Telltale Executives Are Why Guardians of the Galaxy Was Dark and Sad

The story surrounding Telltale Games’ closure continues to get more detailed. No one answer explains why its doors were shuttered, multiple projects were canceled, and 270 employees were laid off without notice. However, we keep hearing about poor management. Even though Telltale recognized its technological shortcomings, misunderstanding the audience was another fault of studio executives. According to former Narrative Designer Emily Grace Buck, this is apparent in the tone of Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series.

Buck recently spoke at the Sweden Game Conference 2018, where she discussed obstacles that came with working for Telltale. One problem was the number of rewrites. “We often, at Telltale, after executive reviews, had to do 90% rewrites of the game,” she explained. For instance, according to Buck, some of Telltale’s Minecraft series was designed with a Teen-rating in mind and required rewrites to better align with a younger audience.

Yet, a “fundamental misunderstanding” of its audience is most evident in Guardians of the Galaxy’s tone. Apparently, Telltale execs failed to understand that humor rests at the heart of why the Guardians are so appealing, particularly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Telltale’s iteration of the spacefaring misfits was initially written to adhere to the MCU’s “goofy” qualities, mandated rewrites walked these plans back. Buck said,

Our executive team insisted that what was popular about Guardians of the Galaxy was darkness and violence, and sadness. And that people did not associate humor with that brand… So we redid the first two episodes to be less funny and more dark and more violent and more sad, and that’s the game that shipped. And one of the biggest comments in editorial, was that it felt very off-tone for Guardians of the Galaxy and wasn’t very funny. And we were like ‘we know’.

Unfortunately, any attempt to course correct on the creative side could end in reassignment or termination. Telltale’s refusal to listen, Buck noted, was yet another massive issue that went too long unchecked. She added,

If you fought it too hard, you would be taken off a project, replaced, or even let go, and that happened to people on a number of occasions. So we were trying as hard as possible to cater to who our executive team thought out fanbase was, this core gamer-type audience. And we did cultivate a pretty large audience of that type as well all of the other types of people.