Gary Whitta on The Walking Dead: ‘I don’t think of it as a zombie story, I think of it as a human drama’

We talk to Walking Dead writer Gary Whitta on penning Episode 4 of the zombie thriller.

The Walking Dead videogame series has been going to strength to strength as its formula of classic point-and-click adventure, so brilliantly combined with a smart narrative and decision repercussion system, entices and beguiles players the world over. But what is it like to script, we ask Gary Whitta, who is currently working on the fourth episode of Telltale Games’ zombie drama.

Q: With the appearances of Glenn and Hershel Greene in The Walking Dead videogame, fans were able to experience their backstory for the first time, providing a concrete link with the comics – are there any more plans to involve familiar characters in the game?

Gary Whitta: People seemed to really respond to the characters from the comics that crossed over into the game so I think that’s something we’ll definitely want to continue to do whenever it’s appropriate to the story. It’s easy to be seduced into overdoing that kind of thing and it can come across as a gimmick or simple fan service; we’re more interested in doing whatever best serves the story.

Q: One of the things that struck me about The Walking Dead was the closeness of the art style to that of the comics – did the team consult with Tony Moore or Charlie Adlard on the style and characters of the videogame adaptation?

GW: I don’t know if we ever consulted with them directly but I can tell you that the comics are all over the office and they definitely served as a kind of visual touchstone for the game. One of my favorite things about the game is the visual style which really looks like an animated comic book.

Q: How do you decide which characters will live or die, is fan response to each episode taken into account, or has it been mapped since the beginning?

GW: The really big story milestones like character deaths were established early on and that’s not the sort of thing that fan reaction along the way is going to affect. But we do look very closely at the way players respond to the story as it develops and take that into consideration as we fine-tune other elements. It’s a fine line between wanting to please the audience and letting their reactions – which are often contradictory as everyone responds to and interprets things differently – cause you to second-guess your own creative instincts.

Q: The Walking Dead takes a different approach to other zombie games, focusing more on emotion, storytelling and decision-making rather than action, blood and guts. Do you think the fact that the comics have a strong fanbase allows you to make these decisions, and if you were perhaps operating independently of the franchise, on an original title, might it be harder to resist a more combat-focused approach.

GW: I think there are more than enough combat-focused zombies games out there already. WAY more than enough. That’s fun but it’s not what’s interesting to me. What attracted me to The Walking Dead first as a fan and later as a writer is the strong focus on the story. I don’t think of it as a zombie story, I think of it as a human drama that’s amplified by the constant threat the zombies project.

Q: Having adapted video games to comics in Death Jr., how does it feel now working the other way round converting source material from the comics into videogames?

GW: It’s all storytelling, the medium is secondary. I’m attracted to any opportunity to tell a good story whether it be in a comic, film, videogame, television show or novel. One of the strengths of The Walking Dead is that it has such a great dramatic foundation that it’s managed to do what so many other works of fiction have not; it’s shown that it can translate equally well into almost any medium. The comics, television show, novels and now videogame are all equally valid iterations of that fiction in their own right.

Q: With The Walking Dead reviving a much-neglected genre, the point-and-click adventure, I’d like to know if you and the team, like me, remember the golden age of LucasArts adventures and if they had any favourites from that era?

GW: Actually many Telltale employees came from LucasArts, which might explain why they’re now carrying on that legacy. And I’m so glad they are because there still isn’t enough focus on good storytelling in games and these guys are carrying that flame probably more than any other developer. I definitely grew up as a fan of those classic Lucas games like Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, and even before that with the great old Infocom text-only adventures like Zork and The Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

There was actually more attention played to storytelling in those early formative days of gaming than there is today, but I think as we learn more about how to tell good stories within the unique parameters of the interactive medium it will play an increasingly dominant and interesting part in the evolution of storytelling as a whole.

Q: What was it like appearing in The Walking Dead TV show? Did your role as a walker give you a new found sympathy for the undead?

GW: That was a blast. I actually did it partly because zombies have always terrified me since I was a kid and I hoped that being in the middle of a big zombie horde might help cure me of my fear. It didn’t, but I still had an amazing time pulling Rick down off his horse and feasting on the horse’s intestines. Definitely a career highlight.

Q: In Series 2, will we be continuing on with Lee’s story, or is there a new protagonist planned?

GW: You’ll just have to wait and see!

Q: I saw on your blog that you went against the general consensus and didn’t hate the ending for Mass Effect 3. Do you think the hysteria over the ending of ME3 will affect games designers’ thoughts on what they dare to do with their game’s endings going forward?

GW: I think that was a storm in a teacup and I really hope that it doesn’t affect the way developers approach the way they tell their stories in games. Can you imagine if David Chase had second-guessed himself and re-issued a different ending to The Sopranos after people complained? That’s the road to creative ruin. You have to trust your instincts and tell the story you believe in; to do otherwise will only lead to even more homogenous, formulaic storytelling.

See our review of the The Walking Dead: Episode 3 here.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
peopleThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
Sport
football
News
politics
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
Queen Elizabeth II sends the first royal tweet under her own name to declare the opening of the new Information Age Galleries at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London
media... and the BBC was there to document one of the worst reactions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Senior Software Engineer - C#, VB.Net, ASP.Net - Kingston, Sur

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior Software Engineer - C#, VB.N...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker