On 'Life is Strange' – part II

Wowzers. What a journey.

This post ended up taking a lot longer to write and in the process turned up a lot longer than I first anticipated. And I still feel this is not everything that could be said (and nor was the previous part).

Most of this was written in the immediate days after the release of the final episode and most of the editing was done by the end of that week. Afterwards it still took few extra weeks to recover enough to even be able to get everything together and add some missing observations.

But to get on with this: first some initial thoughts about the final episode. I’ll try to be vague; there shouldn’t be any spoilers. These thoughts are complemented with some self-reflection.

Episode 5

While the final episode was enjoyable, it lacked some of the magic all the previous episodes had. I don’t know if it was because of the fact that I wasn’t still done processing the previous episodes, or the fact that I had so much other stuff distracting me in real life. In any case I felt slightly disconnected.

Or maybe it was the fact that the episode was more action-oriented where the previous episodes were more dialog-oriented. Also, with so many different locations and quick transitions between them the episode felt a bit rushed. But then again, it’s also about how you view the thing. Squeezing together tons of different fan theories(intentional or not) and sensibly finishing a time travel story is definitely not easy.

There exists a variety of arguments to be made for and against the final episode and especially the endings. The disparity of polish between the endings was quite disappointing and a lot was left to be desired. And the overall feeling of sadness about the end of this all is completely another matter...

After watching the credits I still had to spend maybe five minutes just staring at the main menu listening to the music, not really comprehending what had happened nor that the game really was over.

Craving for closure

As above - and like I so subtly hinted in the previous part - Life is Strange touched me with an unexpected intensity. Partly because of the game itself(the story, the characters and the atmosphere) and partly because of how it led to some pretty major self-reflection. First about the game itself.

There is so much I want to say.
So much emotion.
So many thoughts.
So much everything.
And while that everything was.. everything, it also was almost too much.

And now the end is here and I feel empty. The closure wasn’t what I was expecting, nor was it was I was hoping. Instead, it was what I needed.

While the endings left A LOT open, they also had an adequate amount of closure to keep me from totally collapsing. This allowed me to limp to the game’s reddit community, where the feelings could be shared. Thank you all. In addition, after I had played the episodes 3&4 that I discussed in the previous post, I listened to PSNStores podcasts about those episodes. This helped me a great deal in processing what happened with those episodes.

The more time I spent reading reddit and watching interviews, the better I finally felt. Now that I’m writing this particular paragraph weeks later, I’m almost completely at ease with everything. I’ve had time to research how the final episodes, and in particular the ending, is supposed to be understood.

* * *

As the game’s developers have told in many occasions, the game was about the personal growth of Max. A nostalgic coming-of-age story. This is a crucial cornerstone to understand. The relations between characters were crafted to be so perfect and special. For example Chloe was crafted to be THE perfect friend with a deep emotional connection with Max / the player, evoking a longing for such a person in real life. But real life does not work this way. It just doesn’t.

* * *

To adequately process coming-of-age stories, there needs to be some reflection on one’s own life. This is the part that most definitely changed me. Some details below, but the gist of it is that while affecting (at least in the short term) on how I see the world, this experience also made me realize certain rather grander / fundamental things about life. Life is so weird.

The most immediate realization from this whole experience: everything will come to an end and there is nothing you can do. Ends have to be endured. It’s hard to endure everything alone, and for that you need someone, or someones. (In this case primarily /r/LifeIsStrange and the podcasts. I also had some friends, but their role was just to be an audience while I announced how this game had had such an impact on me. But that helped, too.)

In the end you’ll feel weird and dull, but also oddly at ease: there is nothing you can do now. I’ll never forget the journey, or how it helped me grow.

Transforming life

As the game and the setting were so greatly crafted, it was really easy to actually become Max, not just be someone who control’s her avatar. Not many games can accomplish this. Almost without noticing it I had slipped to be in the wonderful nostalgia-colored teenage-life of Maxine Caulfield.

This glimpse to another life. Life of an adorable, slightly geeky girl who likes photography and innocently loves to observe the world. But you can’t change your life just like that; I am not Max, nor is her life mine. No matter how much I hoped to be Max, it was not going to happen. But you can try to slowly change yourself.

My immediate reaction to this was of course to try and be more like Max, try to observe the world with that same kind of non-judging, all-seeing way. But it’s not that easy. While being bit of a stretch, I do have moments when I feel emotions somewhat comparable to hers. Not everything is perfect, but I’m pretty good in what I do and how I have my future planned. I do have the occasional moments of feeling great in life. While not happening too often, I’ve also had some good moments with friends. I should just embrace who I am, no matter what.

And you don’t actually need to have an opinion on everything, just keep an open view on the world. Don’t just plod through everything without taking a moment to appreciate what you are doing.

Do this and maybe you’ll end up more like Max. More like a better person. And don’t try to necessarily change the world, change your view on it.

Emotional layers

Having continued on this path of self-reflection were are now arriving at the very core.

This experience has finally had me realize that there is multiple layers(or segments or whatever to call them) of me. Sure, layering is a known psychological theory, but I didn’t realize just how accurate it was and that I too implemented it. There are those layers I show at work or when studying. I know it’s necessary to have some emotional separation, but that also makes be feel incomplete. And then there is that one layer at the core was affected by all this. Maybe that is the real me?

I’ve been under a lot of stress this semester, and as a coping mechanism I’ve had to segment myself to multiple distinct though-spheres(wtf is that word). Sure there is some crosstalk, but it has stayed low. While this has helped me to focus on the task at hand, I’ve began to feel the wearing effects of maintaining that emotional isolation.

There’s always been those segments, but lately they have been even more isolated. The pressure building up.

The outer layer is divided to two distinct things. There is one me for studying and another one for work. Protected by those there is the normal me for friends, gaming and living in general. But that is not everything. There have been occasional hints about an isolated layer below, but nothing really concrete.

But now this game pierced through all those layers and exposed that very core underneath, the ‘real me’ - or at least as real as it can get. There was a reason that core was isolated. It’s sensitive. And this game was . It cracked that isolation up. I’m in ruins. I’ve tried to keep everything from imploding, but it has not been easy.

Maybe the game was an escape?

Total(ish) immersion, or whatever?..

* * *

I’m actually having difficulty finalizing this section, as that would mean I accept all this.

Where has the time gone?

I don’t know how I would have fared had I not had an almost perfectly timed semester break this week. I still went to work, but didn’t have to worry about exercises and lectures. Instead I had time to focus on all of this: process everything(or as much as I could/can) and stumble for closure.

Like a comment in reddit said, it makes no logical sense for a video game or fictional characters to evoke this much emotion. But this is art, and art is supposed to have some type of an effect.

I wish I could stay in this moment forever. But then, I guess it wouldn't be a moment.

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