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Serious spoilers for Life is Strange, episode 2

Butch:

So I finished episode 2, saw your choices, and we have a difference. Boy howdy, do we.

Your Kate died. Didn’t she?

Cuz I saved mine.

This should be interesting.

HOW DID YOU LET KATE DIE?

Well, we’re all different now. They have to put this “See what Femmy did” feature on every game!

You didn’t pull the trigger on the gun. You let the baddie take it. And you let Kate die, and, in the principal’s office, you blamed Nathan. I did at first, then thought better of it, and blamed David. He hates me anyway.

How did you….

So what happened at the end of episode two for you? I mean, I saved her. Then the scene in the principal’s office, with Jefferson telling me I was a hero, David being all “pothead” and Nathan being Nathan, etc. Then the great montage, and, scene.

I have mentioned music. I will let you know that this game has music. And it uses it well. The montages at the end of episodes are pretty great. And ending it with Chloe reading her texts, and Max texting “We’ll get to the bottom of this. Together.” for some reason really worked. Made me want to fire up the next episode right away. Which I didn’t cuz I had to download it.

Dude, you NEVER let people die!

Feminina:

AAAAAAAHHHH, I DON’T KNOW!!!!!

I tried to save her! I said positive things about how people need her and she’s worthwhile as a person and stuff! But she jumped anyway and I COULDN’T REWIND!!!!! I don’t know what I did that didn’t save her, man. I was trying to be a good friend, but I said the wrong thing, I guess, and there was no going back on that one.

It was an interesting “here’s a limit on your power, you can’t save everyone” kind of moment for me, though obviously not for you.

Ha–that’s funny that we did everything else differently as well, and I couldn’t remember. That’s the thing about a game where you’re supposed to try out different actions…I remember doing a lot of things that might not actually be the things I ended up sticking with in the final game, and then even things I didn’t do at all seem plausible. “Oh yeah, I probably did that…”

But yeah, I now vaguely recall I did let Frank keep the gun. I think I just didn’t think it was safe to have around. Remember, the principal was already kind of suspicious of me, and Nathan was out to get me…what if they had someone search my room and found it (if I kept it)? That’s all I need. And I didn’t want Chloe carrying it around–I love her, but she’s impulsive, and she’s also already got David breathing down her neck, so she doesn’t need to get caught with an illegal weapon either.

And I definitely blamed Nathan, man. He was already my nemesis, and sure David was hassling Kate, but he wasn’t the one who drugged her at the party and posted pictures (Nathan may not have been solely responsible for that either, but he was more involved in it than David was). I stand by my decision to blame Nathan.

Butch:

On mobile, cuz stupid chores, so I’m less verbose than this deserves.

Kate had to be told everything you did. I told her I erased the crap on her white board, erased the stuff on the bathroom mirror, etc. like, all of it. And that last question, where you had to tell her which family member cared, seemed like it had a correct answer (I said her little sister, who was the only one smiling in the picture in Kate’s room). Details! Notice the details!

But even though I saved her, and had a meta game “oh she would have lived anyway” moment (NOT TRUE), it was harrowing and I felt a real sense of triumph when she lived. Much more so than when I got the events right in the diner or saved Chloe. Indeed, a knock I had on this game was there wasn’t much sense of accomplishment when you can redo. It was a cool juxtaposition to feel more like a superhero when you DIDN’T have powers.

Unless she died. Uh, yeah.

The last thing I saw was some dude with binders, the last one being “Rachel,” still working on the “Kate” one. Did you still get that with Kate dead?

We really need a here’s what femmy did button. For the both of us.

Feminina:

We DO both need that button. It didn’t, obviously, show me what you did when I played, but it did show me what percentage of other people did each thing, and it was interesting to compare.

I did not tell Kate everything I did. So I was trying to be modest or whatever, but she has to actually KNOW how I was trying to be a good friend. Hm. Well, next time!

I did see the binders with names, so…that person…is keeping track of Kate whether she’s alive or dead. The update they made IN the binder must have been different, but they didn’t handle it differently in the cutscene.

Butch:

Modesty kills.

T SHIRT!!

Interesting. Still a binder, huh? Very creepy.

Gotta admit, still not sure what the twist is gonna be. Way to hide your cards, game.

Feminina:

Yeah, it’s creepy. It’s interesting how many different things they have going on in this story: the missing girl, the surveillance question, Nathan’s family’s influence on the town, the bullying…oh, and the supernatural powers.

Which can’t help you save Kate’s life, leading to either an “I’m cool even without powers” moment or a “my powers are limited and I can’t save everyone” moment, depending on what you say to Kate.

Butch:

Or a “my powers don’t matter anywhere near as much as I think they do.”

