Human nature can be defined as a collection of epigenetic rules we follow instinctively, or in laymen’s terms, traits we’re wired to act upon. One the earliest forms of these behaviors is our ability to conceal the truth. We do this because we fear the consequences of our actions. As kids, we’re taught to always tell the truth, believing doing so will lead to a better outcome, so that when we’re adults, and the implications are much greater, we are not trapped in an unfortunate situation. But as we grow older, we also begin to discover the personal benefits of concealing the truth. Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods, for instance, hid their unscrupulous actions in fear of losing all they had worked to attain. But our past sins have a way of rising to the surface.
This facet of human nature was explored in one of 2012’s most intriguing, gut-wrenching titles, The Walking Dead: The Game. Amid a rampant, life-threatening pandemic, we were exposed to how truth, whether spoken or withheld, can alter one’s personality.
Before the events of The Walking Dead: The Game, Lee Everett was a history professor at the University of Georgia who, by a series of events he called “purely accidental,” was sentenced to life behind bars for murdering a State Senator after finding out his wife had been unfaithful to their marriage with the politician. Ironically, the zombie apocalypse that rends the world asunder allows Lee the opportunity conceal his past and start a new life.
Despite his personal history, I learned early on that “convict” does not define Lee. Indeed, in my play through, Lee was exceedingly loving, compassionate, and even-tempered, especially towards Clementine, who he swore to protect at all costs. That doesn’t mean his past didn’t haunt him throughout the first season. Like many of us, Lee sees an opportunity to hide the truth for personal gain. Thoughts like, “If anyone finds out, I’m done,” or, “It’s better for everyone if I just keep this inside,” begin to creep into Lee’s head, and the player sees firsthand just how much concealing the truth is hindering his behavior.
Things briefly turn, however, when Lee’s “found out” by Carley, a news reporter who covered the story of the murdered senator. Carley advises Lee to confess to the group what he had done and trust that the man they’ve come to see as their “leader” will rise above his past mistakes, but Lee continues hiding his past and asks Carley to keep it between them. And once again, “the past” plagues Lee, as he oftentimes sees himself in the wrong light by second guessing his leadership, decisions, and even his existence amongst the “walking dead.”
Again and again throughout my journey, Lee’s presented with chances to confess – to be set free by the truth – but he refuses. Why, though? Could it be that he, and we as well, fear that the truth isn’t as freeing as the consequences? Or could it be that we’re afraid that those closest to us could never love us if they “really knew us?” I believe both are true. However, a little girl named Clementine changes all this. Her kind-heartedness and love compel me to have Lee to tell the truth.
In a leap of faith, I decide to have Lee explain his past to the group members, and to his surprise, their response isn’t nearly as terrifying as he was making it out to be.
You’ve always looked at me with kind eyes, I wonder if you could still do that if you knew I was a convicted felon. —Lee telling Katjaa about his past
It’s hard to say exactly how people responded to Lee’s confession. Some were certainly surprised. Some may have begun looking over their shoulder when Lee was around. Whatever the responses of others, Lee was free to live. Lee’s confession was not consequence free and it was incredibly difficult for him to talk to “Clem” about the “bad man” in his past. But his confession opened him up for all to see and liberated his conscience. It allowed him to focus on the tasks at hand.
And with nothing to hide, my Lee was able to better lead the group in their most crucial encounters throughout the final episodes. Lee was able to express his true nature, qualities without fear. Consequently, I catch several glimpses of the real Lee Everett in the end. And in those moments, I was struck by how Lee’s “coming out,” in terms of his past, is valued by the ones he calls friends.
You’ve always been there for me Lee, always had my back when it mattered. What kind of friend would I be if I wasn’t there for you now? —Kenny offering to go with Lee to find Clementine.
Looking back at Lee Everett, you may see yourself, as I did. We’ve all done things that we don’t believe anyone can know about because we’d lose everything if people found out. But when the truth was there for all to see, Lee opened up to those who thoughtfully cared for him and as a result he was set free by the truth. Things weren’t entirely smooth after, but he could be himself without second-guessing who he really was inside. Despite the actions or mistakes we’ve made, we’re offered countless chances to step out of the dark and into the light. Lee’s story reminds us how liberating such steps can be.