(Spoiler Warning: Contains spoilers for the final episode of Life Is Strange)

Life Is Strange is a single player experience, but I felt a deeper connection to the game by sharing it with a second player. I played each episode at the same time as my best friend, someone I grew up with. After finding the first episode to be a rewarding if somewhat flawed experience, I recommended he try it out. He’s not usually the type to play narrative experiences – he’s poured hundreds of hours into Warframe – so I wasn’t at all confident that Life Is Strange’s contemplative time-travelling story and light mechanics would interest him, but he gave it a shot. After he played the first episode, I was interested in hearing his thoughts. The first thing he said was, “Max and Chloe’s relationship, it’s us.” I’d thought the same thing. We’re long out of high school now, and while the specifics are obviously different (we are neither time-lords nor have blue hair) Life Is Strange‘s central relationship spoke to us in a way that no game has. Its ability to make you reflect on the relationships of your youth is unrivalled.

This may in part stem from the fact that we are gay men. Maybe that makes us more prone to identify with characters outside our own gender, because at times we’ve felt on the fringe of it anyway. It was more than that though. The character’s traits reflected our own individual quirks, and in their effortless, playful interaction we saw ourselves. From then on our post-episode discussions became a ritual. We’d not only discuss the game’s events, plot twists and the choices we made, we reminisced over the follies of our own adolescence. Our conversations about the game were as rewarding as the game itself.

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We’d been through a lot together over the years, and we were doing it all again through these characters. We were inseparable as we partied together, experimented with our identities, and tried to figure out what the hell we were doing with our lives. We made many choices together, for better and for worse.

As it is with choice in Life Is Strange, the choices we make in our own relationships have repercussions, and sometimes we make the wrong ones. Some can be repaired or will resolve themselves in time, while others echo on. These might be ignored, but they’re still present. In the game, a choice made by Max in the past lead to her and Chloe becoming estranged. It comes up from time to time through the course of the narrative and while the bitterness has mostly subsided, Chloe can’t forget how Max left her with no one. Despite Max’s time-rewinding ability, she can’t fix it; it’s something she can only apologise for. There are many similarities between the character’s friendship and ours, and this was another, less comfortable one.

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As with many adolescent fallouts, it started with a guy. My friend had started seeing someone new and he was ecstatic. He would talk to me about this awesome dude and his hope that their relationship would develop further. It didn’t work out as he’d hoped, and the relationship cooled, the two going their separate ways. My friend was devastated. Soon after, I began chatting to a guy online. He was an awesome dude, and we decided to go on a date. Over a beer I found out what he was into, what he did for a job, and even his last relationship which had recently ended. The thing was I’d heard it all before from my friend. I didn’t say anything, I just silently felt gross. But I stayed. Later, I texted my friend and instead of telling him what had happened, I callously asked questions to confirm what I already knew. It was the same guy. I panicked. I blanked my friend – I just stopped talking to him. Then, driven by hormones and selfishness I made a choice. I chose to pursue the relationship. I chose something else over my best friend and left him with no one. When he eventually found out, we didn’t speak for nearly two years and my new relationship burned out long before that. It didn’t matter next to what I’d really lost.

Eventually, my friend and I began to speak again. When we did, all I could do was say that I was sorry. The bitterness has now diminished, but it still echoes in the background.

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When the final episode of Life Is Strange came out, we both played it, and began our ritual discussion. We couldn’t help but discuss the ending before all else. At the end of the episode, Max and Chloe have an explosive conversation on a cliff by the lighthouse while the hurricane brews in the background, threatening to destroy everything. You’re faced with one final decision – do you save Chloe, and leave the town and its people to be destroyed? Or do you sacrifice your best friend – someone you’ve let down and lost before – to save the town? I knew what my friend had chosen. He didn’t even need to tell me. He chose Chloe. After all they’d been through there was no way he was letting them lose each other again, no matter the cost. He told me it was because of our friendship – it’s what he would do if we were somehow in that far-fetched situation. I took a breath, and confessed that I hadn’t made the same choice. I’d chosen to save the others, and my actions ended Chloe and Max’s friendship. After a silence, he asked me one question.

“How could you do that to us?”

I didn’t know what else to say but that I was sorry.

Life Is Strange is itself like a relationship – flawed and deeply personal. You’re faced with difficult conversations and tough decisions, and sometimes you screw up. Most of the time, you can go back and make things right, but sometimes living with the consequences is the only option you have.

About The Author

As an Australian, Simon enjoys paying slightly more for games, and occasionally isn't allowed to have the really naughty ones. When he isn't writing about video games, he studies journalism so he can actually one day be good at it. He also experienced an existential crisis after writing in the third person.

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