Let’s be honest: All the controversies that are reproduced in gaming communities day in and day out are always the same. On one hand, there are quite debatable topics such as working conditions, toxic communities or the excessive tendency to weapon fetishism, on the other hand, however, there is also the eternal, tiring lecture about which game deserves which rating more than that game and why another game actually already did everything better 20 years ago followed by the ongoing complaints that there is still no sequel to it until today. It quickly becomes exhausting when you want to discuss the content of games. Although there are so many exciting facets that are worth looking at, the common language often only resembles the reproduction of a Wikipedia entry.
One game that somewhat out of nowhere was defined in a broad public through its plot, characters, and emotionality was Life is Strange. The actually quite traditional multiple-choice adventure game from French developers Dontnod had its heart in the right place, two unusual main protagonists in Max and Chloe, and a wonderfully soulful indie soundtrack. Above all, Life is Strange had a spot-on sense of a friendship marked by differences and insecurities. Confronted with her psychic powers, Max had to find herself and her role in the universe – an often already hopelessly complicated undertaking for ordinary teenagers, which in the final chapter of the episodic game would end in a decision that would challenge a friendship quite a bit.
I’m not talking about the friendship between Max and Chloe. Of course, that was also important in a way, as you want to bring such a game to a good end. I’m talking about my friendship with Wall-Jump co-author Benjamin.
Benjamin and I have both played Life is Strange. We experienced the decisions that you have to face in the role of Max differently, yet we rated them similarly. Right up to the bitter end. Because the last minutes of Life is Strange raise an existential question: Do I sacrifice the game location Arcadia Bay and all its inhabitants to save Chloe and give our friendship – or even love – a chance? Or do I act responsibly, subordinate my own existence to the greater good, save humanity, and give up Chloe? In other words, does the entire universe revolve around my existence, or do I play only a small role in the cosmic scheme of things?
Well, for my Max Caulfield, after all the questions, doubts and decisions, there was only one choice at that point: a life with Chloe, wherever it may lead us. A decision for myself, in the here and now, without a glance at the further consequences. A decision with the heart of an 18-year-old in search of herself, not a decision with the mind of a 36-year-old with his own real estate.
By the way, Benjamin is 36 and owns real estate. A crazy coincidence! Not surprisingly, then, he saved Arcadia Bay. And who was that Chloe again?
Ever since the two of us, Benjamin and I, answered Max and Chloe’s future in such fundamentally different ways, the topic has come up again and again. We have spent entire evenings in the circle of our families trying to convince each other of the only correct ending to the game. In vain. But I had one last trump card in my pocket: I know Raoul Barbet and Michel Koch, the game’s lead developers. Who, if not them, can say which ending of Life is Strange is the right one, and which is the wrong one?
The answer was much easier for Raoul and Michel than it was for us: There is no right and wrong ending. Every ending is consistent in itself, depending on the player’s perspective on the characters of Life is Strange. A statement that didn’t prove me one hundred percent right, but should at least make it clear to Benjamin that he was wrong.
Well, Benjamin and I are still friends. Even though, despite the oppressive evidence, he still claims* that saving Arcadia Bay is the only right thing to do – and even the minds behind Life is Strange wouldn’t understand their game. But there’s at least one thing we can agree on: We probably won’t have much more controversy about a game than this perfect ending.
At least there’s no true need to be sorry for a friendship that can’t agree on the Life is Strange ending!
*you can see Benjamin’s detailed analysis of Life is Strange and its finale in this German-language video.
Mit Life is Strange konnte Dontnod 2015 nicht nur virtuelle und reale Freundschaften auf die Probe stellen, sondern ganz nebenbei in einem Spiel voller großartiger Menschen, Augenblicke, Sounds, Begegnungen und Orte eine der schönste Coming of Age-Geschichten erzählen, die das Medium bis dato hervorgebracht hat.
This post is also available in: German