In 2016, I fell in love with the story of a pair of best friends, the shy photographer Max and the fiery rebel Chloe, and their journey of friendship, tragedy and otherworldly mission of making things right. The game that portrayed their tale was Life is Strange (LIS), a surprise hit for the French game developer Dontnod. They managed to tell Max and Chloe’s story in the most relatable way for an emotional teenager like me. I’ve played many other interactive dramas since, but they haven’t succeeded to tug at my heartstrings quite like LIS’ successor, Life is Strange 2. But on the contrary to mine and everyone else’s expectations, LIS 2 continues the game series’ legacy by focusing on two unfortunate brothers, Sean and Daniel, and their escape journey across post-Trump USA. When starting the game, I didn’t know how to feel, but I certainly didn’t expect this large range of emotions after playing it.
LIS 2 is a cautionary tale of how racism and prejudice can impact the most vulnerable, children. The game’s protagonist, Sean, is just a 16-year-old teen when suddenly, he finds himself on the run with his young and immature brother Daniel after a terrible accident. Moreover, Daniel has inexplicably gained a superpower of moving objects with his mind and is usually inept of controlling it. Struggling to cope, Sean is constantly presented with moral dilemmas and hard choices, many of which revolves around his brother and his extremely powerful asset. They come across bullies and racists trying to end them, people manipulating the brothers to gain from them, and some genuine people willing to help them. The player must guide Sean to help his brother to successfully navigate through their treacherous and extraordinary journey.
But like in real life, every decision has its consequences. It proved to be very tricky to anticipate the possible outcomes of Sean’s decisions in the long run. It also put a lot pressure to essentially guide someone else via own actions and simultaneously being a good role model. I tried to approach this from my own experience as an elder sibling: How would I guide my own brother if I had to, say, break out of captivity or try to talk him out of killing somebody? Would I let my brother see me stealing from a store and set a bad example, even though we desperately need it?
I found Dontnod to really excel in their attempt to depict a tragic story of survival, where it’s essential to maintain a balanced relationship. Your decisions regarding Daniel can matter in the most surprising way: whether or not you encourage Daniel to use his power, it can make or break it for other characters. It’s also important not to be selfish with your choices, even if you’re playing as a singular character. For example, choosing for Sean to prioritize his friends over Daniel can have serious consequences.
All in all, LIS 2 certainly teaches many important lessons of life. Surprisingly, I found this game to make me reflect a lot on my relationship with my brother. It made me realize how important it is to appreciate the special bond siblings share, and not to take it for granted. Many of LIS 2 situations are of course, hyperbole, but essentially it manages to question one’s priorities in life: What if I lose everything one day, but all I have is my younger sibling? Am I a good enough person to guide them in life? Or am I the one who needs guidance?
Screenshots are from writer’s own gameplay.
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