Life is Strange: The Relevance of Video Games

For my final blog post, I want to reflect and talk about video games–specifically one of my favorites: Life is Strange. I’ve gotten more into playing video games as they develop; I have noticed they rely heavily on stories rather than the simple action and gameplay. Video games are usually seen as a form of entertainment, but nowadays, I consider them almost like playable novels. Just like novels, the creators of these games can make connections and illicit messages through themes, symbols, allusions etc.

I’m discussing Life is Strange specifically because its prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, references “The Tempest” in the students’ production of the play. As I found out through actually reading “The Tempest” for the first time, the presence of this reference is important for the context of the game’s storyline.

Overall, the plot of the original game involves an incoming destructive storm that the main character, Max Caulfield, foresees coming with her ability to control time, hence the title of the prequel: Before the Storm.  

Similarly, the prequel involves an incoming firestorm that only grows since its inception at the end of the first episode. The firestorm is created by Rachel Amber who plays Prospera in the school’s version of “The Tempest.” Already, this is a clever allusion to the play because Prospero is the one that creates the “tempest” that drives everyone to the island in the first place. Additionally, like Prospero, Rachel is manipulative in the way that she charms everyone around her, specifically Chloe, the main character of the prequel. Rachel is also an important part of the original game as well, so this allusion is a very clever one in that the creators are developing their own character by comparing her to Shakespeare’s.

The second episode displays the production of “The Tempest,” and it reiterates the reflections of the actual show within the show. The storm, which I mentioned perpetuates as the story does, moves the story forward, like it does in Shakespeare’s play. Chloe eventually plays Ariel as a stand-in because the fire prohibits the actor of Ariel from being able to get to the play. Chloe and Rachel then ad-lib the script at a certain point within her role to reflect their own desires of running away together.

Also, Caliban is played by the “villain” of the original Life is Strange, Nathan Prescott. This is actually incredibly relevant because Nathan Prescott actually ends up killing Rachel Amber by accident in the original by giving her too much sedative. It’s hard to analyze this without context if you haven’t seen it, but in the game it’s incredibly relevant when Prospera and Caliban speak. So when the character of Prospero asserts his dominance to Caliban and says the words such as, “Fetch us in fuel; and be quick…so slave, hence!” (14), it has a much bigger meaning than just the context of the play. As fans and consumers of the game, we know that this onstage dynamic of Prospera being in control of Calbian’s life is full of dramatic irony because we know the fate of these characters. (The entire representation of the play in the game is here if you’re interested in looking at some parts of it!)

My attempt at analyzing this connection of “The Tempest” with a video game is to show that thinking can come from anywhere. When I first considered if there was a connection between the play choice and the game’s storyline I thought I was crazy! Why would the creators put that much thought into it if the motive of consumers is to play a game rather than witness a story? Before this class, I didn’t think “The Tempest” being present in the storyline of the game was anything more than just a quick idea for the writers. Even if I had read “The Tempest” in high school or something, I would have only recognized the parallel between the two simply thinking that they both coincidentally have to do with storms.

Yet, here I find myself at the end of my short analysis interested that I was able to dive deeper into why these writers chose to have “The Tempest” as the play the students put on. Not only does it show that video games can have meaning, but it shows that almost any piece of work has meaning. There are reasons writers chose to orchestrate a story the way that they do; it’s the function of the art. Even if it’s a video game, the author’s intent is always relevant. This is something I wrote in an earlier post, but at the end of the class, I think it has more meaning.

I think considering the importance of an author’s intent is not only something that being in this class has taught me, but something being an English major has taught me. I, like many others, have thought about reflecting on this class in these current blog posts. I did it in my last couple of ones, but reading “The Tempest” allowed me to think outside the box, especially considering our discussion on our reading it in a class about metropolises.

Being an English major allows you to question everything. It gives you skills to apply outside of your life and gets you thinking and gets you thinking critically. As English majors, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a reason behind every piece of writing, we just have to find it.

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