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.

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