Spoiler warning: This post will reveal major spoilers from Life Is Strange Episode 2: Out of Time.
Life Is Strange is an episodic adventure game in the vein of Telltale narrative adventure games like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. The world of Life Is Strange can best be described as Groundhog Day meets Twin Peaks, and the developer Square Enix isn’t shy about this. You can find ‘Fire Walk With Me’ graffitied on a mirror in the diner bathroom.
Max Caulfield, a high school photography student finds out she has the power to rewind time. This creates an interesting mechanic for the the conceit of the game, which is when an event happens you can undo it and try out the remaining options. This can open up new branches in dialogue trees, or to rethink an action that will have future consequences.
I am writing about a moment at the end of episode two when that power is stripped away and there is no redo. Of course like any game you can replay it, which was why Life Is Strange’s conceit worked so well. It was playing to the compulsion of gamers who often like to explore all the narrative paths available.
Kate Marsh, another student from Blackwell Academy is a victim of bullying. A Christian and highly conservative, she is more reserved than usual. Something is troubling her. When a video breaks online of her making out with multiple men that is spread around the school, something she can’t recall because she was drugged, she is spiralled into a deeper darker depression.
As Max you can befriend Kate and offer help, which I did. But regardless of any of your actions in this episode or the one prior, by the end Kate is found standing on the edge of the dormitory roof. Max witnesses Kate fall and loses her power to rewind time completely, but manages to freeze it just before Kate jumps. This gives Max enough time to make it up to the roof and try to reason with Kate.
This is where I’m guessing I screwed up. There are a number of dialogue options you can choose from, including the general “you don’t have to do this” lines, and more Kate-specific lines that you really only get from snooping around Kate’s room. At points I thought I had convinced her to back down.
She jumped anyway.
This affected me greatly, and I assumed she would have jumped for any player. That regardless of whatever you do sometimes people choose to take their own lives, and there’s nothing you can do about it, except prevent it from happening again to someone else.
But at the end of each episode the game shows the choices you and other players made and woe and behold, I discovered you can save Kate. I immediately wanted to replay it and save her. That is the moral quandary. Like Max I could rewind time and replay the game, saving her. But as with most narrative driven games I like to live with my initial choices, no matter how dire they end up.
But that puts extreme pressure on Max. Imagine being a teenager at that point, on a rooftop, having to convince someone who has been through so much pain that there is a way out. Of course this is a dramatised story suicide. Most suicides occur in isolation where there is no ‘get off the ledge’ dialogue.
While shocking, my initial thinking that Kate would jump regardless of what I said to her, was more impacting on me. Either that or I just wish my being a friend to Kate would have mattered more than getting the right words in a final stand-off.
If you need to talk to someone, there are people ready to listen.