This post contains hella spoilers for Life is Strange episode 3.
As many of you know, I lost my dad when I was 12. For years, I wondered if there anything I could’ve done to prevent it; rationally, I know there wasn’t. But, rational thinking has never been my strongest suit.
Life is Strange is an episodic game from Dontnod, focussing on an 18 year old girl, Max Caulfield who has just discovered that she can rewind time. Recently moving back to her hometown, she’s back in contact with her childhood best friend, Chloe. Chloe is a sassy, street-smart enigma; with blue hair, tattoos, piercings and a deep longing for the past to be changed. She, like most people, has a dark side, after losing her father at the age of 13, she harbours a hatred of the world and those around her.
I can see parts of myself reflected in both Max and Chloe, some physical; the blue hair, tattoos and piercings of Chloe, the passion for the beauty in surroundings of Max, the yearning for the past to stay in the present from the pair of them.
Episode 3, like the previous two episodes is nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster; Chloe teasing Max to be more spontaneous, causing Max to kiss Chloe; a deep issue I am currently struggling with in my day-to-day real life. Not kissing video game characters, of course, but being more spontaneous and open about who I am, what I want from life. That, to me, is where some of the more important lessons we can takeaway from video games comes from – finding parts of ourselves buried within characters we either control or interact with, seeing how they react, modelling potential branches of our lives onto these characters, these situations.
However, that is far from the most harrowing experience this episode has to offer. Whilst episode 2 shows a friend of Max’s, Kate, committing suicide, which is entirely preventable in-game, episode 3 shows Max encountering a flashback to the day Chloe’s father dies. It was then a game presented me with a series of events that I had been longing to conduct thousands of times over the last 13 years of my life. To do something, anything to change the future, to prevent my dad from dying that day.
After the game makes it apparent that you can prevent this tragedy from happening, after teasing you with glimpses of a happy, care-free future, one in which you and your friend’s loved ones are all alive, I paused the game. I wondered if I could continue. Could I allow a virtual version of myself to do what I could never do? What I would never be able to do? Could that care-free, happy future exist?
I hit ‘resume’.
I saved Chloe’s dad.
I ran to Chloe’s house. I knocked.
Chloe’s dad answered the door. I smiled. A sad smile, even if I couldn’t have this happy future, Max and Chloe could.
Chloe came to the door. She was no longer the same Chloe I thought I was trying to save. This new-future version of Chloe had blonde hair, no tattoos, no piercings; she was in a wheelchair. She smiled at Max.
Did I change the future for the better?