2012 Game of the Year: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac, and iOS is Shacknews' 2012 Game of the Year

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Telltale's The Walking Dead takes the dystopian world of the original comic books, and turns it into an active experience--evoking the kind of emotion that can only be possible through games.

Serving as a prequel to the ongoing comic book series from Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead's story begins with a convict named Lee. What he is beyond that opening scene is entirely up to the player. He can be a guy caught in an unfortunate circumstance, a brave leader, an unrepentant jerk, or even a silent protagonist. He's a conduit of player choice.

While the destination may ultimately be the same for everyone, the journey is thoroughly personalized. Its story is powerful enough that it encourages conversations at the water cooler and at the dinner table. Did you save Doug or Carley? Did you have Lee reveal his past to everyone? How did you deal with the farm? It's a game that encourages an introspective look at how one's own sense of morality, how one would react in a time of crisis, and why even the best of intentions don't necessarily lead to good results.

However, the essence of what makes The Walking Dead such an engaging experience can be seen in the game's other main protagonist, Clementine. She grows in a way rarely seen in games. She represents hope in an increasingly hopeless situation. She stands as a constant beacon of innocence, one that is heartbreakingly snuffed out gradually over the course of all five episodes. Yet her presence is a reminder of why humanity carries on in times of crisis--not because we know that a dire situation will end happily ever after, but because hope is stronger than despair, even in the worst of times. That's the essence of the entire Walking Dead franchise, a note that Telltale strikes with the force of a cleaver to a walker's cranium.

The Walking Dead stands as proof that episodic gaming can work. Telltale skillfully weaves cliffhangers at the end of each episode, followed by a "Next time on The Walking Dead" trailer that's crafted to your individual story. That harrowing desire to see what comes next has us not just awaiting the next episode--but a brand new season that promises to continue Telltale's absolute best work.


The Shacknews Best of 2012 Awards were determined by ballot voting across the entire Shacknews staff. Andrew, Jeff, John, and Ryan voted for The Walking Dead, with Tyler, Ozzie, and Steve picking it as their personal Game of the Year, earning it 500 points and the 1st place position on our list. The Shacknews Community chose the game as Game of the Year as well.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
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    January 25, 2013 12:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, 2012 Game of the Year: The Walking Dead.

    The Walking Dead for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac, and iOS is Shacknews' 2012 Game of the Year

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      January 25, 2013 12:05 PM

      good call.

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      January 25, 2013 12:06 PM

      Damn straight.

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      January 25, 2013 12:06 PM

      What a travesty. The Witcher 2 should've won again.

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        January 25, 2013 1:13 PM

        This is the correct response.

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          January 25, 2013 2:29 PM

          Having played it on 360 this year, I would concur.

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      January 25, 2013 12:07 PM

      Awwwwwwwwww yeah

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      January 25, 2013 12:07 PM

      hell yea, awesome game.

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      January 25, 2013 12:17 PM

      agreed!

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      January 25, 2013 12:28 PM

      I'll allow it.

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      January 25, 2013 12:29 PM

      oh Alice....

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      January 25, 2013 12:30 PM

      wonderful choices!

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      January 25, 2013 12:31 PM

      Nice. Anyone know if Diablo 3 won GOTY anywhere?

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        January 25, 2013 12:34 PM

        I think the only award it has won so far is most disappointing game of the year.

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        January 25, 2013 12:58 PM

        nope. It was on #1 on Biggest disappointment of the year for many people though.

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      January 25, 2013 12:48 PM

      Huzzah! Good call.

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      January 25, 2013 12:58 PM

      Season 2 please!

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      January 25, 2013 1:03 PM

      Story of the year? Absolutely.

      But a game is more than story. The game play in The Walking Dead was pixel-hunt garbage. Garbage I was willing to tolerate because the story was so great and I wanted to get to the next cut scene or dialog tree.

      When selecting a GOTY, game play should matter as much as story.

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        January 25, 2013 1:04 PM

        agree 100%

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        January 25, 2013 1:17 PM

        A big part of the gameplay in The Walking Dead is choosing your response or action in the dialogue trees of the story. Which was actually interesting because of the limited time mechanic on many of the choices.

        Gameplay isn't just all about shooting dudes or jumping around and collecting stuff.

