Friday, March 18, 2016

Life is Strange: A Coming of Age Tale

Well, yes, I guess you could say I jumped onto the bandwagon for this one. I heard good and bad things about this game. All I really knew about it was that there were lesbians involved. From tumblr that was really the long and short about what I knew.

So I really went into the game blind you could say.

No, I did not play the game myself. My ability to play games is hindered by my lack of hand control. I can play PC games (and I'm doing a Minecraft Let's Play with a friend if technical issues, both mechanical and human in nature, can be solved).

So I do not have a good grasp of the gameplay, but I have done a little research into the story behind the game. And by research I mean hours upon hours of Youtube videos. If you would like to direct me to your favorite Life is Strange video, blog, ect. please do.

Even though this should be a given, my analysis of this video game will contain spoilers. If you haven't played/watched the game stop reading now.

As I will assume you know about what happens in the game, I won't be talking about things in chronological order.
How Max's Time Travel Powers Work

I will get to my reading of the game, but I feel it is more than important to talk about time travel first. This is because it plays a huge part of the game. How you read the game highly depends on what you think about Max's time traveling abilities.

How she got her powers could become more supernatural (aka being given by someone over being born with them) and could add another layer to the game. If it was Rachel giving her time traveling abilities then it's a story about a dead girl's revenge.

Plus, I think not talking about the time travel aspect of this game would be doing it a disservice.
Firstly, calling Max's ability 'time travel' is a little misnomer. It's right in a sense and yet it's not. Time travel works by going backwards and forwards through time. Max's abilities are a little different.

It is more accurate to say that Max's ability is to create alternate timelines. Sometimes they're as big as the timeline in which William doesn't die and sometimes as small as giving Mr. Jefferson the correct quote. It doesn't matter how big or small the alternate reality is, it's still an alternate reality.

We are given a huge clue that this is what her power is when, near the end of the game, Max talks with an alternate version of herself. Her alternate version basically says that she was left behind when she made a change to the timeline.

This means that every time Max makes a change, a version of her stays behind. Unlike Soma where you play a version that does get left behind and a version that doesn't (though the context is hugely different as there is no time travel involved), you only play the version that keeps progressing through the game in Life is Strange.
Max creating so many alternate realities is probably what made the storm. So many versions of Max could've upset the time and space continuum too much. Even if you sacrifice Arcadia Bay for Chloe, you can see snow falling from the sky as Max and Chloe leave town.

Indicating that the cycle will repeat itself again and again and again until Chloe is shot by Nathan or she dies.

So how come Max had the vision of the storm before she got her 'time travel' powers?

Remember that time doesn't go in a straight line, that's only the way that we comprehend it. Most likely a part of Max sensed what she was about to do, rescuing Chloe, was wrong and so the vision came to her. It wasn't detailed, in other words it didn't tell Max how to stop the storm, but that was merely because Max didn't know the information.

She just had a bad feeling about what was going to happen.
Okay, so we know what probably caused the storm as well as what Max's powers really are. But why, when Max goes to the alternate reality where William didn't die, was the effects of the storm still there? Why, when Max brought vengeance to Mr. Jefferson, was the storm still there?

It will be easier to explain with the first example, as it is the most extreme alternate timeline creating that is done throughout the game. By that I mean Chloe wasn't even in a position to need saving.

Adding to time not going in a straight line, time has a different way of existing that we can't see due to how we perceive time. By that I mean just because Max goes to an alternate reality where she never had the vision and didn't save Chloe, that doesn't mean she never used her abilities to save Chloe.

Max came from a timeline where she had the vision and saved Chloe. So that event did happen. Even though the timeline Max entered had a different chain of events, the ramifications for Max's actions are still in effect.

You could say that the storm followed Max from one reality to another, which it has been doing all this time. Remember, Max is creating alternate realities and not merely time traveling. So the storm has always been following Max from one reality to another.
While the end of Life is Strange is sad, no matter which ending you choose, Max does still retain her memory of what happened in all the timelines. She can remember what timeline she came from when traveling, just not what changes were made.

