Life Is Strange Analysis Part 3: Making It All Matter In the End

Hey guys!  I’m finally back with the third and final part of my analysis of the video game Life Is Strange, where I will be tackling one of the most controversial areas of the whole game.  It plays as honestly one of the major factors of the game that pulls the whole thing down from a lot of its credibility to a lot of people.  I am talking about the ending.  At this point, I am completely shying away from being spoiler-free and will be discussing some very significant details having to do with the end of the game, so please don’t continue if you don’t want to know the end of the story.

Spoilers start.  At the very end of the game, Max Caulfield (and you the player) have two choices: save the town of Arcadia Bay from a gigantic tornado and sacrifice Chloe so that the tornado doesn’t even happen, or sacrifice Arcadia Bay so that Chloe can still live.  After all the different decisions you made throughout the game, it has all come down to just two major event-shaping decisions.  This is actually where a lot of people had a problem with the game.  How did any of your decisions throughout the game mean anything if there’s only two endings lined up in the end?  How does any of it matter if either everyone except Max and Chloe die or Chloe dies and time resets so most of what happened didn’t happen?

These questions can easily be overturned by pointing out one simple but very, very deep fact.

Max (and the player controlling her) still went through everything this game threw at her.  Let’s examine the ‘Sacrifice Chloe’ ending first.  While going back to the moment near the beginning of the game when Chloe was shot and killed means the other characters lost their experiences, Max hasn’t lost hers.  Ultimately, this game was Max’s story.  It was all about discovering the dangers of messing with time and other people.  The other students at Blackwell were there to serve more as plot devices than anything else, and Max learned so much about them whether the experiences remain in the timeline or not.  While the events of the timeline are gone, Max’s character growth is not.  When the game ends, we can go on believing that Max will make the right decisions moving forward.  She will start doing things differently, one of those things being not hugging the past so close but choosing to look forward to the future.

Another example I can think of for this kind of storytelling and character development is X-Men: Days Of Future Past.  Wolverine goes back into the past to prevent the murder of the creator of the Sentinels, and by doing so, it changed the present in more ways than he had expected, which in a lot of ways meant changing the timeline so that certain key events throughout previous X-Men films didn’t happen (the whole thing of X-Men 3 as an example).  While people may declare that the previous X-Men films are now completely meaningless because of this, it’s important to realize that Wolverine still experienced the previous films.  He still has that knowledge and he still grew from it.  His memory was not erased in the process of coming back into the present after leaping into the past.  I always believed that most of the X-Men films leading up to that movie was Wolverine’s story anyway.

If there’s one thing I can criticize about the ending, it’s the fact that if you choose to sacrifice Arcadia Bay and Max and Chloe leave the town behind and go wherever they want to go, won’t the storms follow them?  If Chloe was truly fated to die, wouldn’t the storm be a curse that Max and Chloe won’t be able to leave behind until the right choice is made?  These are questions that I had with that ending, adding more confusion to the second ending than what is already there.  If you choose to sacrifice Arcadia Bay, it’s a signal that Max (and even the player) learned nothing throughout the course of the game (even though the game really slams the point over your head during the last hour of the final episode).  It’s also an indicator that the ‘Sacrifice Chloe’ ending is actually the canonical one (proven further by the fact that its a longer, slower ending.

What’s that famous saying?  ‘Life is a journey, not the destination’.  The journey is about the journey itself, not the finish line in the end.  It’s the experiences that matter, and even if they’re made irrelevant, you don’t forget about them.  Everything that Max experienced throughout the game is something that will stay in her memory, even if it doesn’t remain in the memory of others, which actually gives Max something that nobody else has.  Life is a journey, and it is indeed strange.

Life Is Strange Analysis Part 2: The Character Of Chloe Price


I wasn’t joking in my last article when I said that, to me, Chloe Price from Life Is Strange is the best video game character I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know.  Revan from Knights Of the Old Republic would be another great one, but one of the biggest reasons I love the character of Chloe so much is because of how grounded she is.  Allow me to explain.

