During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!
This week: This time, I think about my experiences I made as I played Life is Strange for the first time.
Recently, as I was looking through my Steam library in order to find a short but still very atmospheric game I could complete over the course of the Easter holidays, I rediscovered Life is Strange. Since the release of it in January 2015, I wanted to give this game a try as it was rated as very atmospheric and emotional. Unfortunately, I had not the time to play it right away and so I postponed the purchase. At some point, however, I got the game as I bought a Humble Bundle game bundle. Since then, it was waiting in my library for the right moment.
After downloading and installing Life is Strange, I was immediately amazed by its atmosphere and immersive effect. In this adventure game, the players takes control over Max Caulfield, a photography senior who, at the start of the game, experiences a very real daydream and suddenly wakes up in the middle of a photography seminar. During the exploration phase, Max is controlled from a 3rd person perspective and can interact with the environment as well as with other non-player characters. That way, the user can explore the environment and search for items that are needed in order to solve the game’s puzzles. However, once a player begins a conversation, the game changes to cutscenes that take advantage of settings used in movies.
Aside from solving puzzles and exploring the virtual word, players can also access Max’s journal which is beautifully decorated with pictures, drawings and other remarks thus adding an additional emotional layer to the game’s story. The journal is used in order to document a player’s decisions as Life is Strange provides multiple endings depending on the player’s choices throughout the gameplay. Hence, the journal actually reflects the actions a player did inside of the game.
Moreover, the game uses the journal-drawing style as a general style for the game: all text in the game (main menu items, confirmation screens) use the same handwriting font that is also used in the journal. Also, the mouse cursor looks like as if it was drawn with a pencil.
Making decisions is the most important aspect of Life is Strange as Max is able to rewind time in order to change the topic of a conversation or even save someone’s life. That way, the game incorporates the idea of the butterfly effect that even a small change can have a significant impact on other things in the future. This is even emphasized as, during the initial part of the game as the player gets introduced to this game mechanic, Max is about to take a picture of a blue butterfly.
In addition to Max’s personal journal, players are able to hear the girl’s thoughts on recent events which are presented in a very personal and subjective way thus causing the players to feel with the game’s main character and often to develop an emotional connection to her. The emotional aspects of the game are even emphasized as the game uses a very emotional indy music.
The music not only increased the game’s atmosphere and emotional aspects, but was also used to immerse the player in the game: at the end of the seminar, Max puts her earphones on and starts to listen to some music. Right in this moment, the game also started to play a song at a higher volume thus suggesting that the player itself is listening to the music via earphones. Personally, I experienced exactly this moment as a very immersive part of the gameplay.
Lastly, the game’s story creates a very dense atmosphere and, at least for me, provides many points where players can associate with when they already experienced those situations themselves.
In sum, by presenting and providing Max’s feelings and thoughts in a direct way, Life is Strange achieves a very immersive, atmospheric and emotional gameplay. It is easy for players to associate with her, especially when they have experienced some of her stories themselves.