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          January 25, 2013 1:26 PM

          We'll have to disagree on whether or not choosing from 2-4 dialog options constitutes significant game play. Also, the impact of the choices you made is really up for debate; Telltale did a great job making it feel like the choices you made were significant, but in reality the story changes very little.

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            January 25, 2013 1:39 PM

            Doesn't change the fact that the story is the main focus of the gameplay in this. Whether you agree it's significant or not, if you like the story you like the game.

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          January 25, 2013 1:52 PM

          The limited time mechanic in The Walking Dead was not a unique creation of that game, they just used it more often and with generally better writing than what had been done before.

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            January 25, 2013 2:03 PM

            Never said it was unique to this game!

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            January 25, 2013 4:11 PM

            Very few game mechanics are unique. In this case the execution was stellar and took this genre to a new level. IMO, that's just as valuable.

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          January 25, 2013 4:02 PM

          I'd agree but it's still a stretch to call it a game.

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        January 25, 2013 1:21 PM

        "But a game is more than story." an yet most games are regurgitated MMO and FPS parts that an imbecile could excel at at this point. I'll take an amazing story to be honest.

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          January 25, 2013 1:25 PM

          But games that offer recycled, crappy game play don't win GOTY either. There were countless great games out there this year with solid stories AND excellent game play. If all you're looking for is a great story, you can watch TWD TV show. Clicking a few times between scenes does not make for a great game, IMO.

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            January 25, 2013 2:02 PM

            Look, it's not hard to understand. If the game wasn't giving you these brutal and tough situations to decide between, even ignoring the extra pressure and threat of time in many of them, the story would not have been nearly as good or engaging. The story works well because it is gameplay, at least intertwined and fully integrated into the portion of gameplay this particular game does well.

            The same exact story being delivered in an un-interactive, passive manner would not have captured my attention or interest at all, would it for you? It's one of my favorite games this year because of the interactivity, whether you deem it to be all illusion of choice after the fact, in the moment everything you do or say carries a great weight and importance and matters. And matters later down the road as well.

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            January 25, 2013 2:30 PM

            I realize I'm coming down hard but I was in the same camp as you not that long ago, saying it's not really a game but rather a great story, and looking back I feel that was really unfair to it. Some people are probably never going to see the other side and I should accept that.

            And I must not have played many of these games with solid stories paired with excellent gameplay. I felt like I played a lot of stuff in 2012 too, yet the only thing that placed higher than The Walking Dead on my personal GOTY list was Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition for PC.

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        January 25, 2013 1:36 PM

        Exactly this.

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        January 25, 2013 4:00 PM

        Totally agree. Sometimes gamers get tired of games it seems.

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      January 25, 2013 1:39 PM

      100% agree, well done

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      January 25, 2013 1:44 PM

      How this game with well documented unfixed gamebreaking bugs makes game of the year is beyond me. I would have agreed with the #1 until episode 5 which wiped all my previous progress.

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        January 25, 2013 1:46 PM

        Is it any different than last year's unequivocal GOTY, Skyrim? Bugs up the arse, but it doesn't really tarnish the whole experience, unless you're one of those unlucky few people. Should that be a disqualifier?

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          January 25, 2013 1:52 PM

          Yeah, it is. Some bugs are more forgivable. I actually sometimes look forward to the bugginess of games like Elder Scrolls and GTA, they're always buggy and there seem to be as many amusing bugs as there are frustrating ones.

          But do not fuck with my save games. That is a god damned cardinal sin in gaming.

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          January 25, 2013 1:54 PM

          Skyrim wasn't my GOTY for 2011, personally. Last Elder Scrolls I might have considered giving that to was Morrowind.

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          January 25, 2013 2:05 PM

          I played Skyrim and came across several oddities. But never once did it completely wipe all my savegames. Also Bethesda seems to acknowledge and attempt to fix some bugs. Telltale has completely ignored this bug which occurs on all platforms.

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            January 25, 2013 2:56 PM

            I think Jake or Sean mentioned it on Idle Thumbs a couple weeks ago as an aside, but quickly moved on because it's probably not something they can discuss. It seemed to have something to do with some old code from when they were prototyping it.

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          January 25, 2013 2:25 PM

          Silly, Dark Souls was GOTY last year not Skyrim! :P

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      January 25, 2013 1:48 PM

      Uh, 'Shacknews.com' if you can call yourself that, where is Thirty Flights of Loving?

