Ok, context for this article is a recent EC episode on: "For Whom the Bell Tolls" [link]
In which they take the Walking Dead's use of an old 17th centry poem (Devotions upon emergent occasions. Meditation 17) and apply it to the themes of the game.
Whist the quote did indeed play into the themes of the game. I however don't think that the use of the quote was apt at the time, or that it couldn't be done a lot better.
You see, the quote is only interesting, when you read into its entire meaning. But in the game it's nothing more than it's punch line.
My difficulty with lauding it, it that in the game, the quote was awkward and out of place. The game is filled with very normal, human dialogue and surprisingly the game isn't that quotable despite it's effectiveness in its storytelling.
Making the one time a character speaks so rhetorically, feel out of place.
Chuck, we didn't know too well at that point, and the whole bell ringing (by an unknown stranger for unknown reasons) leading to (obviously, given our knowledge at that point) more zombies.
This isn't the time for quoting potery. The scene and the quote is a sea of unknowns for the player, and the imminent threat of being eaten kinda overrides, these subtle head nods to media gurus of the audience.
So I got to thinking of quotes in general, and how/why they are used... What quotes do we remember from gaming?
'A man chooses a slave obeys' –Bioshock.
The final climatic confrontation with Andrew Ryan, where the games own rails are used to tell you, that you were programmed to progress through the game. There's a tension in the air and the game takes control away from you to frame its great twist. Much more memorable and better time than some generic final boss (which the game DID end on).
'Proper stories supposed to start at the beginning. Ain't so simple as this one...he gets up' –Bastion
The lush painted visuals, the deep but whimsical narration, literally being told it's in medias res and the obvious start of Bastion's consistent narration upon player input.
Bastion starts with a distinct and bold hand to its audience. Making this scene, and the whole opening dialogue amongst it's most memorable.
'The cake is a lie' – Portal
Yes, 'that' line, is memorable, and for good reason. Portal sets up a token reward for the end (cake/party), but over time, it becomes obvious that things aren't as they seem, that things here are a little odd. The 'cake being a lie room'. Was a perfect way to frame the mystery and token-ness of Glados's actual plans and your actual future.
The line is silly, and mildly humorous. But honestly, the point of it, was the mystery, not the humour. Which is why it's become so annoying when people quote it all the time, in the wrong contexts.
Point is; these quotes all emerged 'from' what feeling the game made in its audience, and they generated truly memorable moments.
But in this case the quote is an adaptation rather than an emergent one. But even when adapting your quote you should do it properly, otherwise the meaning is lost. You can't just copy paste willy nilly and expect for the same lines to have the same meaning.
Some quotes, such as 'to be or to not to be' or 'for whom the bell tolls' and 'the cake is a lie' all have a certain cultural resonance, despite people not always knowing exactly what they meant in the first place (contemplating suicide, loss of humanity and silly uncertainty).
Context matters, for the above it's within the context of Hamlet, or a longer poem or even just some paint on a wall hidden away outside of the normal clean lab space.
Same goes here with 'for whom the bell tolls'. It's a reflective, punch line with a feeling of finality or nihilism (to those who aim to liquefy or dilute human value). Whilst the nihilism was apt, the value of humanity wasn't communicated in the game because it only gave us the punchline. The context of what was said before it in this poem mattered.
Chuck's place as hobo mystic has only kinda been established at this point, and this being his final interactions isn't clear. This wasn't the best use of this poem or character since Chuck and what he said was all such a mystery. I like that the writers gave this depth to Chuck and knew the quote. But the writers didn't give across this depth to their audience very well and that is bad storytelling.
If it were me, in retrospective. I'd've done it very differently.
I'd have Chuck around for the school/Crawford part of the game.
We'd have more time to get to know him, and his personality, and knowing this guy, we then get the whole quote explained more clearly to us... Depending on how we view Chuck, his love of this quote will contextualise our opinions on him and the events to come better...
Not to mention. A school is a setting of great humanity and culture... (kinda)
Schools seem a natural place to get our literature caps on. To become sentimental for the easy times where knowledge and worth was given to everyone; a place where we realise everyone's full potential..
It's also in Crawford. A place that's twisted and dripping with dark history. Crawford had given up on their humanity, had chosen survivalism over humanity and still fallen (due to their own flaws from lack of humanity).
With Chuck there, and the quote given proper context. This could hammer home the contrast farther. Lee the former teacher, Chuck the distant sage, both possibly leading a rag tag group of normal's (Kenny & Christa), old cancer patents (doc & Bree) and young people also (Clem & Ben).
In a time and place, that reeks of lost of civilisation/humanity, reminding us who this group is, and what conflict we must go through to save ourselves, but at what cost, seems the better time to try using this quote.
Instead of having Bree being just a token neck for zombie noms. Chuck could die in a Noble sacrifice for Ben (or the group), solidifying his place as some 'noble warrior poet person leader thingy'... It'd also have more relevance to your choice with Ben minutes later.
Cowardly, useless, lonely, self hateful Ben. Now he and the zombie of the former leader (who gave up humanity and committed suicide) causes 'you' the only one with any humanity left to make a decision. You aid Ben in his wish to kill himself, or do you on your lonsome save this useless but tragic character, when it might spell your mutual doom to do so?
The world is, always pulling for you to kill Ben, playing into the games theme of survivalism vs idealism. The bell is now literally tolling for Ben. This would hit all the harder, given Chucks grand recent death and the strong themes of the game being laid out nice and clearly to the audience.
I dunno. I just think Chuck and his line could've meant so much more to us, if we got more time to know him, and more time to understand the meaning of his/its place in the story...
But to clarify I did love the walking Dead and its potential to tell a uniquely engaging narrative that is up for this kind of analysis.
But I also think that they didn't make full use of the quote. They didn't make full use of Chuck. The presentation was a bit clunky and out of place.
If we got a chance to empathise with Chuck and what he meant. Then the game/quote would have so much more meaning... As it stands, it's an out of place reference that literary snobs will get and not much else.
Being meaningful isn't something you simply 'say' or 'add in' (that needs to be explained), it's something you 'are'/''be'. And that quote could've 'been' so much more...
(Before anyone mentions, yeh 'misanthropic' (in title) is slightly incorrect given the quote we're talking about, but I got an m theme going, and it fits nicely...)