I was searching through my brain for a song to learn on the ukulele, the most powerful instrument of them all. In doing so, I remembered the soundtrack to Dontnod’s Life is Strange, and accidentally punched myself in the heart so hard it near enough exploded. Upon listening to those calm, painful, vibrating strings, my eyes grew sore and wet, and I realised with horror I was about to cry. At a piece of music from a videogame I hadn’t touched in a year. What… What’s happening to me?!?
I’ve briefly touched on why I think Life is Strange is so incredible, but I didn’t realise how eagerly it had crawled into my body. It’s been sitting in there for months, watching through my eyes, waiting to strike. And strike it did. I am feeling the feelings I felt when I first finished the game all over again, the intense melancholic regret and frustration and satisfaction. It was a perfect ending, and I guess what this whole crying at the soundtrack thing means is, well, it changed me. Which sounds so bloody pretentious but hey, the comments on the YouTube video for the song have inspired the hell out of me.
The internet is awful. Gamers are awful. YouTube commenters are a special kind of awful. So, of course, I spend much too long scrolling ever deeper into the cesspit of venom and vile in search of little internet fights that make me smile in their absurdity. I need to find better things to do with my time, but for once my endless scrolling payed off. There weren’t any stupid fights, not that I could see. There weren’t any overblown debates (shouting matches) about feminism or Trump, there weren’t any people who had turned up just to express their very important opinion that the game was rubbish. There were people, well, being emotionally honest.
There were people discussing heartbreak, anger, life. How this song, this game, this stupid bunch of code and pixels and music and writing and everything else that went into its creation, changed them.
I believe art is important, in that it’s a vessel for learning lessons, for expression and understanding. It’s sometimes hard to defend games when they involve so much murder, though. Videogames are of course as powerful and effecting as anything else, but they have some growing up to do before they really reach their potential. How fitting that one of the many steps on this path takes the form of a story about teenagers who need to do quite a lot of growing up themselves. By telling this story, this story about love and friendship and consequences, Life is Strange has achieved that thing so many videogames want; tough, emotionally challenging decisions. It turns out it’s not about how dark the results will be, or who will die should you choose option B. It’s about whether or not you want to kiss someone, help someone, fight for someone. And it’s about committing. Committing to a decision, committing to whatever life ends up being. Mistakes and success and joy and sadness. It’s all there, and it’s not going away. And that’s a lesson. That’s a lesson I learnt without even realising it.
Life is Strange changed me.
The soundtrack made me cry.
It made YouTube not be a horrible place for once.
I’m being pretty pretentious and weird right now, but hey, there’s a whole YouTube comment section of people being pretentious and weird, and it’s great. Sometimes a story matters, so much, and I think that when you realise the effect it’s had, when you realise how deep it crawled into you, it’s worth recognising that. Life is Strange crawled pretty deep.
Right. I’m going to go and sit on my bean bag, maybe write some poetry and have an avocado milkshake. To all my non-existent but brutally loyal fans, this blog might disappear for a while because I’m going to be getting murdered in Italy. Bye.