Warning: this article contains spoilers if you haven’t yet played Life is Strange.
Video games have always been a form of escapism for me. For that reason, they will always have a special place in my heart, much like the character Chloe Price from developer Dontnod Entertainment’s thought provoking Life is Strange.
Life is Strange toyed with my emotions. It made me think about my own choices in life as I considered the precious balance of time and whether some things are better off left to fate (if you believe in fate, of course). What choices would I make if you could rewind and change time? Would I learn from your own mistakes? Or would I continue to make the same decisions over and over?
During Life is Strange’s episodic format, I had to make many difficult choices along the way, and not all of them worked out. Save one person you deeply care about for your own selfish reasons or sacrifice a whole town’s worth of people.
In the end, I decided that Chloe would sacrifice herself for the greater good of the town. Her path in life had an ending at every stage, every timeline that was bent, every reality that was twisted all ended with Chloe at some point choosing death or death choosing her. Still, I never wanted Chloe to die, throughout the game I always felt Max’s bond with her was infinitely stronger than anyone else. I couldn’t let my selfish desire to keep Chloe alive overcome my wish to do what was right. It was the hardest decision I’ve had to make in a video game.
Few developers are willing to take a risk when it comes to topics of sexuality.
Maybe I was wrong? What about all the things Max had fought for to keep Chloe alive? She’d sacrificed much to be with her; she’d even had to endure the hell of Mr. Jefferson drugging her and exposing her on camera. Hell, she even lied about doing drugs just to take the heat from her ‘Step Douche’ Step Father, David Madsen. Why throw it all away? Only to save a town’s full of people who Max never felt she fitted in with anyway? Ever the outcast, often looking in.
I applaud Dotnod Entertainment for being brave enough to explore relationships that consider both bisexual and lesbian connotations. I could never work out Max’s true feelings towards Chloe. I know she loved her, that much is true, although it’s undeniable that Warren had a special place in her heart, too. Few developers are willing to take a risk when it comes to topics of sexuality. It’s all too easy to play it safe with characters and relationships, leaning towards predominantly cliché male and female protagonists.
I also dealt with my jealousy when it came to Chloe’s desire to find out what happened to Rachel Amber. Who was this girl? And why did she care so much for her? What made her so special to an entire town? I never really got to answer who Rachel Amber really was to Blackwell Academy, nor to Arcadia bay. Her sacrifice may go unappreciated and unnoticed. In the end, she was a poor victim of circumstances. A martyr sacrificed to improve a town’s own morality and behaviour.
Life is Strange also reminded me of a darker time from my own childhood: being bullied at school. The game makes a great case for how difficult some students have it growing up within the education system. Both the real issues of depression and anxiety are well covered here. I met many students throughout the game like Alyssa Anderson, who were finding it difficult to fit into the wider group, even those who seemed popular, like Victoria Chase, (part of the Blackwell Academy’s A-List crowd) had their own insecurities to overcome. It re-enforces the fact that no one is perfect in life.
The storyline where you talked Kate down from her attempted suicide was one of the most moving parts of the game. The sad state of events being drugged at a party and then being subjected to online harassment by her classmates felt very real. It also considered her shattered innocence and the difficulties she had explaining what happened to her very pro-Christian parents. Again, another very emotional issue that was covered expertly.
Another point that profoundly moved me was the decision to end Chloe’s life for the first time. Max decides to go back in time to undo the death of Chloe’s father, William Price, but now with a change in the timeline and her father saved from death, Chloe is instead involved in an accident that leaves her completely paralysed and suffering daily pain. The emotional decision put on you when your best friend asks to end her own life early to avoid a slow and painful death is one that I didn’t take lightly. Could you end the life of someone you cared about humanely if they were suffering? Do we even have the right to decide? The topic of euthanasia splits opinion and I’m sure many other gamers thought heavily about this decision.
Introverts are also represented throughout the games narrative. Max felt like an introvert to me many times. While not a loner, she often preferred her own company. Her quirky sense of style and her creative pursuits meant she stood out from the norm. She never really felt like she belonged at Blackwell Academy and often doubted her own abilities as a creative, an issue real creatives struggle with on a daily basis. I thought Max was insanely talented, but I connected with her struggle to believe in her own photography and art.
For me, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t like the ending to the game – it had to end one way or another – but Dontnod Entertainment undoubtedly created something special. They built a game based around human emotions, loss and many present issues. And they put you at the heart of those decisions, and the lasting impact they made.
Life is Strange will forever live on in my mind as a game that made me consider many things that affect us all. Because after all, life truly is a strange but rewarding journey.
RIP, Chloe. You will be sorely missed. Thank you for everything.