One of the biggest reasons I got into gaming are the well-crafted stories behind the cool graphics and fun gameplay. Stories with an emotional heartbeat and memorable moments that will remain with you even after the last credits have rolled. It’s a connection I seek out in much of the video games I play. So what do you do when you encounter a game that has a potentially mind blowing story, but to get there, you have to slog through gameplay that’s less than what you expected?
Video games are often a form of escapist entertainment. We play to have fun, lead lives that are different from our own, and forget our real world problems for a little while. But what happens when you combine fictional stories with today’s commentary about current events? Can we still view these games as pure fun and escapism when these messages, subtle or overt, become unabashed in their intention to drive a point home?
When Dontnod Entertainment released Life Is Strange back in 2015, it became the unexpected hit that invited gamers to get swept up in the friendship between Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, while helping them uncover the mystery behind popular girl Rachel Amber’s disappearance. However you choose to end Max and Chloe’s story, Life Is Strange is a complete game. But for developer Deck Nine, there’s still another story that hasn’t been told—the story of Chloe and Rachel.
A few weekends ago I played the final episode of Life Is Strange. Many thoughts have been swirling in my head about the story and the episode itself. After giving the episode entitled Polarize a chance to sit and percolate in my brain banks for quite a bit, there’s a lot I want to discuss about it and how successful Dontnod Entertainment’s take on the episodic video game genre has wrapped up the ongoing story threads of Life Is Strange. Please read the following post with caution. There will be plenty of spoilers about Polarize. If you haven’t played the game or episode yet, it’s best to avoid reading this one until you have.
The best stories told are the ones that manage to hold and keep your attention until the very end. All writers and lover of stories know this. It’s what separates a good story from a bad or mediocre one when it remains firmly imprinted in your mind for months or even years later. Playing video games with an emphasis on story and narrative is no different. You have to have a really strong plot and characters to keep players playing. What makes a story even better to play is when you have no idea what direction it’s headed in or it’s full of surprises you never see coming. Life is Strange is one recent example of a video game that manages to keep its players engaged and invested in the story and fates of their characters.