When we first see Chloe, Max Caulfield doesn’t recognize her, and for understandable reasons.  Over the years, she has completely changed her physical appearance, and in a lot of ways, her own personality.  Her father died when she was younger and her mother marries someone else that she doesn’t like at all, her best friend Max practically abandoned her and didn’t write back whenever Chloe wrote letters to her, and her newer best friend Rachael one day disappears without a trace.  It is at this point that Chloe feels completely and hopelessly alone.  She gets mixed up in the wrong crowds, falls into a drug addiction, takes medication for depression, and changes her appearance much to the dismay of her stepfather.

In more ways than one, she has become a different person, and Max notices this when she comes back into her life.  She realizes how much of her friend’s life she has missed while she was gone, and she carries the guilt of having not been there for Chloe when she really needed someone.  The game effectively shows us exactly how Chloe has changed, and we get to feel that change through Max’s eyes.  When we first get to explore Chloe’s room, Max realizes how much Chloe has changed and we “feel” it, even though we as the players personally have never known Chloe up until now.  Because of this, it just shows how effective and powerful the writing and the atmosphere are.  We sympathize for Chloe, even though so many of her actions are questionable.

In short, Chloe should remind us of someone in our own lives.  Most of us have someone in our lives that we’ve known for a long time and have noticed him or her change pretty drastically as we grow up.  It’s inevitable that people change, whether we can accept that or not.  We can choose to back off or we can choose to stay by that friend’s side, but whatever we do when it comes to our friends, we have to accept that things and people change, as painful as that may be at first.

Spoilers coming up: By the end of the game, Chloe has been as fleshed out as she could quite possibly be (something the prequel Before the Storm will have to try and top).  She has reached a point now where even though she acted like she didn’t care about anybody throughout the story, she’s willing to do the selfless, sacrificial thing to save everybody from certain destruction by tornado.  If it means that Max would have to travel back in time and allow Chloe to get shot by rich kid Nathan Prescott, then so be it.  She is a character that has truly changed, because not only is she willing to save everyone (which would include her stepfather), but she’s also willing to accept her own fate and demise.  While she spent the majority of the game only looking out for herself, she is finally willing to be the sacrifice for everyone.  On top of that, before Max rewinds back to that fateful day when Chloe gets shot, Chloe gets to know that someone cared about her enough to never leave her.  Not again anyway.  End Of Spoilers.

To finish off, I’d like to share one of my favorite parts of the whole game involving Chloe.  It’s a sequence where she’s not talking or even doing much at all.  At one point, Chloe asks you to turn on her stereo and leave her alone for a little bit while she “medicates” (smoking grass).  When you turn the stereo on, the song that plays is called “Santa Monica Dream”.  In a way, it pretty much exactly captures Chloe’s own grief because of separation.  She lost her dear friend Rachael.  Together, they planned on ‘ruling the world’ and becoming famous away from their home town of Arcadia Bay.  Though you don’t know about all of that yet at this point in the game, the song is a clear hint towards Chloe’s own past and trials.  That’s one of the best things about this game.  So many of the different components that make up the game are symbolic one way or another.

Life Is Strange Analysis Part 1: Max Caulfield’s Nostalgia And Insecurity


I just recently beat the video game Life Is Strange for the first time.  With the release of its prequel Before the Storm coming out soon, I felt it was appropriate to say a few things about this game and what it means to me in real life.

I first discovered the game through a friend who had beaten it and said some positive things about it, so I made the worst mistake one can make when he’s drawn to a new video game: I watched a gameplay miniseries of someone else playing it instead of seizing the opportunity to go out and get it myself (I didn’t realize it was available for Mac at the time).  I can say now that watching someone play a game is not at all the same as playing it yourself.  If you haven’t played the game yet and you’re interested, please don’t make the same mistake I made.