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        January 25, 2013 2:39 PM

        I really enjoyed pushing my buddy on the airport luggage cart. It's definitely the airport luggage cart simulator of the year.

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        January 25, 2013 2:53 PM

        Thirty Flights of Loving is the true GOTY.

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        January 25, 2013 3:00 PM

        I wish 30 Flights got more attention in various GOTY listings, great game.

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        January 25, 2013 3:25 PM

        Worst waste of 10 minutes and $5 of the year?

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        January 25, 2013 5:36 PM

        It got * G R A V I T Y B O N E ' D *

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      January 25, 2013 1:51 PM

      this game was so buggy with the save issues I'm surprised that didn't count against it

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      January 25, 2013 2:53 PM

      Oh shit! Thanks, Shack!

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        January 25, 2013 2:59 PM

        Judging by this post, I have to assume that this is four times the honor that the Spike VGAs are.

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        January 25, 2013 3:32 PM

        no no, thank YOU jake2000!

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          January 25, 2013 3:54 PM

          I still have Mercury, apparently, so that's pretty sweet. Thanks again, Shack!

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        January 25, 2013 3:56 PM

        You came back!

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        January 25, 2013 5:31 PM

        Keep making great games, yeah? This resurgence of adventure games is nice. Also, say hi to Andrew for me.

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      January 25, 2013 3:22 PM

      shacknews, I don't understand what this video is...

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        January 25, 2013 3:29 PM

        What's not to get about nearly a minute of dubstep and confusing visuals that cuts off half way through the list?

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        January 25, 2013 3:38 PM

        jesus, that is just awful. bad music, editing, just bad everything

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      January 25, 2013 3:54 PM

      What the hell at least give the award to a proper "game" with actual game play. They could have released this on DVD and just navigated the 1 or 2 objects you can interact with at a time in the menu.

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        January 26, 2013 10:18 AM

        Haha, are you still crying about that? Maybe, oh I don't know, you should waste your time with something else if it's so crappy. And let the rest of us enjoy ourselves while you rage in the sandbox :)

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      January 25, 2013 4:16 PM

      I need to finish Episodes 4 and 5....so nervous.

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        January 25, 2013 4:44 PM

        3 was definitely the best episode but it wraps up really nicely. I enjoyed how they managed to give each episode it's on theme and feel within the greater narrative.

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      January 25, 2013 4:30 PM

      I dont understand how Diablo3 didnt make the top 10. how many hours did people play that game?

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        January 25, 2013 4:36 PM

        a better question is why does anybody equate length of experience with quality of experience

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          January 26, 2013 12:23 AM

          why do people who play a game for more than 20 hours, but hate the end game ignore how good the first half was?

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            January 26, 2013 1:15 AM

            Well, the first 20 hours of Diablo 3 were the throwaway slog that showed zero semblance of difficulty. Arguably the least interesting part of the whole experience. I personally kept playing because I wanted to get to the challenge, coop, and also because I wanted to see every skill+rune combo for my class which meant getting to 60 at least.

            The fact that the story was garbage, loot / drops / itemization sucked, the overworld wasn't truly random, the AH, and all these other factors didn't really become coherent until I saw most everything that was offered a few times. I even shrugged off the massive stuttering because the game was new and I figured it would be promptly fixed. It still isn't, and going back to that game now and seeing these hitches even when I'm getting a solid 60fps is infuriating.

            It's a decent game and I got my money's worth, but I'm not surprised it's missing from some top 10s with all the other great games this year. Would still be in mine most likely, but somewhere behind Torchlight 2.


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        January 26, 2013 10:15 AM

        I would have been very very disappointed to see D3 reach top 10 anywhere. And I played the first two games *a lot*. The third game has absolutely nothing to do with those two games.

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      January 25, 2013 4:43 PM

      Good choices, Shacknews! I actually went back and forth on my #1 pick for a while, ultimately giving The Walking Dead the #2 spot and Borderlands 2 the #1 spot. But it was a damn close race.

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      January 26, 2013 11:46 AM

      too many bugs and save issues. and when you really get down to it, theres not a lot of gameplay here. its basically an interactive story. a very good story, but everything else is mediocre.

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      January 28, 2013 3:11 PM

      That's well earned, Bought that game and enjoyed every bit of it. Very good game, hat's off to tell tale for that.

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      January 31, 2013 6:48 PM

      Disappointed but not surprised. ) =