It’s been quite a wild ride for the Telltale brand and its employees over the past year. After producing some of the best seasons in its 14-year history, the company fell on hard times in late 2018. Thankfully, Skybound was there to catch many of its hardworking team members and help them bring The Walking Dead and Clementine’s story to a satisfying end. Well, I assume it’s satisfying. The Final Season‘s final episode released yesterday, and while I’ve yet to play it (keep your eyes peeled for my review in the coming days), I have had this…eulogy, if you will, written for quite some time. I’ve decided to finally post it to mark the end of an era and to praise those tireless Telltale employees for their many years of service. This company and its games have been such a huge part of my life for so many years, inspiring me to write about video games and teaching me to appreciate well-written narratives in the process.
While this was written a few months ago in response to the depressing revelations emanating from the husk of Telltale’s ruins, the sentiment still rings true that I am so thankful for this company’s impact on the gaming industry, and I pray that the genius minds of its writers and programmers live on amongst the many rising game development teams of the future.
Now, with a heavy heart, I’d like to take a moment to just reflect on what Telltale means to me. I want to keep this hopeful and upbeat, as I wish to look back on Telltale as a beacon that shone through my entire life as a gamer. While I was never really into Sam & Max as a kid, my first exposure to Telltale was through Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People in 2008. That game, along with the WiiWare title Tales of Monkey Island, instantly intrigued me due to its episodic approach to game design. Fast forward to 2011, and my first fond memories with Telltale began to bloom with Jurassic Park: The Game. The original story based on an established intellectual property, the absolutely unforgettable characters, the nail-biting action and the overall WOW factor of this episodic series got me hooked on Telltale. Through the years I fell in love with Back to the Future, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Fables, Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Minecraft. And who was there alongside me with an original, narrative-driven tale based on these newfound loves to keep me entertained for months at a time? None other than Telltale Games.
My life won’t be the same without Telltale. I truly don’t feel the world of gaming will ever see another studio that can take an existing IP and create a whole new world out of it like they could. The way they could take a classic franchise like Batman and put their own spin on it, or take the massive lore of Game of Thrones and expand upon it with their own characters, parallel to the television series, was just unprecedented. Their method of storytelling, in two-hour increments over the course of five months, was something I never imagined could work. Furthermore, I never would’ve imagined something could keep me so engrossed for half a year, and never let me down any step of the way. While they took a bit of a dip in the middle of their lifespan, Telltale has really turned itself around in recent years. To quote their CEO Pete Hawley, “We released some of our best content this year,” and I back that statement wholeheartedly. It’s just a tremendous shame that sales could not match the critical acclaim for their series, and now we must live in a world without such creative genius.
It is saddening to hear that most of Telltale’s employees were let go without any kind of severance. Deemed as a business closure, rather than a massive layoff, the company got away with leaving over 200 hardworking team members with no form of compensation, and most of them also cannot file for unemployment. This is a disappointing and, frankly, morally unacceptable business practice. While it is partly understandable due to the fact that Telltale was left basically bankrupt, there is no excuse for not being able to pay your own employees simply because they threw all of their eggs in one basket. Supposedly, Telltale had only really profited off of the Walking Dead’s first season and any Minecraft series they created. The straw that broke the camel’s back seemed to be their deal with Netflix falling through regarding the upcoming Stranger Things game. So now here we are: a world without captivating narrative-driven “choose your own adventure” games helmed by the studio that revitalized them; a world without lore expansion on existing intellectual properties through unique episodic stories; a world with nearly a hundred extremely talented game developers hanging on for dear life without a leg to stand on. Here’s hoping they all find a home soon.
Telltale, thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have done for gaming and for enriching my life with your fantastic stories. Through the years, you have inspired me to pursue a career in writing, as well as established an appreciation in me for in-depth narrative and story-driven media. Your passion for creating games based on fan favorite properties and providing an original flair to them will be missed, but never forgotten. My heart goes out to those affected by the layoffs with virtually no warning at all, and I wish you all the best in finding new outlets to convey your brilliance to the world of gaming.
We here at Ground Punch thank you for your contributions to the medium in the last 14 years.