

"Blame the boss" Sinsky said. "We have work to do."

The lights ran up again as the counter went down. Gamers set down their beer or ran back from the bathroom. Headsets were put back on as as their screens lit up, and the sparks began to fly as a new round started and the Titans were built.

Stand By for Titanfall.

Xbox One: The Reviewening

I’ve now been using my Xbox One for close to three weeks now and I think that’s enough time to move through initial impressions and actually review the unit as a whole.

DISCLAIMER: When I left Xbox work was just completing on finalizing the hardware specifications on “Durango” which would end up being the Xbox One. While a number of public features that made it in and ones that have been announced bear resemblance to features I specced out over the life time of the Xbox 360, I had no direct involvement in what eventually shipped as Xbox One. I also do not own a PS4 yet so this review is strictly just my thoughts as a consumer who paid $499 for a new console. I purchased an Xbox One because I believe Xbox LIVE is still the gold standard in console interactivity and my existing investment in the platform through achievements, etc.


One of the more interesting things about this generation is that both major manufacturers in this release cycle have chosen to go with commoditized hardware, meaning instead of a custom designed processor platform they have chosen “off the shelf” solutions from AMD. Much will be made over design choices such as “ESRAM over GDDR5” etc or the GPU choices between the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. In the end I doubt there will be a massive difference in the end result of quality of games until much later in the cycle, much like it took years to eek out the performance advantages of the Playstation 3’s cell architecture over the tri-core PowerPC platform of the Xbox 360. For now, out of the gate it would appear Sony has the edge in that several key cross platform titles run at a full 1080p resolution instead of being scaled. However I’m not totally convinced yet that’s going to be a standard situation. Both platforms rushed to market.

Unboxing the Xbox One is a simple affair, the packaging is neat and tidy and while some people might complain about the plain look of the box, I love it. I want my electronics to be as simple and unobtrusive as possible. This is one of the reasons I did not like the white Xbox One launch console. The sleek black squared off look of the Xbox One is appealing and the size of the case and knowing the heat dynamics of the hardware platform they chose indicates they left plenty of space for heat dissipation.

Connect the power, HDMI out, HDMI in if you wish (I hooked my 360 to it, more on that in a minute) and the Kinect and you are ready to boot up.

My setup wasn’t quite so simple as I had not prepared my home theater for getting the new Xbox. So this required rewiring some HDMI, moving my old 360 over to a new spot, then hooking everything back up to make sure it worked. All told from unboxing to power on was about 20 minutes.

First Experience

Right off the bat the nicest thing about the Xbox One is how quiet it is compared to the last generation of consoles. I’m sure 8 years from now I’ll be complaining the next generation should be quieter but the difference is immediate. Pairing your controller is also simplified, you put the controller in pairing mode and the Xbox automatically detects it.

Prior to really being able to do anything with the box required a mandatory 500+mb update which took about 10 to 15 minutes for me to get. I have a lot of Internet connected devices in my home and while it was downloading I was doing other things online so that most likely impacted the saturation on my 7mb line. Once the update was installed I ran through the simplified initial setup to connect my Xbox LIVE account, select instant on, Kinect sign in, and Kinect calibration. All told that took about 10 minutes.

Then, One By One, We So Quickly Undo The Slow Adjustments.

The rugs on the hardwood to provide traction and prevent injury get pulled up and stored away. The baby gates that have turned our house into a zoned area for who can be where or with whom are retired. Each thing a tweak to our lives made over a long time.

I heard Buddy panting this morning, then realized what I was hearing was silence and my mind was inserting his ever present breathing. We never did know why, but his entire life he panted loudly almost all the time, smiling that Golden grin. Just a thing he did, just a weird part of who he was.

You make slow adjustments towards the end then suddenly after the end there’s no reason for them anymore all at once. Rochelle is taking a nap upstairs in our bed, something she’s not done in more than a month. She had to nap next to him on the couch downstairs. Adia is curled up next to her right now. We slept together last night for the first time in weeks, because before at all times someone had to be downstairs. I was too used to sleeping with one ear open, and was startled awake a couple of times last night to nothing at all, and Rochelle calmed me down.

There’s a pile of medication to return Monday to the vet. Treats specifically designed for taking pills will be put away. No longer will feeding time also involve an ancillary call out to all the dogs for “Medicine time!” because some dogs got jealous that one was getting “extra food.” and everyone had to have treats.

Things wind back a bit, the new normal we had adjusted to becomes the old normal.

It’s quiet. And please allow me this trope: it’s too quiet.

Children outside start shouting and playing, Eowyn stirs and growls and jumps into the front window saying the dog version of “YOU DAMN KIDS, GET OFF OF MY LAWN.” She’s two. And I remember how he used to bark in protection all the time. After he stopped doing that, I suddenly remember, is when we started to refer to him as “old man.”

If I hold Eowyn close, and breath in deeply I noticed something today for the first time.

Her fur smells like stale popcorn. Like him.

Thus life moves on. This crazy Internet thing keeps sending us messages of love and support. Neither myself or Rochelle can make sense of a world where that wasn’t possible because it now means so much to us.  I make some mental plans to take Eowyn and Adia walking or to the park, something we couldn’t do recently. There was a hockey game on today, I didn’t watch it. My team won. That was nice.

It was raining this morning, in a stormy sort of way. Lots of wind and noise. Now it’s calm and the sun struggles to peek through but it was friend zoned by Seattle long ago and won’t break out of there until July with promises of warmth and happiness. I need to find work, there’s bills to pay.

That, as they say, is that. And I suppose I could have it another way. I suppose I could.

But nope, as Eowyn starts barking again, this is fine.