Remembering Telltale Games
It has only been a few days since the reports came in stating that Telltale Games would be shutting down for good. In a rapid-paced series of online reports on Friday, Sept 21st, it seemed that major layoff would hit the studio.
In less than a couple of hours, we had heard that the studio would be closing and roughly 250 people would be out of work. Due to the circumstances, full-time employees, contract workers, and everything in between was forced to leave the company effective immediately. Only a small crew of employees would stay on board to fulfill some work.
This news hit me hard.
I was left with a sinking feeling in my gut. For the past seven years, I had been following the studio closely. When the studio had followed up one of my most cherished franchises Back To The Future, I was thrilled to play through it.
Though it had its flaws, I appreciated the effort in bringing back a franchise long in dormant. Telltale managed to capture small parts of what made Back To The Future so special. Episode One felt like the follow up we were waiting for.
As many would unanimously agree, the game that really put Telltale on the map was The Walking Dead Season One. At the time, I was taking in anything Walking Dead related. When I heard there would be a choice-based game based in the comic universe, I was instantly sold.
Looking back on Season One, Telltale had much to accomplish. They had to introduce us to characters we had never seen before and make us care about them. Although we had some familiar face in the beginning with Glenn and Hershel, Telltale quickly put the fanservice cameos to rest and focused on their group.
The talented folks working at Telltale did it. Telltale’s ability to tell a captivating story and mixing in great voice acting from Melissa Hitchison and Dave Fennoy was a groundbreaking experience. By the end of the first season, the studio had created a narrative so perfect, it left many in tears. The relationship built between Clem and Lee was so powerful that saying goodbye to Lee in those final moments were heartbreaking.
It redefined the way I look at a narrative game. The Walking Dead Season One set the bar. Moving forward, I had anticipated each and every release from the studio looking for that next reaction.
While the next few titles did not raise the bar, both The Wolf Among Us and Tales of The Borderlands exceeded my expectations. I had no prior exposure to The Wolf Among Us and I quickly grew to love the world and wanted to follow Bigby and co. on more adventures.
Tales of The Borderlands, well, Tales had absolutely no right being as good as it was. Borderlands games have been good at what they set out to be, but it never hinged on its narrative.
Tales was exceptionally funny. I always anticipated how Telltale would outdo themselves with the intro sequences. Troy Baker and Laura Bailey helped create some exceptional character performances. The finger-gun shootout will always land in my top five funniest moments in games. The humour stuck, the characters were endearing –– it was a blast.
Telltale was full steam ahead from this point on. We reconnected with Clem in The Walking Dead Season Two, Game of Thrones released, and Telltale’s Minecraft: Story Mode held their largest episode count to date.
None of these titles had the lasting impact over the rest in my eyes. But the quick turnaround of these games meant something else would catch my eye sooner than later.
In came Batman: The Telltale Series. As a lifelong fan of the Dark Knight, it was so satisfying to have a story in which I could play out scenarios as the Batman I wanted. Instead of reading through the text of a comic, or going through a predestined storyline, I could make Batman and Bruce as sympathetic, or menacing as I wanted.
This was also the time Telltale began introducing new mechanics into their game. Detective Mode offered something a little different than the typical point-and-click navigation of games prior. We saw Telltale continue to broaden their gameplay moving forward as well.
In a short period of two years, I got to continue both Batman and Clem’s journey with sequels to their respective franchises. Both games took liberties, but still offered narratives and performances you do not see everyday in the game space.
Telltale Games established themselves as a top-tier studio. Since 2005, every member of the staff that has sat at a desk helped create some of the best stories in the medium. It goes without saying that games have already been influenced by what Telltale has done. Without Telltale Games, we would have no Life Is Strange or Firewatch.
Telltale will be remembered for giving us an opportunity to step into our favourite worlds and made us feel like we were making an impact. No matter which game we played, they were our stories. Your story and mine are probably quite different. That’s a powerful thing.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by the Telltale Games closure. As it would have been satisfying to see the studio close the book on Clem’s story, the more important focus is making sure each person is taken care of.
Their work in the games industry is too important to let go. I hope for those that wish to continue in games, they find the opportunity to do so. For the ones who may decide to move on, I hope they realize the effect they had on so many.