Critical Play: Mysteries

For this critical play, I revisited “Life is Strange” by Dontnod/Square Enix on PC. The game combines elements of a choose your own adventure game with a walking simulator mechanic and can be overall characterized as an “interactive film”. The target audience appears to be middle school students and up since the game mostly takes place among high school students. The mechanics of the game are simple and are mostly reduced to walking/inspecting the environment around you and choosing lines of dialogue to say. However, users occasionally must make binary choices throughout the game which then affect the story down the road. 

The game primarily excels as a medium for storytelling since there are no “skills” to master throughout the game. The dialogue and character development are excellent and I felt extremely connected to the story and characters during my play. Having the story as a game allows the player to step into the role of the protagonist on a deeper level since the game forces players to make decisions which may have consequences down the road. These moments feel scary since the user is left with uncertainty about whether they made the “right” choice but is essential to the game’s intended experience. With regard to the element of mystery, I thought that the mystery component was mostly a side effect of the story in adding drama and that the game itself was not first and foremost a “mystery game”. However, the game is still well suited for having a mystery component because of the amount of investigation players must do in order to progress the game. As a result, I felt that the element of mystery was mostly to support the storytelling and not as a key component of the game mechanics. However, I think that this was the appropriate choice since the game mechanics are to support the story and not the other way around.

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