Critical Play: Walking Simulators

I ended up playing Life is Strange, a game that follows the story of Max Caulfield, a high school student at Blackwell Academy. Max gains the power to rewind time, and she works with her friend Chloe to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Rachel Amber. The gameplay includes examining objects to get more information, solving puzzles by interacting with the environment, and interacting with other characters, which usually involves various dialogue options. Throughout the game, players have the opportunity to make different choices that end up impacting the story later on.

I really liked playing this game because I felt emotionally very connected to the main character, Max. Watching her interactions with the environment and the other characters allowed me to understand her inner thoughts, and being able to control her dialogue made me especially invested in her story. The game also manages to tackle many different serious topics through the eyes of Max, such as gun violence, drugs, wealth inequality, bullying, suicide, and sexual assault. I was forced to make some difficult decisions throughout the game that related to these topics, such as having to decide what to say to prevent a classmate from commiting suicide. I think that having to make those types of decisions in the game made me have more empathy for those who struggle with suicidal thoughts and those who have lost a loved one due to suicide.

Another part of the game was that I particularly liked was that at the end of each episode, I was given a list of all the important decisions I had made in the game and information on how I stacked up against all of the other people who had played the game in the past. It was intersting to be able to see whether my choices were common among other players, or if I had made a unique choice. It was also interesting to see how some choices in the game were clearly much more popular than the alternative choice, and some issues had choices that were particularly difficult to choose between and had closer to a 50-50 pick rate.

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