Why English and Film Majors Should Play Life is Strange

By Andy Nalewski

The purpose of any film or book that tells a story is to move the audience in some way. We want to laugh, cry, be afraid, or joyous - most of the time, a good story does all of those things.

What does that, isn’t always the story itself, but the presentation. There are nuances in writing styles - poetics, prose, and the like - and also in film - acting, visuals, and other things.

Video games have become a fantastic medium for this. While interaction in the story can be fun, it isn’t the rule. There needs to be more, and Life is Strange has a lot more than most.

The game follows Max Caulfield, a young woman in her senior year studying photography, who finds out she can reverse time. She uses this power to help others and correct her own mistakes, but she later finds that she can do harm as well. The player who takes control of her must make key decisions, all of which have consequences for the past, present, and future.

I can’t say much more about the story, because spoiling it would be an insult to everyone. But I can tell you that this game moved me more than any piece of literature or film has ever done.

I cried. And I don’t cry easily.

What really makes this game stand out as a story is the way it’s presented. There is fantastic voice acting, an indie musical score that captures the mood of the story, and suspenseful visuals every time you need to make a key choice giving you a pit in your stomach.

In my playthrough, were two choices which I couldn’t rewind or undo. The first one left me speechless, as I stared at the screen with a mix of shame and sadness, and I put my head in my hands for a quick minute before I had to take a break and go for a cigarette. 

The second one was the one that made me cry. I felt the characters pain. Her face became mine. It was hell. Beautiful, melancholy hell.

Anyone who wants to make a living in the art of storytelling should play this game. It’s a shining example of inciting emotion in an audience. If you don’t believe me, there’s even an official support site by the game's developers linking to suicide prevention hotlines in multiple countries. lifeisstrange.com/talk

Yeah. It can be that upsetting.

But, if you want to cry, laugh, cringe, rejoice, and fall in love, play this game. Learn from it. For your audience, and for yourself.