Reflections on “Life Is Strange”

lifeisstrange

“Life is Strange”, is a 5 part episodic, cinematic game that really sucks you into it’s convoluted, twisted world. The game takes place in Arcadia Bay, Oregon. You play the game as Max, an 18 years old photography student at Blackwell school. The game begins with you partaking in a waking vision where your character is walking up steps towards a lighthouse during a violent storm, off to the left you view a huge, twister that threatens to take out the town. As you walk closer to the lighthouse, the wind breaks off the top and it hurtles down above you ready to crush you, and the vision ends. You suddenly become aware of being in class, as your professor is speaking. As class ends you go to the restroom to splash some water on yourself, and you see a blue butterfly fluttering about. You snap a picture and duck in a stall as you hear someone coming. A boy comes in and then a girl. They are arguing, things escalate, and suddenly he pulls out a gun, and shoots her dead. Somehow in shock you cry out and you rewind the event, until your back in your seat in class. You bolt out the door after answering a question from the teacher, and run into the restroom. Everything replays again, and this time you are able to hit the fire alarm before the girl is shot. You save her life. Later you find out the girl is  your old best friend Chloe, who you had not seen in 5 years. Your character moved back to her hometown, after a long absence and you have had no interaction with anyone there since. So begins your journey of discovery that is “Life Is Strange”.

I will not spoil the game by telling you any more details, as your going to want to try out the game yourself. It is special  and it leaves its mark on you long after your done with it. So you spend quite a bit of time in the game, meeting people, re-engaging with your friends, and especially your best friend, Chloe, who is very hurt that you never kept in touch. You quickly discover in your travels that there are many mysteries to solve in Arcadia Bay. There are missing persons, adults that you interact with that behave strangely, and have questionable motives and habits. Not to mention your character has to deal with the typical struggles of teenagers around her. The game tackles very weighty, and taboo subject matter such as, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, suicide, peer pressure,  gun violence and diabolical behavior in students at your school that is dangerous in a social media soaked world. Not to mention the strange weather patterns and the horrifying, impending vision that is only days away from coming to fruition. The main mechanic in the game at your disposal is the ability to rewind time after a fresh event has taken place. This is what puts the game over the top, as you get to make many choices that carry great consequences to either you or the other students at Blackwell. You have to decide if you are going to let things play out as they occurred or change it to seek a better alternative. You  might think that being able to rewind, and make a different choice drains the story of the essential gravity of the consequences of your choices, but in many cases it does not. The choices you make have very real and lasting consequences, including that your character eventually begins to get bad headaches from the strain. Not every choice is either good or bad, right or wrong. Some of them are very grey, and no matter what you choose to do, there are negative things that will happen that can affect your character or those around you that you care about. You only have a small window to test the different pathways of destiny, and then the option to change things passes you by.

The real compelling element to this game above all else, however, is the sentimental, intimate encounters that you have with Chloe and with the world. There are many times that the game allows you to just sit back and watch the beauty and tragedy around you unfold, as your character ponders it, and relishes in the interactions with those she cares deeply about. These moments are precious, and the emotional impact of these scenes wrapped in a terrific indie soundtrack make this more than a game, but a mosaic snapshot in time that moves you emotionally, so that the characters in the game are no longer empty static images and avatars, but your friends.

I never thought I could ever relate to an 18 year old kid in a fictional world based loosely on the realities of today. But you do. You see through their eyes, and you vacillate between feeling bad for their struggles that in some ways is quite foreign to your reality, to being envious of them, and wishing you had such intimate friends around you that live and die for you, and you live and die for them. What really floors me is that the game stays with you, after you turn off your computer monitor. I may be alone in this, but the character you play is so real, so compelling that you start seeing your own life through her eyes. My Max is a caring, compassionate woman who wants to make things better for those around her, doing as little damage to herself or others in the process. My Max is surrounded by selfish, greedy, dangerous people, but it does not spoil her. She seeks to see the good in everyone and genuinely loves her friends. Don’t get me wrong, she is still a know it all teenager with a naive view of the world, but that is understandable given her age and experience with life, and its quirky and lovable in it’s own way. So i find myself looking around at my world, and desiring to impact it in a positive way, like Max does. The lesson I get is that while I am alive and still breathing it’s not to late to write my story, and redeem the time. I can’t rewind time like Max, but I can choose to care, and not be so self involved. This fits well with my Christian worldview. I think anyone who plays the game can take something positive from it, no matter your walk of life, age or beliefs.

The game is not for kids, as it is full of mature themes, and plenty of bad language. But it comes off as genuine and real. So I greatly recommend that you give it a whirl It is really cheap right now on steam, and can be purchased on Xbox and PlayStation. Enjoy!!

 

 

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