Think of it like going from your bedroom to the kitchen. You are aware of being in both rooms, but can't recall how you got there.

For those that don't have that problem, think of it as the same as getting up from your chair to do a task. Just as soon as you've stood up you forgot why you got up. You remember sitting and standing up, but not the reasons for the change.

Both are similar to Max creating alternate realities via photographs. 
 Who Gave Her These Powers

Now here is major theory territory. Truth is, the player is never given a clear answer. I will discuss three theories. Some more likely than others.
The truth of the matter could be that Max's time traveling abilities are nothing but a special gene she has. The fact that she got her abilities just when her childhood friend, Chloe, got shot could be pure coincidence. Could be something that is merely throwing us off the trail.

So why would this odd gene come into play now?

Maybe this 'time traveling' gene only comes into play once you reach a certain age. There seems to be a theory circulating, but finding any theories that were released post-Life is Strange is near impossible it seems so I don't know if it continued all through the game, that the Prescotts had time traveling abilities of their own.

In their case, though, it was merely seeing into the future. This is supported by the fact that they were famous for building bunkers.

If this theory is true, there is a precedent for inheriting time traveling abilities.
Is there anyone you know who you wish you could spend a little more time with? A friend or family member? A pet?

What if the truth about Max's abilities is that she was given extra time to spend with Chloe? What if Max has been given this rare chance that many of us wish we could have for certain people?

Spending extra time with Chloe would be especially important for Max as the Blackwell student has drifted away from her childhood friend. Has gone a long time without seeing Chloe to the point that Max doesn't recognize her at first.

Once Max and Chloe interact, it seems the bonds between the two are quickly formed again. Heck, Max is jealous that Rachel Amber became Chloe's best friend.

So the first time Max sees Chloe is when she dies and then she gets her time travel ability? Coincidence? I think not!
A final theory of how she got her powers is because Rachel Amber wanted revenge. Chloe's dead lover, or friend if that's your theory, doesn't like that she died without the smallest chance of justice. Seizing onto the fact that Max is both a student at Blackwell and a friend of Chloe, the dead girl gives Max a time traveling-like ability.

Though I don't buy into this one because of a few reasons.

First off, if you sacrifice Chloe for Arcadia Bay Nathan and Mr. Jefferson both get caught. There was no reason for an overly complicated revenge scheme that only required waiting until Nathan killed Chloe.

You could argue that Rachel panicked and so did her idea. Though I still don't buy that.

Plus, Max never seeks out the mystery of what happened to Rachel Amber until Chloe prompts her.
Main Plot of the Game

Okay, now that we got all the time travel-like stuff out of the way, let's talk about the main plot of the game.
What happens in nearly every chapter of the game?

Besides Max creating more alternate realities, she also has to rescue Chloe or watch her childhood friend die. Except for episode three.

In the first chapter she rescues Chloe from being killed by Nathan, in the second chapter she rescues Chloe from getting run over by a train, also in episode two there is an option to save Chloe from a ricocheting bullet, in the fourth episode she can overdose Chloe on morphine,  also in the fourth episode she gets killed my Mr. Jefferson, and episode five can end with Chloe dead or alive. Depending on your choices.

This brings up the fact that Max rescuing Chloe is extremely important to the game.

If it wasn't, why have it happen so often?
Max goes so far to give Chloe a better life that she creates a bigger alternate reality than any she had made before. She found that by using photographs, she can go back much father in time. With limitations, of course.

The event she goes back to change to give Chloe a better life is to save William, Chloe's father.

Instead of making things better, this makes it worse for Chloe. Making Max's childhood friend have to live a life no one should lead. Stuck in a wheelchair and in constant pain, Max's plan went south really fast.

Could this be a warning of not to mess with time? That what Max is doing, even with the best of intentions, will always cause problems?
I want to start this next little part off by saying I don't think anyone should commit suicide. What I'm going to talk about now is suicide in the context of a story which is removed from real life.

Going on...Your choices can either allow Kate to die or give her hope in life again.

I think that allowing Kate to die gives Max even more reason to rescue Chloe. She blames herself for Kate Marsh's death so she won't allow the same thing to happen with Chloe.

