PAX Prime 2015: Catch-A-Ride with Telltale Games

I only attended a handful of panels at PAX Prime 2015 last weekend due to a mix of scheduling conflicts and theatre limits, but I did get to attend Telltale Games LIVE Crowd Play, a session for the newest episode of Tales from the Borderlands. I have only dabbled in their style of graphic adventure games and haven’t traversed the world of Borderlands since the original game, but the combination of collectively playing a narratively driven game by vocal voting and the outsized world created by Gearbox Software sounded like fun on a freezing Saturday night in Seattle.

Let me tell you, the fans of Telltale Games and Gearbox are a boisterous group that love Rhys, Fiona, Handsome Jack and the other vagrants and vagabonds that populate the dystopian worlds of the Borderlands universe. There is a huge difference between agonizing over choices in the privacy of the living room and bellowing votes in a crowd of thousands when making decisions on what to do, where to go and who to save in a harrowing world where every character is periliously close to meeting their end. The episode unfolds like a mix of the classic Firefly episodes Safe and Objects in Space, combining a tense journey to accomplish an urgent goal with a constant struggle to survive by the skin of their teeth.

The panel was suffused with the passion of performers such as Mikey Neumann and Laura Bailey who attended and experienced our journey through episode 4 through the eyes of the fans, as did Gearbox president Randy Pitchford and his wife who had held off playing this installment at home in anticipation of the PAX shared experience. I’m deliberately glossing over story specifics to avoid spoilers, but this episode of Tales from the Borderlands encapsulated everything that makes Telltale adventures exciting: fun stories grounded in emotional relationships, authentic characters, meaningful choices and a fully realized world that is officially canon for the Borderlands universe.

The panel wasn’t scheduled for the official Twitch channel for PAX, hopefully someone managed to record some of the mayhem that ensued over nearly 3 hours of passion and peril. The group play format at may not have the enormous audience or production value that events such as Acquisitions Inc. for Dungeons and Dragons have amassed over the years, but it is an adrenaline rush and unique narrative experience well worth checking out.


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