Both the title of an excellent video game I played last year and a very true statement in general.
I had heard many good things about Life is Strange and decided to get the season pass on PS4 to give me all the episodes in one go. Since returning to games in the last year it is this kind of thing that has most excited me.
It seems that in recent times the games industry has grown up a bit. Developers are getting older and so are the players themselves. Or, more accurately I should say that the consumers of games are now coming from a broader spectrum of ages. There are gamers from the age of about four up to fifty (or maybe even older).
“It seemed for a time there wasn’t a huge breadth of choice in game genre.”
Because of this, there is a desire for games that aren’t just about shooting people. Puzzle heavy games (The Witness), twee platformers (Braid, Grow Home, Unravel) and story based games like Life is Strange seem to be not just more popular, but more available! It seemed for a time there wasn’t a huge breadth of choice in game genre.
Now, not only are there games which are more adult, but there are more genres of games to choose from. I have recently got back into PC gaming (more on that to follow) and the wealth of diverse titles available to PC gamers is staggering!
“You are put into the boots of a teenage girl struggling with life at her school, where cliques and bullies go about their business making everyone feel inadequate and marginalised.”
Life is Strange is a coming of age drama that deals with a few human topics and a few supernatural ones. You are put into the boots of a teenage girl struggling with life at her school, where cliques and bullies go about their business making everyone feel inadequate and marginalised.
She also happens to be able to control time… This provides the high-concept and the major game mechanic. You can manipulate time to get some sweet revenge on bullies and to save someone’s life.
It is this weaving together of the mundane and the fantastic that makes the game so deeply moving. The characters have a decent amount of depth to them, you can really feel the struggles of your classmates around you. Then when you are flung into the mad world of time travel you start to question as to what you, yourself, would do given such a powerful and potentially devastating ability.
The game at heart is a fairly linear story where your choices impact the outcome along the way, unlike a TellTale game though, your ability gives you the chance to go back and make the decision again, sometimes with the knowledge of how things went last time or sometimes just because you get filled with regret or remorse after making a selfish or arrogant call.
This mechanic also takes the pressure off to some extent. You know that although timing is sometimes important, if you make a mistake you can always rewind and try it again, in fact the game encourages you to do so. This means that you don’t get caught up in ‘playing’ the game, moreover I felt that I was truly manipulating the story. You feel a certain inevitability about events and it is truly satisfying when you are able to change things for the better. Or so you think…
It’s a terrible, beautiful journey that isn’t necessarily ‘fun’ at any point, but satisfies if you are a fan of story-based games and for me a nostalgic reminder of adolescence. I’m sure some younger players will also be able to empathise with the themes of detachment, rebellion, anxiety and guilt.
Play it and see for yourselves. I’m glad games like this exist and I can see the future of gaming being more like movies with options to suit your state of mind, where you can play a game to feel happy, for an adrenaline rush or to feel sad. After all, you’re not always in the mood for Die Hard…
If you have issues with anxiety please go here for information and also check out this excellent series from Eurogamer that covers a number of mental health issues in the context of video games.