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Spoilers for Life is Strange (Episode 1)

Butch:

Hey, actually played a little!

Wandered around the courtyard, sat at a fountain, took a couple pictures, had Daniel sketch my picture (another awkward kid named Daniel. Stop it, games), tricked Veronica (or whoever…the bitch) then comforted her about it, forgot I could rewind and see what would have happened had I made fun of her (oops), explored my room, called it quits.

Got a whole bunch of butterfly things that made me go “That’s a thing?” Like watering the plant. What? Ok, I guess the sketch wasn’t a big deal. I just saw it on his facebook, and it wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t. But still.

So one interesting mechanic:

Remember the skateboarders? I’ll remind. You meet a couple of skater dudes. You pick a trick. Pick one, he does it just fine, you move on. Pick the other, he gets hurt, and you can take his picture. So I took his picture, as he’s laying there hurt, then rewound, let him do the trick where he ISN’T hurt and left him there, but STILL HAD THE PICTURE of him being hurt. But he didn’t GET hurt in the reality in which I now am.

Hmmm.

So my first theme idea:

Max, who I like as a person, is either a hypocrite, a typical teenager, or both (both). She gets all up in Veronica (is that her name?) for being all superficial, attacks her “followers” for just “saying the right thing” to fit in, etc. But that’s what Max/we are doing. Cheating. Learning what people WANT to hear, then using a trick to say it to them when we don’t get it. We don’t know shit about drones. We didn’t know the answer in class. We didn’t know the names of skateboarding tricks. We’re trying to pick the right thing to say to get the people to like us, just like the “bad guys” in the story. Bad us.

Is that gonna be a theme going forward? I dunno. When I hit save, I was looking at a person, angry, outside a dorm room. Wonder what that’ll bring.

Though I’m gonna call out a trope here: The wise African American. Here we have Ms. Grant. Hip, yes. Just this side of jive. But wise, man, WISE. And WISE in the weird ways of the weird world, man. Wise. Because of COURSE.

Not that Ms. Grant is a bad character, but that did get a bit of an eye roll.

Feminina:

I remember the skateboarders! I also took the picture of the guy injured, then rewound so he wasn’t injured…yet kept the image. Photography is a big thing here, in various ways.

I think if you made fun of Victoria (almost Veronica!) she just stalked off in a huff. Again, I forget which option I wound up keeping. I think the comforting one, because I’m always trying to be so nice.

I had the same thoughts about phoniness and faking it to fit in, and how that’s bad but is also EXACTLY what we/Max are doing. As you say, we don’t know anything about drones, but we play around with time and sneakily read the magazine until we can pretend we do. Just to seem cool, because it’s not even as though we actually CARE about drones or being liked by this person–I felt that it was more like a “hey, look what I can do!”

Which is plausible teenager (or, hell, even grown-up…if I found out I had the power to rewind time, would I do stupid stuff to seem cooler? Maybe…) behavior.

But watch this theme. It’s a theme.

Butch:

Indeed, photography as a theme. And it’s interesting that they blur so many pictures. You see her waxing about the beauty of it all, but to you, the player, it’s just smudges.

The game let’s you contemplate in other ways. The drone, the fountain, the guitar, many chances to sit and ponder, which is either cool, self absorbed or both. Haven’t decided yet.

Sigh. 792 thousand choices, we picked all the same ones, didn’t we? You watered the damn plant, too, didn’t you?

Why is THAT a butterfly? Don’t spoil.

We want to seem cool and, (line blur incoming) like Max we want to know everything. We both, when we play games, hate missing stuff. So, too, does Max. She wants to learn and to understand, especially about her place in the world. So do we. So we want to fly the drone not JUST because we want to be cool, but because this is a video game and there might be some plot point involved with flying the drone. Do everything, learn everything. Ya never know.

Feminina:

Yes! Line blurring. I think I reflected on this at the time, that Max’s power officially authorizes the player to do the thing we may be tempted to do, but don’t because it’s ‘cheating’–play through all the different choices and see what happens before you settle on one.

Plenty of games give you these ‘big choices’ and I think both of us, at least (I couldn’t speak to the majority of players), tend to feel that you should pick one thing and live with the consequences of that decision, because that’s the ‘purest’ experience of the game or something. We don’t ALWAYS actually do this–there have been times I’ve said “OK, no,” and reloaded a previous save–but we always feel a little bad about it, or at least as if we SHOULD feel a little bad about it.

This game tells us “go ahead and do that! That’s exactly what you should be doing!”

Even here it’s limited: Max can only rewind time over a few minutes, so certain repercussions of the butterfly choices won’t become clear until much later (and I did water the plant, of course. I’m supposed to let that poor plant die?). But then, it’s always limited by the amount of a game that you’re willing to replay (a few hours? OK. Two months of gametime? No).

I did find it very interesting the way the game lets you be Max while also satisfying your OWN urge to explore all the options. Because you’re right, it does make sense that she would want to practice her power and try all the different choices…and it’s also the thing we always want to do but don’t always get to.

Butch:

It does feel like cheating, which is why I keep not doing it. I mean, a dialog choice, you agonize over that! Right? Because it’s SO cheating to reload. You pick, you live with it. You don’t rewind. Except I should. I really should.

It’s made worse by the fact that the blurring in the really big end of area bits make me think it’s timed, and TIMED choices are REALLY ones you live with, right? See things like “put the baby in the oven” in the witcher. You go back and redo that, it loses all of its oomph. So you pick! In the moment! Then the moment is GONE dammit! You don’t rewind the moment!

Except you’re supposed to.

And, see, here, this being willing to replay two months thing might be a difference we anticipated in regards to this game. You played it as it came out, with breaks in between episodes. I am playing it all together, almost as if all five episodes are one big game. As I haven’t finished episode one and felt that difference yet, it remains to be seen if that difference has a real impact, but I think it may well.

The plant thing kind of took me aback because it wasn’t really presented as a choice. It just had “press X to water,” so I watered. I mean, I GUESS it was a choice. I could have not done it, or not found it, but there wasn’t a “water/don’t water” thing, so when I got that butterfly it was a bit of a shock. “What? That? But that wasn’t a CHOICE, was it?”

I can’t tell if I like the butterfly every single time. I mean, sure, the BIG choices, let me know, but every single little thing? Sometimes it’s kinda good to let the player wonder what matters and what doesn’t. I mean, that’s true, for the most part, in life. Sometimes life presents a choice and you know “Ok, what I do here is going to matter later,” and sometimes we do stuff that we don’t think about that matters later. Or vice versa: we think on stuff and lose sleep and it doesn’t matter a whit in the end. Life does not give you butterflies every time. Sometimes, but rarely. Getting one each time sort of breaks immersion.

But yeah, Max and you are both exploring this power…that and the environment she’s/we’re given. When she notices what’s happening, she’s scared. (Natural) Then the next bit is her changing stuff that isn’t all that big. “I wonder what this OTHER skateboard trick is” lacks a big weighty feel. Not life or death. Which is also what I think I’d do. I’d be all “THE FUCK?” at first, and then I’d say, “well….hm…let’s see if that sandwich is better with mayo or mustard….that wouldn’t matter….”

Which is very natural. So I don’t understand the butterfly, which isn’t.

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