October 20th, 2015. The day that the final episode of Life Is Strange was released. For myself, and so many others, this was the end of a nine month journey. We had found ourselves captivated and enraptured by the tale of a time travelling teenager, and the increasingly bizarre events that occur as a result of her tearing the fabric of time and reality. All of our theories, headcanons, debates, discussions, flamewars, and subtweets would be proven true or false.
It was a hell of an episode. A wonderful cap to a wonderful series. I was so eager to see what my actions and decisions would lead to, and I wasn’t let down.
Then the end of episode 5 comes, and you’re finally given a real choice. Everything up until this point, the options you were given, you chose to either progress through the game, or to get on the right persons good side. But now you’re presented with a single, binary choice that is entirely up to you to decide:
X) Sacrifice Chloe B) Sacrifice Arcadia Bay
I put my XBox controller down on the small table next to me, checked my phone messages, and checked my Twitter. I wanted to take a few minutes to make my decision. I mean, I pretty much already knew what I was going to pick, but I needed to take a moment anyway.
I thought about everything that had gone down in this game. Every character, every event. Their secrets and their motivations. How, even in the alternate realities Max stumbled into, everybody was miserable or outright evil. Pressing X would reset everything to day one, only now Chloe Price would no longer be a part of anyone’s life. There would still be a Mark Jefferson, a Nathan Prescott, a David Madsen. Kate Marsh would still be bullied and tormented to such a degree that she felt that her only option would be to take her own life. William would still be dead as a result of a car crash and the Price family would be destroyed. The Prescott family would still be willing to use their vast fortune to cover up the acts of a sadistic killer and their date rapist son. Frank would still be slinging drugs to teenagers. Even Warren was a fucking creep! He could easily become another Mark or Nathan. The death, abuse, and assault would continue. Arcadia Bay’s dark underbelly would still be alive and well, only now Max, as well as the rest of us playing, would be miserable.
I also thought about the real world, and how scarily accurate this game could be towards it. Don’t think for a single second I didn’t notice how often the male characters fuck up, but we’re still told to accept anyway, as they’re still “good people.” Don’t think I didn’t notice how all of the women who have been through horrible tragedy and lost so much are either expected to take everything with a smile, or are outright blamed for their own problems. I don’t mean this as a “look at these tone-deaf asshole writers” critique; this was very much an intentional (and wonderful) move on their part. Much like real life, there’s a bullshit double-standard. And it pissed me off. All the things that Max (and by extension, myself) has given, only to be taken advantage of, or to have her seemingly good actions blow up in her face, really colored my perception of everyone in town.
And on top of all that, there’s something that hit me while I was writing this. I think we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve seen someone close to us is suffering. Seeing a friend or significant other go through some kind of hardship, and all you can do is sit there and watch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone I care about literally die, and getting upset and angry at myself that I couldn’t fix it; magically make things better. At risk of sounding cliched or hackneyed, I’m one of “those people” who actually would give anything to save someone. Max Caulfield is very much the same way, literally creating new worlds and realities for one person.
And with all of this in mind, I was not about to let Chloe, the last character we cared about; who we went through hell and back multiple times for, get shot and left to slowly and painfully die in a fucking toilet, where another innocent girl could be preyed upon by these assholes. Fuck that. I picked my controller right back up and I slammed my thumb down.
B) Sacrifice Arcadia Bay
And with that, I sat back and watched Max hold hands with her girlfriend, while a shitty town full of horrible people was wiped off the map. In video game terms, even real life ones, that seems cold-hearted and selfish; I’m not going to pretend that it’s not. But, at the same time, it felt good to finally take something. This was, in my mind, the “Good” ending. Love over Logic, I guess, would be a good term to describe it. I traded away the “idyllic” cesspool that is Arcadia Bay for an innocent girl continually, brutally victimized by life. And, despite the tremendous loss of life, it felt good. Even if it was in a somewhat demented fashion, I was finally able to save someone I cared about. It was a selfish decision, and yet it didn’t bother me for a minute. I haven’t seen the other ending, and I have no intention to. The game ended, as far as I’m concerned, right when and where it needed to. And I’m all the better for it.