The endings have definitely had a polarizing effect on Life is Strange’s players. Some folks think that the endings reinforce the idea that games can and should be a space where you challenge player control, a la Spec Ops: The Line. Others are justifiably angry that the game succumbs to the Bury Your Gays trope in a game that caters to queer people. […]
The only thing I could think of when I went back and played the [save the town ending] of Life is Strange was, “I want someone to please tell me that I’m going to live. Someone please tell me this isn’t how we all die. Someone please tell me we can be happy.
Someone tell me I deserve to live.”
I’ve been suicidal for a very long time. Mental illness makes it very difficult for me to function neurotypically on most days. I’m a trans woman, and living against a transmisogynistic society is hell. Traumatic experiences in my past make it hard for me to be romantically involved with people.
And let me tell you, it’s not subversive or new to be told that I can’t have control over my own life.
Ayla Arthur on un-subverted tropes.
Go and read this whole piece because… yes. This is why Bury Your Gays is on my list of Three Things I Am (Almost) Never Interested In Consuming In Media.1
I haven’t played Spec Ops: The Line, but I have watched someone else play it, and I think the way it messes with player agency and choice is really interesting. But it’s worth pointing out it’s not “interesting” in isolation, or as a pure game mechanic; it’s interesting because it deconstructs the Whiteguy McMarine hero-narrative from, like, every single other military FPS out there. It works because it’s unexpected; it’s a punch in the face when you were expecting a pat on the back, and it leaves you reeling.
My problem with Life Is Strange is that… what is it deconstructing or critiquing again, exactly? There is no ubiquitous Sassy Teengirl McLesbian hero narrative for it to subvert. If Life is Strange‘s message is that teen girls–any teen girls, but queer teen girls especially–need to sacrifice what they love to preserve the greater good, then… um. Like, excuse me? Have you even been a teenage girl? Because, yeah. Let me tell you, honey: not a revolutionary statement. Everyone tells us that. That’s all we ever get told.
The ironic part is the “Sassy Teengirl McLesbian” videogame genre already has its subversion, and that subversion is called Gone Home; I swear to god I straight-up cried at the end of that because I’d just spent the last hour dreading what I “knew” was going to happen and… instead of a punch in the face I got a pat on the back.
Everything is about context, in other words. And the point about disenfranchisement that works so thoughtfully in a milFPS? Maybe not so okay when you’re dealing with a narrative (written exclusively by men, IIRC) about the lives of an already disenfranchised group.
- The others being “rape-as-decorative-worldbuilding” and “protagonist Everybland Smartass McWhiteguy”. In case you were wondering. [↩]