Life is Strange, developed by Dontnod Entertainment, is a video game that garnered itself a cult following despite its many idiosyncrasies. It was released in 2015 as a five-part series of episodes, much like a Netflix teen drama, and rejected action-based gameplay for a more narrative focused approach. Life is Strange tells the story of Max Caulfield, a Blackwell Academy student and photography fanatic who discovers she has the amazing ability to turn back time. What initially appears to a blessing soon reveals itself to be a burdensome curse when Max struggles with the responsibilities that come with her powers. While illustrating the butterfly effect our decisions can have, Life is Strange also puts a magnifying glass to relationships in Max’s life and demonstrates how important they are. More than that, Life is Strange shows how friendship is an important part of being human, and how some good buddies can help calm the storm when the tough times roll in.
Friends Are Fun
One of Max’s closes friends is Chloe Price, a blue-haired rebel who is always in some kind of trouble. The two reunite when Max returns to Arcadia Bay, and despite the time they have spent apart, it is not long before they are best buddies again.
In a game that gets darker as it progresses, the moments of fun and friendship between Max and Chloe are some of the warmest and most heartfelt in Life is Strange. When the pair are dancing to some rock in Chloe’s room – Chloe standing on her bed as Max busts out some painfully awkward dance moves – they are both grinning without a care in the world. These moments of fun in Life is Strange remind us that friendship offers us some of the happiest times in life.
But not all fun is energetic (though this is certainly Chloe’s favorite kind of fun). There is also fun to be had in peace and tranquillity. Friends are people whose company you can enjoy without saying a word. A friend is someone that does not make you feel awkward when there are long pauses or extended moments of silence. When a friendship is real, merely being around your friend is enough for your spirit to be mended.
Such a moment occurs when Chloe and Max lie together in bed tranquilly. Life is Strange’s soft rock indie soundtrack is playing as the morning sun bleeds into the room. There are no words shared because there is nothing that needs to be said. Max and Chloe are at peace together.
In as much as Max and Chloe introduce chaos to each other’s lives, they are also the antidote to each other’s misery. When they are together and having fun, the stresses of life and the traumas of the past evaporate into nothing. This is what makes friendship so powerful.
Friends Help Us When We Are at Our Lowest
Chloe is not Max’s only friend. Max is also quite close to Kate Marsh. Kate is a Blackwell Academy student who comes from a fundamentalist Christian family. To those around her she is perceived as the “good girl”, and she tries very hard to keep up this appearance for both others and her own sense of self.
This all comes to a halt when Kate attends a Vortex Club party. There, she becomes inebriated and a video is taken of her making out with lots of guys. The video is distributed online by Victoria Chase, the queen-bee of Blackwell Academy’s social world, and it quickly goes viral. In an instant, Kate’s reputation and life are upturned. The video marks Kate’s fall from grace and with its popularity comes heaps of shame, regret, self-disgust, guilt and embarrassment for Kate. She is ridiculed by her peers and shunned by some of her family when they discover the video.
The emotional effect of this on Kate is devastating. Following the spread of the video, Kate becomes withdrawn and more reserved than usual. These are classic symptoms of depression, yet very few of her peers recognize them. Her depression flies under the radar and is noticed by nobody but lovable Max, one of Kate’s only remaining friends. Kate, crushed by the darkness of her depression, attempts suicide by making her way to the top of a tall building where she intends to jump. There to stop her before she does is Max. Provided the player makes the right decisions, it is Max’s friendship that ultimately saves Kate.
What Max does in that moment is not supernatural. It is something we can all do with our friends – help them when they are down. Max’s care and compassion are the lasso that pull Kate away from the ledge and remind her that there are still people who love her.
Although our friends are there to share our happiest moments, they are also there to dry our tears and hold us up when we run out of the strength to continue on our own.
Friends Bring Out the Best in Us
One of the greatest marks of true friendship is its constructive nature. While many of us probably have acquaintances with whom we share drinks with or enjoy hobbies together with, true friendship does something slightly different. It does not merely amuse us. Instead, it also brings out in us our best qualities and encourages us to act with love and honor.
Oftentimes we will do difficult things for our friends, things we would not do even for ourselves, and we will attempt to put our best foot forward to ensure we are always the best person possible for our friends, just as they are for us.
Like the blue butterfly that often appears in Life is Strange, Max undergoes a transformation of her own. The first episode begins with Max in the back of her classroom. She is timid when she is called upon and she very much favors staying out the beam of attention if she can help it. However, her time spent with Chloe slowly changes her for the better.
Through the challenges Max must overcome to help her friend, Max gains confidence and learns to take control of her own life. Motivated by a desire to protect her friends, she is forced to make tough decisions, to ponder complex moral questions and to turn her back on inaction.
In Life is Strange, Max’s friendship with Chloe takes her from innocence into experience and, consequently, a wiser Max more acquainted with the strangeness of life emerges.
Friends Are Healing
Pervading Life is Strange is a sense of sadness that never quite goes away. Even in the earliest scenes of the game, the indie music that plays as Max walks the halls of Blackwell Academy carries with it an undertone of melancholy that is easy to recognize but hard to describe. Max’s vision of an incoming storm brings a sense of foreboding doom, and the stories of the people in Max’s life are filled with pain and relatable tragedies.
Arcadia Bay, though beautiful, features families going through real struggles and complex problems with no easy solutions. Chloe, for instance, is fun-loving and free-spirited, but she is also a broken soul who is traumatized by the unexpected loss of her father at a young age. Though her mother tries to keep her connection to her daughter alive, Chloe is as cold as stone and loathes the new man in her mother’s life. While it may be easy to roll your eyes at Chloe when she gives her mother attitude, one should remember she is just a teenage girl dealing with incomprehensible loss while wading the rough waters of youth.
Kate’s life may look idyllic on the outside, but she faces immense pressure to live up to the expectations her family places on her. However, she is merely human and cannot avoid making mistakes. When the viral video of her begins spreading, Kate has her entire social world shattered and her understanding of herself as the good Christian girl is brought into question. Blackwell Academy, a place with catty girls and insensitive guys, is not the best place to piece together an identity while dealing with intense public shaming.
In each of these people’s lives, Max’s friendship is a healing force. She becomes a ray of sunshine to them when times are tough. Little things Max does for Kate, such as wiping off mean graffiti about her or taking the time to learn more about her life, make all the difference. Chloe, a moody delinquent, sees Max as a connection to a past happy period in her life, a reminder of a time when she still had her father around and death had not visited her.
Friends can heal you, but not in the same way doctors do. They rejuvenate and redeem us on a deeper level. To move through life without friends is like limping the length of a marathon with a broken leg and no crutches in sight.
The love, support and happiness that friends provide is something that cannot be found elsewhere. Friendship is one of the few special things in the world that make life worth living. Life is Strange‘s portrayal of friendship is a complex one. It is true that Max and Chloe, together, are a whirlwind of chaos and a magnet for trouble. However, the sentimental moments they share and the love they have for each other in Life is Strange reminds us of the value of friendship, and why we weather the storms of life for it.