As someone who still blames myself for Kiwi's death, he was one of my parakeets, I can tell you that helping Selene so fiercely is because I already lost one because I didn't do all I could do. Whether right or wrong, I think Max feels the same way but about Kate and Chloe.
I wouldn't call the Rachel Amber Mystery the main plot of the game, just a very distracting side quest. Even after discovering the truth about Mr. Jefferson and exposing him, the storm is still coming for Arcadia Bay. The main point of the game, indicated by the first scene, is stopping the storm.

Rachel Amber only becomes a priority in the game because Chloe prompts Max to help discover what really happened. It is Max's feelings for Chloe, whether romantic or platonic, that makes her spend time and effort to find out what happened.

Max would not have broken into school to find out information about Rachel all on her own. She wouldn't care to go through all the effort to learn about Frank and Rachel either.

No, Max only searched so hard for Rachel because Chloe wanted to know. This points Chloe and Max's relationship as the pinnacle of the game.

Whether rescuing her childhood friend or doing illegal activities, Max cares for Chloe and will do anything for her friend.
What Max Learned Depends on the Ending You Choose

So what is the meaning of all of this? The thing is that you get to choose the lesson that Max learns by the end of the game. You get to decide.
If Max decides to sacrifice Chloe for Arcadia Bay she has learned one of the saddest lessons in the most brutal of ways: that sometimes people die and there is nothing you can do about it.

Sometimes bad things happen and no matter how hard you try, you can't save some people. Sometimes death is the way things will end and there is no stopping it. No matter how hard you pray and hope a person will survive, they end up dying.

And boy did Max do everything she could to save Chloe. She saved her in nearly every episode and valued Chloe's friendship so much. In the big alternate reality she had to decide whether to kill Chloe or not. If Max chose to kill Chloe to end her suffering you can bet that probably made it hard to make the same decision again.

Depending on what you chose previously, Max and Chloe can share a good-bye kiss. So your choices can make it not two friends but two friends that wanted to be so much more parting ways. For Max to kill not her friend, but a future girlfriend. Someone she loves in a romantic and not platonic way.

You can also say that Max sacrificing Chloe this ways shows she is noble, able to make the right decision even when her heart is breaking.

There is another option, of course. Max can decide to sacrifice Arcadia Bay for Chloe. Max can decide that all the people in Arcadia, from Mr. Jefferson to Warren, aren't as important to Chloe. That the world could end but Chloe is the most important thing to Max.

While you could say it isn't as noble as of lesson, it is still a life lesson: there will be some people that are worth making sacrifices for.

Max feels the full brunt of her decision and tries to watch as people die but has to take comfort in embracing Chloe. Reminding herself that this girl is, to her, the world and worth everything. Chloe even knows how hard this was for Max and seems shocked that someone would ever feel that much for.

At the end, though, it's hinted that there may be another storm. Another incident like at Arcadia Bay.

Max seems heartbroken to deal with one town's death but how many more until she loathes the decision she made?
Another Lesson

There is another lesson to be learned from the game, besides the two meanings depending on which ending you chose.

What is the lesson?

The lesson is that not every authority figure is trustworthy. That people in authority, like Mr. Jefferson, can be just as sick and twisted as anyone else. That character is in no way linked to the rank someone has earned.

Sometimes people like Mr. Jefferson can fool people into not figuring out their secret and manipulate others to get what they wants.

It's a lesson that everyone learns but not usually in such a brutal manner.

Life is Strange is the kind of science fiction I highly enjoy. Science fiction isn't merely a genre to show the odd and strange. The genre isn't just there to show what could be in terms of science but to be a deeper look at humanity in all its many shades.

Fahrenheit 451 (by Ray Bradbury) wasn't merely a look at a possible future, but was a commentary on how technology can tear us apart. Can make us less human than we should be.

In the same vein, Life is Strange hides the coming of age story of Max under the guise of a time travel story with some murder mystery to it. It is not merely a tale of finding out what happened to Rachel Amber, but of Max understanding either that you can't always beat death or some people are worth sacrificing everything for.



No comments:

Post a Comment