This case study was developed as part of a unit exploring the evolution of web-based play, it examined the crucial role of Internet connectivity in the contemporary video game industry.  Games and gamification (the embedding of gamelike mechanics in non-game situations) are a core part of contemporary culture.  This was originally developed and created as an infograph and shared via slideshare.


Background

The companies behind the game

Dontnod Entertainment is a French video game development studio based in Paris. Its first game, Remember Me was a sci-fi action adventure game released in 2013, it received 73.33%  from popular game review site.

Life is Strange is their follow up piece. Originally titled What If?. The company fell into financial hardship before partnering with Final Fantasy developer, Square Enix, who agreed to distribute as re-branded Life is Strange.

Release Schedule

Delivered as a series of 5 episodes, Life is Strange was released throughout 2015 (Jan 30/Mar 24/May 19/Jul 28/Oct 20).

The drawn out schedule drew quite a bit of comment and consternation from its players. However, the lengthy distribution was an intentional move by the game’s developers, allowing players to fully immerse in the imaginary world.

It sticks with you, you can discuss with friends, your choices.
– Raoul Barbet, Director

Game Format

Genre: Graphic adventure
Mode: Single-player
Average length of play: 14 hours
Distribution Methods: Through publisher Square Enix the game was distributed through a variety of digital platforms.

Sales

On 23 July 2015 DONTNOD reported it’s millionth Life is Strange sale.

User Generated Content

One of the amazing things about the Internet and digital technology is the way it allows participation and collaboration between users. With games like Life is Strange, players and fans build an entire subculture based around the original game. This further develops the orginal story and what it means to its players.  Some of this content is housed on the games official website, but much of it lives elsewhere. The Developers actively encourage and promote such activity through Twitter and other social media sites because it drives conversation and exposure for the original product… the game.

Characters and Setting

Maxine Caulfield, better known as Max is the main protagonist in Life Is Strange. The player controls her throughout the game. She is an 18-year-old aspiring photographer and senior at Blackwell Academy. Max is geeky and slightly self-conscious, particularly when it comes to her photography, she likes to observe the world around her than actually participate in it. Her Humble Hero   character is the perfect vessel for players to take on the ethical and moral challenges she will face.

Chloe Price was Max’s best friend before she moved to Seattle. They rekindle their friendship during the events of the game. Chloe is  stubborn and rebellious. She is the archetypal punk-rocker, expressed in both her music taste and style. She can be prone to anger, and has issues with abandonment and trust. Navigating Chloe throughout the game via the actions and words of Max becomes the main focus of the game outside of regular puzzle challenges

Blackwell Academy – A senior high school located in Arcadia Bay, Oregon. The school specialises in Science and Arts, particularly photography, creating a story arc that draws Max back to the small town. Within the school grounds, players encounter a host of stereotypical characters and situations relating to high school.

Arcadia Bay –  A fictional town in Oregon , the  town epitomises the small-town-America experience. Through Max’s eyes the town appears not have changed in over 5 years, except to become more run down.

If this game was a season, we’d say that it’s autumn.
– Jean Maxime, Creative Director

Aesthetic & Soundtrack

Set in the present day, the hand drawn art has  a soft watercoloured filter  that  creates a visually appealing sense of nostalgia over gameplay. Acoustic wistful music accompanies many scenes and signifies  scene changes. Montages that include all the key characters throughout the small town accompany pivotal moments at the end of several chapters.

Game Play

Ethical Decision Making

Life is Strange plays out like a social experiment aiming to teach its players consequence of actions. Whilst, several traditional puzzle-style games are embedded within the storyline, however, the main journey revolves around making decisions about what to say or how to act. As each decisions is recorded a foreboding “your choice will have consequences” icon appears.

Time Travel

The ability to rewind time in Life is Strange is revealed in the very first scene of the game. As the game plays on, it becomes obvious that the real super power is the knowledge that this supplies. As the game progresses, we are guided to realise that this power must be used responsibly.

Metagaming

By incorporating time travel into the game, Life is Strange’s producers are actually counteracting the gameplay occurrence of Metagaming. Metagaming is when the player uses knowledge that the game character is not meant to be aware of. Max’s ability to time travel makes this is a part of the mechanics of gameplay, storyline avenues are then built around her having such knowledge. Below is an example of how many ways the story can develop before Max finds her single access path to the next level.

So what did we learn?

Life is Strange is an emotionally charged, challenging but at times slightly patronising revisit to the high school scenarios that we either attended ourselves or experienced virtually via teen drama television shows like Dawson’s Creek and Degrassi Junior High. The novelty of encountering real-life interactions yet with opportunity to fix our mistakes and gaffs is an appealing escape from real-unrewindable-life. Yet, the Life is Strange’s writers have chosen to take this game one step further, by providing social commentary on the way time and life are non-linear. Whilst we only get one shot at each moment in life, opportunity to reverse our mistakes, or at the very least learn from them, is always within our power.

Credits

  1. Remember Me. (2015). Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://www.gamerankings.com/ ps3/640643-remember-me/index.html
  2. DONTNOD Ent. Wiki (2015). Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://dontnodentertainment.wikia. com/wiki/DONTNOD_Entertainment
  3. Battersby, C. (2015). Life Is Strange’s story is what drives its success. Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://venturebeat.com/2015/10/16/life-is-stranges-story-is-what-drives-its-succes/
  4. Chapple, C. (2015). Life is Strange surpasses 1m sales. Retrieved October 25. 2015 from, http://www. develop-online.net/news/life-is-strange-surpasses-1m-sales/0209246
  5. Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture : where old and new media collide. New York: New York Uni- versity Press.
  6. Humble Hero. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ HumbleHero
  7. Life is Strange’s “Triforce” of Influences. (2015). Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://www.usgam- er.net/articles/life-is-stranges-triforce-of-influences
  8. Klepek, P. (2015).  See Every Possible Decision From A Life Is Strange Conversation. Retrieved Oc- tober 25, 2015, from http://kotaku.com/see-every-possible-decision-from-a-life-is-strange- conv-1722236059

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