I think I can reveal without too much fear of spoilers that early in the first episode of The Walking Dead Season 2, Clementine finds herself alone and without supplies in an unfamiliar forest. When she stumbles onto a seemingly abandoned campsite, she goes on a desperate search for any sort of food. In a moment of frustration verging on despair, Clem says to herself, “I hate scavengers. They take everything.”
In a game where deciding what to say is a big part of the gameplay, this is a striking statement. It’s not uncommon for a player character in an adventure game to talk to herself, but most often, such statements function as reminders or directions. “I should keep moving.” “The scroll said that the artifact would be in the library.” “Only three more goblins to kill.” That is, the “self” that the player character is addressing is the player.
Clementine’s outburst, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any useful gameplay information. It’s a character moment, revealing both Clementine’s current emotional state, and recalling her discomfort back in Season 1 when Lee and the other survivors looted a seemingly abandoned car. That car, of course, wasn’t actually abandoned, and it was an action that led to consequences later on for both Lee and Clem. It’s also a statement of tremendous hypocrisy, as Clementine is herself a scavenger. Clem’s expression seems to be treated by the game as an opportunity for the player to identify with Clem, but I actually found it jarring. The two of us, Clem and I, were after all digging through the remains of another group of survivors. Photographs, tattered tents, and a child’s toys, objects of use and affection, nothing left inviolate on the possibility that somewhere there would be something, anything to eat. I didn’t have any illusions about what I was doing, but Clem apparently still did.
Thus, this instant, in which Clementine expresses an identity in conflict with her actions, in an utterance outside of player control, is actually a moment of agency.