Producer Glen Mazzara Explains Why ‘The Walking Dead’ Has Spawned So Many Video Games (Q&A)

The showrunner of AMC’s hit TV series, The Walking Dead, talks about the virtual options fans have to tide them over until the season resumes in February 2013.

It’s likely no one predicted the success that AMC’s TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comics would have. That explains why it’s taken until this year for game companies to begin further exploration of the characters and stories from the comics in video game form. Fans currently have the first season of the critically acclaimed The Walking Dead game from Telltale Games to play through, as well as a free online adventure game The Walking Dead: Dead Reckoning. Skybound just launched The Walking Dead: Assault for iOS devices. And Activision and developer Terminal Reality are serving up a prequel to the AMC TV series in early 2013 with The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.

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Fans have plenty of virtual offerings to explore while the third season of the show takes a break until February 2013. Showrunner Glen Mazzara explains why The Walking Dead has opened up so many video games in this exclusive interview.

The Hollywood Reporter: What are your thoughts about the opportunities that video games open up now for television?

Glen Mazzara: Particularly in our show, what’s exciting about The Walking Dead is that people feel like they’re playing a game. They get to put themselves into situations and think about would I shoot that guy, would I get away, would I leave that guy on the fence, all of that. And here’s an active way for people to be in that world. The government’s gone. There’s an outbreak and people could imagine what would I do in that situation and you can make choices and really see the consequences. That’s part of the appeal of The Walking Dead. There’s a real appetite for fans to put themselves in those situations.

THR: Have you checked out the game that’s already out there based on Robert Kirkman’s original comic books from Telltale Games?

Mazzara: I hear it’s great. I’m not a huge gamer. I’ll admit that. But I hear that it’s great and it’s exciting and that it also forces you to make hard choices. I hear that everybody who has played it has given it a thumbs up.

THR: What do you attribute the success that we’ve seen with The Walking Dead comic books and now the television show and games?

Mazzara: One, it’s just that people buy a zombie apocalypse. I know they’re getting ready for it. People are really getting ready for it. And, two, it’s about the characters. People really care about these characters. Both in Robert’s work and our show -- and I consider our show an alternate universe of the comic book -- no one is safe. Anybody can die in any manner possible. That’s thrilling and exciting and also really upsetting. When you’re upset about something, it makes you care about it even that much more deeply. It’s about those characters in both worlds. Obviously, you want to become a character, so with the games you can select Daryl and run around and try to stay alive. People really are invested in the concept of trying to outlive the apocalypse. 

THR: In addition to the Telltale Games title and the new mobile and online game, Activision is publishing The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. What are your thoughts on how it’s linked to your TV show?

Mazzara: The game’s set in the days before Daryl and Merle hooked up with the rest of the crew. There’s an outbreak, and it’s their origin story, where they’re coming from, and how they make their way out of the backwoods of Georgia over to Atlanta. I think the next phase will be getting out of Atlanta.

THR: What is the environment normally like when you’re on set? 

Mazzara: On set is very cool. First of all, it’s a tough place to shoot. It’s Atlanta. We’re shooting outside of Atlanta.  It’s really, really sweltering heat, there’s bugs, it’s pouring rain one second and then sunshine the next.  So that’s a challenge. The physical environment’s a challenge. However, the cast and crew love each other. Everybody pushes themselves to do their best work. It’s incredibly collaborative. Everybody cares about the show. That’s important and everybody gets everybody else’s game up. It’s a great place to work. I don’t think anybody who works there wants to be anywhere else. It’s a dream job for all of us.