Moving on, though I regret watching someone else play it first, I still really fell in love with the story and the characters involved.  The soundtrack was also amazing, and I made it a goal to find all the music tracks so that I can listen to them whenever I want to.  The music offered a significantly peaceful atmosphere that easily makes you feel so relaxed and immerses you in the story gently, while not being too gentle as to overshadow the conflict that is the story.

This article will mainly focus on how I can relate to the main character, Max Caulfield.  A young woman attending a senior school called Blackwell Academy in the small town of Arcadia Bay.  One of the most beautiful things about this game is that Arcadia Bay, despite the game having very low-res textures, draws you in and makes you a part of the world that this game has created.  In almost no time at all, the game convinces you that you want to live in Arcadia Bay, despite the sinister points in the story that eventually follow.  Max is eighteen years old, has a passion for photography, and clings onto those sweet thoughts of nostalgia and how much the past means to her when it came to her experiences with her best friend Chloe Price (more on that character in Part 2).  She is shy, mostly introverted, and very laid back.  Most of the insults that are thrown at her simply bounce off because she’s more than willing to just move along and keep herself contained within her own little world.

So what is it about her that reminds me so much of myself?  Well first, its that nostalgic world that she has built up for herself.  While she’s taking a class for photography, she takes her own pictures with an old-fashioned Polaroid camera (I’ll admit I’d still love to have one of those today) rather than going the digital route and taking pictures with her phone like most other people.  She even takes selfies with her old camera, so on one hand she’s kind of there in our modern times, but on the other hand she’s about two or more decades behind.  To me, this is somewhat of a reflection of my own possessions and where they rank with our times.  While I do own a few Blu-Rays, most of my movie collection consist of normal DVDs.  The only gaming console that I own besides the games I have on my Mac is an old original Xbox, and if my phone is somehow out of commission, I’ll dust off my thirteen-year old alarm clock.  It was only a couple years ago that I was using an old PC laptop from 1997 to write my own stories.  I don’t have my own conscious motto, but if I do somewhere in my mind it’s this: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I’ll use whatever works and whatever serves my goals.

Secondly, throughout the game, it’s clear to us as the players that Max has a low rate of self-esteem.  Almost the entire cast of characters is responsible for saying things about Max both directly and indirectly that are either meant to lift her up or tear her down, and when things are said to lift her up, Max often counteracts with words to tear herself down.  She’s a character that receives time travel powers (somehow), is responsible for saving friends of hers multiple times, and is determined to bring the ‘bad’ people to justice.  Unless the player always makes certain decisions that makes her out to be a jerk, Max has a good heart and wants to do nothing but help others that need it.  Despite all of this, Max is not one with a big ego.  She beats herself up consistently, and the harsh words coming from the more unpleasant characters in the game don’t help her at all.  In my own personal experience growing up, I’ve had people who’ve built me up and others who have torn me down.  When people say things that build me up, oftentimes I don’t feel like I deserve those encouraging words, and when people say things to tear me down, oftentimes I believe I deserve those words.  It’s usually a constant battle.  It’s a weakness that can be found in a lot of people, and it’s why encouraging words are always so important in our daily lives.  In order to truly love and help others, we have to love ourselves first.  One of the most beautiful things about the game is actually the fact that Max never reaches a point where she thinks ‘yes, I am an amazing person’ or ‘yes, I am a terrible person’.  What she thinks of herself by the end is left pretty ambiguous, but we know that every time her friend Warren calls her ‘Super Max’ and every time (Spoiler) the sinister Mark Jefferson (End Spoiler) tells her ‘you can do so much better’, you can guarantee that that leaves an impression on her, as it does everybody else.

There’s so much more that can be said about Max, but those were some of the things about the character that really resonated with me.  It’s refreshing to see a character with similar challenges live and learn such as Max in the game, and better yet, you get to go on that journey with her and influence the decisions that she makes.  Though it’s not without its flaws, Life Is Strange is a fantastic game and ranks up there with my favorites such as The Last Of Us and Knights Of the Old Republic.  For Part 2, I will be writing an analysis article on Chloe Price and why she is my all-time favorite video game character.  Yep, you read that right.