21st Century Brontë #21 by Brontë Bettencourt
You’re Getting Old
Life is Strange is a graphic adventure video game separated into five episodes, conveying a more point and “flick” mechanic in order to tell a story. The world is not open to explore, nor is there a big boss to slay at the end. There aren’t any weapons, or zombies, or fighting, or even any pesky quick time events spelling instantaneous damage to the heroes –hell, this game fades to gray scale before any irreversible damage befalls the characters.
Instead the game deals with a butterfly effect system, allowing the player to make choices that’ll affect the story later on.
Max Caulfield, a student with a penchant for photography, drives the story by being able to rewind time. Depending on the selected dialogue choices, the player can experience multiple outcomes to pivotal plot points, which is necessary in order to unravel several mysteries within the small town of Arcadia Bay. At least, that is how the game is advertised.
The final decision at the end of the story either undoes all the choices that the player committed to, or leaves Arcadia Bay in shambles shown through a quick snippet of a video at the end, suggesting that the player chose the wrong decision.
The stiffness of the graphics through movement and facial expressions suggest a regression in technological achievement. And there are times when the writing feels forced, as if someone from the age of Myspace was asked to script convincing teen dialogue.
As much as I saw the flaws in this game, it still drew out an emotional response from me. I ended up owning a game that I initially used for background noise via Cryaotic’s YouTube playthrough. With the release of the final episode last October, the print I created on the game’s behalf was my highest seller at Animate Miami. In the midst of all of my con preparations, I doodled Max and her rebellious friend, Chloe with no intention of selling it. My curiosity led me to sell it as fanart because I wanted to see how recognizable this indie game was to the convention public.
I was surprised to not only find people cosplaying Max, Chloe, and the rest of the cast, but that my print nearly sold out of copies. I was even commissioned to draw some of the characters. I suppose that the passionate rants on Tumblr convey just how invested the fanbase is, both emotionally and financially.
So does this make the game good despite the debatable points? It’s not laughably bad, and the game has garnered a cult following since its debut last year. But considering my obsession with the vastness of the Dragon Age universe, there are definitely better games that I could be spending my time with instead.
But why bother spending so much time with a game that has a series of issues? I have friends who have a page limit when beginning a new book, moving on if not compelled by page 50, 20, sometimes after the first page. Life is short and people are on the constant move, plugging in five minute meetings with clients as the caffeine drags their exhausted bodies through life’s difficult terrain.
I always refer back to this episode of South Park, titled You’re Getting Old, that aired back in 2011. Not long after his tenth birthday, Stan’s life literally turns to shit. The movies and the music that he used to enjoy have all been replaced with turds and shitting noises. But because the other boys can still enjoy entertainment such as a Rob Schneider movie, they can’t sympathize with Stan’s depressive outlook. Stan is eventually left alone, staring at a turd-flower as his parents file for divorce.
This was South Park’s midseason finale; the fanbase had to wait until fall for the continuation of an episode that left the audience on a somber note. Usually a South Park episode ends with a joke, or an uplifting moral, but in this case the note can’t be didactically summed up in the tone of an elementary schooler.
Sometimes, life is shit; I had that epiphany in college. I think as the episode title suggests, this bleaker attitude is just a part of growing up.
Stan eventually resorts to alcoholism to cope with all of the shit in his life. As for me, I’ve learned to enter situations with an open mind. My mentality especially goes for art, writing, videogames, and other media that I may be leaving out. Life is Strange may lack in graphics and plot execution, but the characterization and voice acting are strong.
At the end of Episode Two, (and if you’re avoiding spoilers please avoid the next two paragraphs) Max has to prevent one of the students from committing suicide. The clichés are all there: Max’s class is interrupted by a student who barges in with the crisis. Max then encounters the alleged character, standing on the edge of the roof in the pouring rain. At that point Max’s power has taken a physical strain on her, leaving her with only one shot to talk her friend out of the deed. And the game will immediately save after the event, forcing the player to continue forward with whatever outcome was earned.
This scene is beautifully done because the many actions that the player partook in amounts to this moment. Kate, the character threatening to jump, bombards Max with multiple dialogue choices that’ll either drive her to or away from the edge. All of the correct answers can be found within the game up until this point, as well as defending Kate at key intervals of the story. The game has built up to this scene so the audience can sympathize with what is happening, as well as have a direct hand in the outcome. Because of such a heart-wrenching character arc, Kate is one of the fans’ favorite characters, but that’s not to discredit the other characters’ merit. This example is just one of the many hard-hitting moments of this seemingly unassuming indie game.
The creators stated that the goal was to tell the story of the characters within Arcadia Bay’s fictional universe.
And I believe this was executed well, especially considering the emotional response drawn from both the positive and negative points. Rather than being overwhelmed by the drawbacks, I allow myself to revel in the positives, while taking notes from the negatives in order to better my own work. Even in the metaphorical shit, there is a silver lining.
Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.