The Walking Dead’s creator talks about the lessons learned from video games

The Walking DeadRobert Kirkman has watched as his creation, The Walking Dead, has expanded beyond the comic book fan boys to become a global mainstream phenomenon. With a hit television series on AMC that continues to push new boundaries, and a critically and commercially successful episodic game franchise from Telltale Games, The Walking Dead is everywhere. Even Activision is getting into the game with first-person shooter, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct next year.

the walking deads robert kirkman talks about going from mario to zombie mayhemThe prolific writer is now pulling multiple creative duties as COO of Image Comics and founding partner of its Skybound label. The creator of successful comic franchises Super Dinosaur, Invincible, and Thief of Thieves talks about his gaming background and his foray into the video game space in this exclusive interview.

Did you play a lot of games growing up?

I’m a Mario guy and I’ve played some modern games. I’m a huge fan of the Uncharted series. I play the odd Star Wars game every now and then because I’m a big Star Wars fan. I love Transformers, so I’m playing Fall of Cybertron and I played War for Cybertron. I play those, but I don’t really have a lot of time for video games because they’re kind of like drugs. It’s like if you play too many video games you’re just on a couch all the time kind of depressed, like, “This is what I do with my life. I play video games all the time.” So I try to stay away because I think I can get addicted very easily.

How do you think gaming has influenced your writing?

Not too, too terribly much. I haven’t played too many video games, but I think that video games are designed to offer appealing snippets to the player. If anything could be taken from video games, it’s giving the audience what they want in doses that keep them enthralled and engaged. That’s the goal of any story, to keep people engaged and not really withholding things to a certain extent. That is sometimes done in storytelling, to the story’s detriment. That’s definitely a lesson that I’ve learned from video games, that anyone can learn from video games – when you can just find out what the audience wants and needs out of a story and make sure that they get that.

the walking deads robert kirkman talks about going from mario to zombie mayhem deadAnd what was it like working on the Telltale Games’ Walking Dead game?

It was a lot of fun. It was really just consulting is the best way to put it. I have to give the vast majority of the credit to Telltale for putting that game together. I’ll take the vast majority of the credit for being able to choose Telltale to be the company to do that video game, but really all the blood, sweat, and tears came from their end. I basically just had a few conversations where I was like, “this is the world of The Walking Dead, this is the kind of stories we tell. You know the Walking Dead is this. It’s not this, etc., etc.”

I don’t even know if I needed to do that because those guys were huge Walking Dead fans. They knew the comic books almost better than I do, which happens from time to time because I am very forgetful. But they really know what they were doing and I’m really super happy with how that turned out.

What are your thoughts on the approach of episodic storytelling that the game utilizes?

That’s the key to The Walking Dead. I think that the comic is very episodic because the television show is very episodic and that’s something that is somewhat unique to Telltale in the way that they tell their games by story and chapters. I think it’s really cool how they build cliffhangers and tell a story over multiple chapters, which makes it seem like the story is that much more involved and longer and everything actually builds with anticipation between chapters. I know that Telltale has received some criticism for some minor, minor delays here and there on the game, and that’s unfortunate. I’m sure it’s something they would like to avoid, not having those gaps be reasonably lengthy – but having those gaps

the walking deads robert kirkman talks about going from mario to zombie mayhem dead comicHow would you like to see the games evolve from here on out?

I really like the way that they’ve told stories that dovetail with the continuity, but really are their own path. That’s a really cool way to do things. If the game series were to continue — I’m not saying anything for sure, but I would really like to see them continue on with that. I think that Lee Everett is a fantastic addition to The Walking Dead universe and I’d like to see more things like that from Telltale. It’s really cool.

Do you think the Governor could warrant his own video game experience and if so what would it be?

I definitely could see the Governor existing in the video game space. As far as what I think that could be, I wouldn’t want to reveal too much.

the walking deads robert kirkman talks about going from mario to zombie mayhem daryl merle

What are your thoughts on the direction Activision and Terminal Reality are taking with the prequel game featuring Daryl and Merle?

Daryl and Merle have really become standout characters in the television show and I know that fans are clamoring for more of them in any form. The idea of running around in the woods as Daryl killing zombies with a crossbow is pretty awesome, and I would say infinitely appealing. So I’m really excited about that aspect of the game. I’m waiting to see how it all turns out, but I’m very optimistic that it’s going to be very cool and anything involving the Dixon brothers is going to be something to watch out for.

With The Walking Dead now alive in comics, television and video games, any chance we’ll see a movie written by you soon?

I don’t know. Who knows what the future holds? We’ll see. Maybe.


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