Life is Strange has been on my radar ever since it was revealed at the EGX event in September 2013. It was exactly the kind of game that would usually appeal to me: a graphic adventure with a heavy focus on narrative and choices that actually matter, with a female protagonist who has the ability to rewind time at any moment.
It’s taken me several years to pick up the title though. Its episodic nature convinced me to wait until the final part was published in October 2015 (something I tend to do with all games released in this way). Then gearing up for a move took over my time before house renovations were the priority. Work, family and the usual adult commitments – along with Horizon Zero Dawn – meant Life is Strange was put on the back-burner, although not forgotten.
That was until three things happened. James from QTX published a post which suggested the title should be added to the school curriculum. Second, James from Excalibur Games pointed out a connection when I posted an image of Aloy on Twitter using Horizon’s excellent photo mode. And finally, the adventure formed part of the freebies that come with the PlayStation Plus subscription in June 2017. How could I withhold any longer?
So far I’ve made it halfway through the second episode. I’ve not entirely warmed to Max as a character just yet but as pointed out to me by Chris from OverThinker Y: “I don’t think she’s supposed to be totally likeable, to be honest. She makes choices that aren’t always great, she screws up and says stuff from time to time… but then, don’t we all?” He has a good point; maybe the reason why Max grates on me is because I was a teenage girl once and I can remember all the angst, uncertainty and insecurity that went along with it. It could be a little too close to home, if you ignore all the time-travelling stuff.
But that’s part of the problem, you see. I last played Life is Strange over four weeks ago and have had no desire to go back to it since. It’s not because I’ve been too busy for video games lately or because I think it isn’t a good title; it just isn’t calling to me right now. I can’t face having to step back into Max’s world, deal with all that teenage anxiety, and make decisions that will have long-lasting effects on other people.
As mentioned in an editorial earlier this month, I have a lot going on at work at the moment. I have the pleasure of managing a small team of great people who make me laugh every day; but recent business decisions have left me demotivated and anxious that I can’t give my group the opportunities they deserve. If I’m feeling like that during the day, why would I want to put myself through a similar experience during my free time at night?
This feeling was summed up perfectly in a recent comment by Athena from AmbiGaming: “I hear you about not playing a game because it doesn’t fit with what you need at that moment in time. Recently I had a similar experience with Andromeda… I’m always up for Mass Effect games, but I kept avoiding it in favor of games that weren’t open-world. As it turns out, I had a lot of ‘stuff’ going on where I really had to micromanage a lot of things with very little help. Who wants to do that in a video game after a full day of real-life side-quests, really?”
Rather than continuing with Life is Strange, I’ve been playing through the Blackwell series – short pixelated adventures by Wadjet Eye Games. They’re kind of what I need at a moment; something familiar which allows me to be in control of the situation, as described in this post by Teri Mae from Sheikah Plate. Luke from Hundstrasse came up with a great term for this situation: “Comfort gaming is totally a thing… like comfort film watching, or rewatching TV series that you’ve seen a hundred times already.”
I’m sure I’ll go back to Life is Strange at some point in the future but right now, I need something which is going to give me a warm digital hug. That’s the great thing about video games: there’s something out there to suit everyone at every point in their life. They can give us the ability to step into another’s shoes and experience life from their point of view; but they can also let us escape from our own for a few hours, until we’re ready to face the world again.