by MIA NGUYEN
Life Is Strange
developer Dontnod Entertainment, publisher Square Enix
x A moody afternoon is matched with an obnoxiously lit living room. In the background, the tea kettle is calling for my attention. With the sound of my robotic voice, I command the Xbox to power on.
x Berating electronics with our voice is part of our future.
x Prefaced with a warning I must choose my answers wisely.
x Caught in a torrential downpour, Max, is disoriented. Why is she lying in the mud without a tent? More importantly, why is she alone? She appears lifeless in form. In order for Max to feel safe, she needs to scurry up a set of stairs to the lighthouse for safety.
x There’s an ominous spiraling tornado heading towards the town. She expresses her awe with the phrase, “Holy shit…”
x Flashes of white light permeate the screen.
x Max wakes up in her art class at Blackwell Academy. Mr. Jefferson, a Dylan McDermott doppelganger, focuses his art lecture on Surrealism, the Beat Generation, and the self portrait. There’s a natural condescension in the sound of his voice when he says phrases such as, “selfie” and “your generation.”
x I open Max’s journal to gain insight on her personality. Her first entry expresses her excitement on accepting a scholarship to attend the “unique private school for seniors.” The journal also reveals her burning crush for Mr. Jefferson.
x Opening the journal also reveals a polaroid scrapbook, character biographies, a game map, and a text messaging app.
x Mr. Jefferson is eloquent and sensual, wearing a white button-up under a form fitting black blazer. He leaves a quarter of his chest slightly exposed, ravaging teenage hormones on campus.
x In a failed attempt to crack teenage colloquialisms, the writers of the video game use “krazy” instead of “crazy” in one of Max’s journal entries. Swear words are integrated seamlessly.
x I become suspicious when Mr. Jefferson ends a statement regarding The Beat Generation with, “You dig?”
x “Geek cred.”
x With a clunky polaroid camera in hand, Max snaps a selfie at an unflattering angle. It’s the anti-selfie selfie.
x The fluidity of dialogue between Max and Mr. Jefferson is natural, but the timing is off. He doesn’t hesitate to slam hand against the table to express his alpha male aggressions when Max fails to answer his question about the selfie in 2 seconds. Give the girl a chance to talk.
x I navigate through the halls of Blackwell Academy to the song “To All of You” by Syd Matters.
x I don’t rush. I’m nosy. I explore every crevice and object from top to bottom.
x There are numerous missing person posters regarding a girl named Rachel Amber. Top three most generic names. Hands down.
x For an upscale private academy, the bathrooms are pretty grimy and eerie. “Rachel Amber is a bitch” is scrawled with a Sharpie on one of the bathroom stalls. How quaint.
x A cerulean blue butterfly comes in through the window and piques Max’s eye.
x Nathan Prescott, one of the richest boys in the academy, walks into the bathroom alone. Shortly after, a girl with flaming blue hair walks in behind him. The scene aggressively evolves into a malicious verbal argument, which turns into someone getting killed. A camouflaged gun is fired.
x Rewind. Rewind. Rewind.
x Max is now a human time machine making the game more compelling. The ability makes her paranoid.
x Does she have the power to twist fate?
x In addition to being the archetypal teenage punk, Chloe (Max’s childhood friend) uses the word “hella” a lot. It’s trite characterization.
x Arcadia Bay has a lot of secrets.
x I meet a weird girl on the quadrangular who enjoys flying her drone around campus.
x I feel conflicted when it comes to making decisions in the game. The level of uncertainty rides on what I feel is best for Max emotionally. Do I hide in the closet or fess up to the joint left on her desk when her stepfather walks in? The 18-year-old me decides it’s best to hide in closet and watch the argument play out.
x Three hours have passed. There are no wrong answers, just different outcomes.
x I’m emotionally invested, but I tell myself it’s only a video game. Am I Max Caulfield?