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Some spoilers for Life is Strange episode 3, Witcher 3 expansion Blood and Wine

Butch:

I didn’t play….so…..still with the Chloe kissing…..

All I got.

Feminina:

Well, fine, we’ll talk about that I guess.

Let’s see, what to say…kind of awkward, right? Just like everything else in Max’s life. I mean, it wasn’t THAT awkward, both characters brushed it off and it’s not something that you feel will necessarily have lasting a lasting impact on their friendship (though it was a Big Choice, so it must have an impact on something!), but it was kind of awkward.

And then I wondered what I/Max (and everyone else who played this game, because when you get to the percentages at the end–at least at the time when I played–practically EVERYONE kissed Chloe) expected or hoped would happen…they’d share a soulful kiss and gaze into each others’ eyes and all the distance and confusion between them would melt away? They’d start making out and tearing off each others’ clothes? They’d share a good laugh?

I don’t really know what I was expecting, it was just a “well, yeah, you don’t NOT kiss: we’ll see what happens” thing and I think maybe Max didn’t know what she was expecting either. It was a dare, and in my mind I think Max wanted to prove she wasn’t boring: I’ll take that dare!

Does Max kind of LIKE-like Chloe? Unclear to me. Maybe to her too. She’s not really into Warren, so maybe she prefers girls…or maybe she’s just not really into Warren.

Her feelings for Chloe are obviously intense, and also confused: as Chloe points out repeatedly, Max moved away and didn’t make the effort to stay in touch. Because she was uncomfortable with her feelings? Because she was just lazy? Because she got busy and forgot for a while and then it felt too awkward? Any and all of the above, and maybe Max couldn’t explain it to herself either.

I think the uncertainty of the whole scene works well against this uncertain backdrop: again, believable for awkward teenagers. It was also interesting (and believable) that we had a kiss that didn’t have an immediate, obvious positive or negative result. Usually if you have the option to make a romantic move in a game you get some sort of clear feedback: the character you’re moving on is flustered/flattered/charmed and you know “OK, I’m one step closer to successfully romancing this person,” or else they laugh uncomfortably or say “oh my dear, absolutely not” or something and you know you’re NOT any closer.

Here…I don’t know. Was Max even TRYING to romance Chloe? If so, did that help, or not? If not, did that give the wrong impression that she was trying, or not?

I DON’T KNOW!!!!!! SOMEONE EXPLAIN HUMAN ROMANCE AND FRIENDSHIP TO ME!!!!

Spoiler: no one completely understands human romance and friendship. Everyone just kind of fumbles along. And this scene was an interesting reflection on that fact.

Butch:

Dude I WANTED to play more, but my mother wouldn’t leave and it would have been hard to explain.

Though as for kissing, did you rewind and see what happens if you didn’t? Chloe was all “Admit you macked on me then rewound to undo it…” Touche.

I was expecting awkward. I was. I wasn’t expecting Chloe to push Max away, but I was expecting awkward.

I mean, Chloe is, for all of her posturing, also a kid (or at least a young woman). She’s only a year older than Max, and she doesn’t have anywhere near as many answers as she pretends to, or as many as Max thinks she does. These ARE kids fumbling around, unsure what’s going on in any number of ways.

The dare thing plays into that. I mean, it’s far less emotionally risky to “dare” someone into kissing you, because no matter what happens you can both laugh it off. Or not. It gives you an out. It’s something an awkward, confused, nervous kid would do.

(Indeed, as an aside here, I think the developers probably wanted to make them younger than the 18 or 19 they are. Sure they SAY they’re 18, but they read like high school, like, 15 or 16. Maybe I’ll give Chloe 17 or 18. But I think they didn’t want a game where you could have a 15 year old girl kiss people and swim in her underwear. And if you take that into account, read it as high schoolers, the awkward, clueless fumbling makes more sense on both sides, not just Max.)

I think she does LIKE-like Chloe, and I think that’s the best way to frame it. I mean, the swimming scene, I thought, was done as two people who are young, who DO care for each other more than friends, in ways they don’t get, and in ways far too immature and awkward to call love. Yet.

I mean, there’s other conversational things. When Max asks if Chloe had a boyfriend, it wasn’t an all girly “Ooo! Did you kiss him? He’s SOOO cute” kinda thing (Cuz, you know, that’s what you females do, right?) but more of a nervous “So…did you?” Not that she was jealous, or consciously thinking “Oh man, I SO hope she likes girls,” but it was a question with a lot of emotional levels, not just gossip.

I don’t think even Max knew what she was “trying” to do. I think one of the reasons this game works with teenage characters is the fact that they (take this as metaphor or not) live in the moment. Teenagers don’t generally put as much thought into the past or future as adults. They do the kind of things Max and Chloe do. “What fun can we have with this now?” “What does this mean for my grades now?” “This probably won’t last.” People that age are grounded in the present, which makes both practical and metaphorical sense for this game.

So, given that, it makes the most sense that Max wasn’t trying anything past “Well….ok….what the hell?”

Can’t explain romance and friendship. I’ve been married even longer than you. And look at who my friends are.

Feminina:

Yeah, Chloe’s onto you at this point. Though it would have been kind of funny if you really DIDN’T kiss her at all, and she still accused you of doing it and rewinding. You might as well, if she’s going to assume you did!

