Telltale Games has been a major player in the video game industry ever since it struck gold with The Walking Dead, a mix of visual novel and point-and-click adventure gameplay in an unexpectedly gritty shell. That title’s initial success has since spawned numerous other IPs from Telltale that follow the same gameplay formula despite existing in vastly different universes, with the studio often releasing multiple games in the same year.
While Telltale Games has certainly refined that formula to the point of near-perfection, it has become a sticking point for some gamers who criticize the studio for focusing too heavily on recreating the gameplay that has made up the bulk of its success at the cost of potential innovation. In an interview with Gamespot, Job Stauffer, Telltale Games’ head of creative communications, addressed those critics and defended the studio’s adherence to gaming being driven primarily by narrative rather than player action:
“The difficult doesn’t come with the mechanics of playing a Telltale game. It’s about the emotional difficulty: it’s about the narrative difficulty…are you going to save someone’s life and give them the last of your rations or are you going to save it for yourself and focus on your own survival? These are difficult and emotional decisions that we want to challenge players with far more than we ever want to challenge a player mechanically.”
In short, Stauffer suggests in the interview that Telltale Games isn’t trying to compete with games like Dark Souls, and that’s perfectly okay. Instead, Telltale Games wants to be the studio that people associate difficult, emotional decisions in gaming with, a reputation it has already earned and is the reason why potential games from franchises like Mr. Robot become immediately associated with it. Stauffer offered up a summary of the philosophy Telltale Games uses in creating each of its games:
“We want to dissolve that barrier to entry with video games and with interactive narrative. We don’t foresee our games becoming more mechanically difficult, but we are always striving to make them more engaging.”
To Stauffer and Telltale Games’ credit, it’s a central thesis that has made a studio of only about 350 people into a juggernaut that consistently churns out unique, high-quality gaming experiences that rival the best television or film narratives in pop culture. For every nay-sayer about Telltale Games’ allegedly simple gameplay mechanics, there are many more who are clamoring for a Telltale Games series of their favorite multimedia franchise.
After all, there’s no better sign a video game studio is doing well than when most fans are asking for more games as quickly as the developer can produce them. Stauffer’s insight into Telltale Games’ approach to its myriad number of series is illuminating, but it’s unlikely he even needed to mount a defense of them. The evidence was always there, and the studio has laid claim to a section of the industry that started out niche but has grown into something far more important since.
What do you think of Telltale Games’ gameplay direction? Do you think critics of the mechanics are approaching the games from the wrong direction? Let us know in the comments below.