As you say, so very much going on around here. But even WITH all that going on, so much of the game (and Max’s Strange Life) (I capitalized it, cuz subtle) is just about the bullshit of being a teenager. Talking to the jock about Victoria. Worrying about whether to go to the party and having nothing to wear. Worrying about how much Warren is putting the moves on you and whether you are going to/want to break his heart. Etc. Shit that’s even MORE mundane than than the plot points that don’t involve superpowers. And really, I found myself just as worried about hurting poor Warren’s feelings as I was about finding Rachel Amber, and powers didn’t do much for that. I can rewind all I want, and I’ll still be awkward, and he’ll still like me more than I like him, just like every other weird teenager out there.

Because saving Kate was really about doing all the other stuff. It was about doing the simple things. Noticing. Being nice. Erasing things. Stepping in to be a good person. You did that, you saved her.

Which is why I wonder why they had to give you a “save friend’s life” bit (Chloe, train) that was GOING to end well and NEEDED powers.

Maybe the ultimate lack of triumph there was the point. There was never a doubt Chloe was getting saved, sooner or later. When I did, it was one of those “Good, I can move on now” moments and not a “Aw YEAH DID IT!” moments. Saving Chloe, though stressful, yes, didn’t have the weight of “I could lose her” that Kate did. And I’m saying that despite the fact that, WHILE I WAS PLAYING IT, I didn’t think she could die. I kept telling myself (wrongly) “Don’t worry, they’re not going to kill off this character, she’s too important” and I was STILL stressed about her dying. I was stunned when in choices “Saved Kate/Didn’t save Kate” was a choice. “What? She CAN die?”

Interesting. I’m curious to see how that “how powerful are your powers?” thing plays out.

Feminina:

Yes! It’s so much about just being an awkward kid trying to get through your awkward interactions with other kids. Oh, and superpowers! But mostly it’s awkward, and the superpowers don’t necessarily help all that much all the time.

I think this works really well in various ways, but specifically I’m thinking of the way she practices using her power, trying to find the right thing to say to fit in. While we talked about it being a bit ‘phony,’ this doesn’t feel weird or creepy, really, the way it might with an older character. I mean, say, Nathan Drake rewinding time over and over trying to find just the right thing to say to Elena or whatever, might come across as a bit desperate. After a while we might start to feel like, “dude, just say something and live with it.”

But for a teenager, Max is at that point in life where you don’t (always, immediately) have to just live with it: you can try on different identities, work to fit into a certain crowd and then maybe get tired of it…she’s not necessarily FAKING an interest in drones, or an encyclopedic knowledge of photographic technique, so much as she’s TRYING OUT these things to see whether or not it goes anywhere.

And that feels OK, mostly (though with an undoubted edge of phoniness, and really, aren’t we all kind of phonies, faking it at various points in life, applying for jobs or raising kids or trying to look like responsible adults?), because again, she’s an awkward kid fumbling to fit in.

Maybe an interest in drones is the key!

Maybe I should become interested in drones myself…could change everything for me.

Butch:

That’s a good point about it being believable cuz she’s young. It WOULD be odd if Nathan did it, or Jessica, or or or. Cheap. We’d feel like manipulative creeps. Hell, we don’t even like reloading old saves to try to get things “right” with dialog, because that’s “cheating.” But a kid, especially an awkward kid, it makes sense. Hell, so much of her inward monologue is confusion. “Why do people do this?”

She observes, but doesn’t understand. She WANTS to understand, so it’s ok if she rewinds. That’s not creepy.

On the observe thing, it’s interesting that this game started with her taking a selfie. And that the first picture of HERS that we see is her, from behind, looking at other pictures. She’s someone who doesn’t know herself, and is struggling to understand others so she can understand herself better.

And, on top of it, she feels that, as she is the one that can see things, she is equipped to save people….people who are wandering, metaphorically, through tall fields of grain towards a cliff as she stands at the edge to catch

Ah fuck it. Can’t help myself. Sorry. Blame College English Professor X.

Feminina:

Ha! I never actually had that professor, but I’m happy to blame him for your troubles.

She does feel that she can (and should) save people. Whether it’s something minor like falling off a skateboard, or something major like getting hit by a train, or something really major like an entire town getting hit by a giant tornado…she doesn’t need to be told that with great power comes great responsibility: she’s already there.

Butch:

Is it SHOULD or want to? Is she channeling our own desire to be a superhero? I mean, this would make you feel pretty supercool. Certainly she’s getting “you’re cool” feedback from Chloe. How better to feel like less of an awkward geek than to be a superhero?

Feminina:

I dunno, I think Max is a little uncomfortable with Chloe’s enthusiasm. I mean, it’s nice to have Chloe cheering her on, and it’s nice to have something to talk about that can bridge the distance that’s come between the two of them, so I felt like Max went with it, but I never felt that SHE was as psyched about the superpower aspect as Chloe was. She thought it was cool, sure, but always seemed (to me) to be a little uneasy about it too. Worrying about the nosebleeds, wondering when/if an even more severe downside was going to come in (or maybe that was just me, assuming there was going to be a downside, because narrative).

I think she does feel that she SHOULD be helping people, not necessarily that she wants to because she wants to be a hero. But that was my reading, and as we now know, we actually made many different choices in this game.