Dude…we’re old enough to know that 18-year-olds are still incredibly young. I mean, yeah, not AS young as 15-year-olds, certainly, there’s a lot that happens in those years, but hell…I remember 18. I was EXTREMELY awkward. Which, sure, is partly because I was a homeschooled weirdo, but we can’t blame it entirely on that: I did have social contact with other human beings. I was confused, shy most of the time, occasionally bold in odd ways that I thought were grown-up but in retrospect were just…awkward. It was an awkward time.

And it’s also a time when people grow up in different ways at different rates, so there were surely some way more awkward people and some way less awkward people who were the same age as me (which I might have known if I hadn’t been a homeschooled weirdo), and it’s entirely possible you were all done with that by the time you hit 18, but based on my own experience and some people I knew, awkwardness doesn’t stop when you’re old enough for college.

And I agree, from a strategic standpoint they probably made Max a senior and clarified that she’s 18 because they didn’t want to deal with the negative attention they’d be likely to attract if they were showing 15-year-olds in their underwear (even in a non-gratuitous context where it really does make sense in the story), but I also didn’t find it especially implausible that she might just have been on the more-awkward side of 18-year-olds.

Butch:

It’s true. We’re still awkward weirdos. And we’re 28.

I still think this whole thing reads “high school” though. More than college.

But as for the game mechanic, here we are, talking for, what, the third day on Episode three, and the whole “rewinding time” thing hasn’t come up once. Weird.

These have certainly been interesting little things, this LiS and Gone Home.

Feminina:

Hey, I’m not afraid to admit to the world that I’m actually 29. Let’s stand up proudly and acknowledge that we’re really old! The wealth of experience accumulated in our vast span of years is what makes us so great at commenting on games.

And well, Blackwell IS a high school, even though an exclusive private one for seniors only, so I think it works for the story that the awkwardness is more like high school awkwardness than college awkwardness.

Also, Max was so excited to get away from her boring normal high school, and here it turns out she has a lot of the same awkward problems (plus new, improved supernatural problems!), so maybe it’s kind of making a point that people are people and the same kinds of issues are going to keep coming up even if you go somewhere else.

Butch:

I wonder if we’ll ever see a game that puts us in the shoes of a teenager/kid and tries to tell a story. Didn’t Limbo come close? Sort of? Would I WANT to play that?

I dunno. I’m enjoying all the deep here, but I think we’ll both be a little relieved to get back to senseless slaughter and jumping come Tomb Raider on the 11th. Or whenever we finish what we’re currently playing.

Feminina:

Limbo…sort of tells a story? I actually never finished it, so I’m not sure whether there was more story than I saw, but from what I played it’s much more puzzles than narrative.

The game has you steer a little boy as he searches a shadow world for his lost sibling, and he survives (or doesn’t) various challenges as he goes, which is a story, but a very simple one. It was kind of cool, but I had it on the Vita (still do, I expect), and I was rarely very motivated to play on the Vita, and at one point I got to a puzzle that I couldn’t get through and just…never went back. From what I saw, it’s a story the way Mario rescuing Princess Peach is a story, but not too much more.

There was the Last of Us DLC where you exclusively played Ellie, though. It wasn’t a whole game, but it was a good little chunk of story.

I’m already knee-deep in slaughter and jumping! Still can’t kill that damn vampire. He’s going to be the hated giant robot of this game, I can feel it.

Butch:

Ah, yes. TLOU. Left Behind. That was good.

I’m enjoying this, but I kinda envy the fighting and jumping.

Though not vampires. Vampires are tough, man! Tough!

And Dontnod’s next game. For real! Vampires. Full circle.

Feminina:

Yes! Vampyr! I’ll follow that with interest…sounds like an intriguing moral-conflict-riddled premise. Just the sort of thing we love to agonize over.

I liked things about Remember Me. Things that weren’t the giant robot. Or the combat in general. The story was interesting, though, and the setting. They do interesting things with story and setting. They are officially on my “keep an eye on these games” list.

Left Behind was good. Soul-crushing, but good.

And vampires ARE tough. Even regular vampires can be tough, and this is a Big Bad higher vampire. He keeps killing me with a swarm of bats.

Thanks, man. I feel pretty great about being wiped out by a swarm of bats. Very heroic.

Butch:

Remember me did sound like it had a cool premise.

Aaaaaaaaaand just like that I’m glad I’m not playing blood and wine. Bats? BATS????

I sort of have bat issues.

Bad enough there’s a tornado in life is strange.

Feminina:

They’re not lovingly detailed bats or anything, they’re just a cloud of dark shapes that swoops down on you and leaves you dead. If that helps.

But if not, play Hearts of Stone instead. I’ll promote that one all day long. It was awesome.

Butch:

It….sort of helps……

At least I know: Tacked on romance, bats. I still feel bad, but less bad.

Feminina:

Yeah, just keep reminding yourself. It’ll make the pain less severe.

So many bats…SUCH a tacked-on romance…hardly worth playing, really.

Butch:

I appreciate this. Thank you.

Feminina:

I’m looking out for you. Protecting you from flying mammals, non-heartfelt romance, and regrets.

Butch:

True friendship, that.

So I have 4 days, by my count. Not going to finish Life is Strange before Tomb Raider.

Feminina:

Four days? Is that all? Oh my, it is.

I’d better get killing vampires.

Butch:

Time flies when you’re an angsty teenager.

T SHIRT!!!

Dude we could retire on that one.

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