Life is Strange is a beautiful game. I haven’t finished it yet, I’ve finished episode 2 a few days ago and I’m just about to go into the third episode. The time between I finished episode 2 and now has been mostly spent thinking about my failure to save one of the victims of bullying, Kate Marsh.
In a lot of ways, I was able to relate to Kate Marsh. Not because I was bullied in high school, I wasn’t, but because I have a similar, low-key, introverted nature as Kate. Seeing someone bullied in front of me (well, that’s in-game but still) made me instantly feel sympathetic to her. I figured early on that the game would force me to make difficult choices on which Kate’s fate would be dependent, but I didn’t know it would come down to her life.
One of the coolest things about Life is Strange is the ability to make choices and alter them if you don’t feel good about the possible consequences of the choices you’ve made. Max has this supernatural ability to rewind time and alter the communication between herself and the people. So, it makes it possible for me as a player to rewind and explore the outcome of other dialogues in any given scene.
If you’re into games like this — by which I’m mostly referring to Telltale’s The Walking Dead, and a more recent game, Firewatch — you already know how much the choices you make when you’re presented with a set of dialogues matter in the game. In The Walking Dead, they don’t matter as much. There’s always pretty much the same outcome, but in Life is Strange, your choices will have profound effect for the remainder of the game. The game makes sure that you understand that early on.
With that power in my hand, I wasn’t being careful about what choices I make, and more often than not, I’d rewind time and see what reactions I get if I use the other options. For example, in the scene where Max has to blame someone immediately after Kate’s death, I blamed everyone, and checked what it came down to. Finally, I rewinded time one more time and went ahead with blaming Nathan — who was my first choice to blame — because that’s likely what I would have done in real time.
Now, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. The topic of this guilt-filled post is the fact that I wasn’t able to save Kate when she was on top of the building about to jump down. I chose the dialogue that meant Kate’s mother cares for her, and I uttered the word ‘sh*t’ immediately after that.
As Kate jumped off the building, I thought to myself, perhaps this is how the game was supposed to go down. Especially in the next scene in the principal’s office, I was certain that Kate’s death was a mandatory part of the narrative. When I literally trembled was the exact moment the statistics of the choice was presented to me at the end of Episode 2.
I was surprised beyond exlanation at the fact that 58% of people were able to save Kate. In fact, no, that’s wrong. I was surprised at the fact that it was even possible to save Kate. Sure, there were three other choices besides naming her mother who would miss her, but I went ahead with her mother, and made the final mistake of losing her.
What’s worse, I wasn’t able to rewind time. I tried, and tried, and tried, but I was out of my power. I literally stood there next to my chair, hopelessly looking at the screen as it cut to black.
Life is Strange is a game about choices. You can make a choice, if you don’t like the outcome, you can instantly go back and make another choice. But I made the mistake of getting comfortable with making the choice without giving much thought to it. In a critical point when I needed to make another choice, I was out of power, and I had no other choice but to live with the mistake that I’d made.
I’m off to the third episode of Life is Strange. The soothing music along with the sound of waves washing the shores from the menu screen is being played right now in the background as I’m writing this. It seems peaceful, just like true nature of the world does, but inside it takes place some of the most complicated, heartbreaking, and unfair stories that you can imagine.
It’s that reason why I keep coming back to games like this.