In Life is Strange, I recognized my own past self
Warning: this article includes major plot spoilers.
Everything I do has always been in the extreme.
When it wasn’t school and later on work, it was videogames. And when it wasn’t videogames, it was love. Sometimes it was even both, like the time I got absurdly into League of Legends solely because I had a crush on a guy and he was incredibly good at Ahri.
People generally like this quality about me if they know me from afar. It’s admirable to be able to be so extremely diligent and passionate about things. I look fearless, in control, and full of direction--completely dedicated to a cause. I can even look cool. But people close to me grow to hate it, even if they tolerate it and love other parts of my personality. It’s not always fun to have someone who is so intense in your life.
It can be too much to handle. I can be too much to handle. It’s broken a lot of hearts.
I’ve broken a lot of hearts.
In Life is Strange, Chloe is the protagonist Maxine’s best friend. She’s broken a lot of hearts as well, including Max’s. She has blue hair and blue nails, a full tattoo sleeve on her right arm. Max mistakenly refers to her as a punk rocker in her internal monologues, but even if her clothes fit that genre of music, Chloe has too good of music taste to be relegated to a mosh pit.
Early in the game when Max puts on Chloe’s mix CD, my heart melts a little as I catch the opening guitar riffs of a José González song. I put the same song of his on a playlist I made for my boyfriend once.
Chloe gets high every day, but it doesn’t seem to do much to temper her demeanor. Chloe is intense at every step of the game from start to finish. She’s a hurricane of heartache. She loves Max and Max loves her, but Chloe demands more and more with every interaction. Max’s love isn’t enough for her, but then, no love could ever be enough. Chloe makes her do things she would never do, like shoot a gun at a stranger or break into a school at night, because Chloe wants Max to prove her love at all times.
Without extreme proclamations of devotion, Chloe feels nothing.
As Chloe could tell you, nothing hurts quite like nothing. I guess I could tell you the same.
Chloe is also really angry. She hates everyone and everything on some level. She loses it halfway through the game when she discovers her friend Rachel’s secret romance with a local drug dealer, rationalizing it into a paranoid rant about how no one can really care about her. She storms out of the trailer in a fury, leaving Max to chase after her. Chloe doesn’t just fear abandonment -- she knows it intimately.
After all, Max left once before and Rachel left recently as well. As she puts it, glaring at friend in her truck moments later: “I can’t trust anybody. Everyone pretends to care until they don’t -- even you.”
And then there’s her dad, who died suddenly when Chloe was 14, starting the entire sordid story.
I lost my dad at 14 too, so I guess I get it. You never really get over that kind of thing. The hatred can devour you whole if you let it. I know because I let it do exactly that for a while in my life.
As for Chloe, she’s years past letting her hatred consume her. She’s now actively feeding her distrust and disgust for society.
It takes me until the third chapter of the game to realize I am making Max do everything for Chloe to her own detriment -- even when it makes my stomach sick, even when Max feels bad later. Even when it becomes absurd and goes against the storyline.
I’m doing it because Chloe reminds me of myself ten years ago. I will do anything Chloe wants me to because the world was so unfair to her. To me. To us.
At one point, I make Max steal $5,000 for Chloe because she owes money, and Max grumbles about karma in response. My stomach sinks when the next morning, I enable Chloe to break up her mom’s marriage by telling her that Max thinks she should kick out her new husband. In the hallway after, Chloe tells me she is so happy her friend took her side.
I almost rewind time after that scene to reverse my choice. When I confront her stepfather David in the hall in the next chapter, I regret my decision even more. He’s broken and he misses his family. He loved them and only wished for the best, even if Chloe couldn’t trust in his affection. I feel bad and I can’t believe I hurt Joyce like that. I broke up their family to justify Chloe’s insecurity.
The whole thing reminds me a little of how one Christmas my mom’s fiancé came over for dinner and I refused to eat with them just because they looked so goddamn happy together.
People like Chloe and me, we don’t always like it when others move on.
As a tornado looms outside Arcadia in the final moments of the game, Chloe realizes how much Max actually loves her. Through tears, she says she finally gets it. She explains how Maxine saved her again and again despite the fact that she didn’t deserve it. With tear-filled eyes, she tells her that it’s possible that she wasn’t meant to be saved, then gives our intrepid heroine the chance to rewind time back to the start.
Max doesn’t want to go back, of course. But Chloe wasn’t meant to be saved. Not at this cost, at least. We both know it, even if Max doesn’t. Chloe goes on to explains that her mom doesn’t deserve to die alone in a diner after all she’s been through -- that her stepfather, the same one she loathed not a day ago, doesn’t deserve to lose Joyce.
And then of course, there’s Kate and everyone else who attends her school: Alyssa, Warren, and even Julie. They don’t deserve to die either.
Thus at the end of Life is Strange, when it comes time to save Chloe’s actual life, I don’t save her. I sacrifice her to save the town without a second thought.
I let her die because Chloe has had enough. I've had enough as well. Max did so much for Chloe and she’s still just a broken girl who writes sad song lyrics on her wall in Sharpie. Max may not know this, but I know that Chloe will never be completely fine, even with Max’s undying devotion. She lost her dad at the most damaging age possible and she simply can’t recover. Some things are too much to overcome. Some things can’t always be repaired when they break.
In a single decision, Chloe’s fate is sealed. Max returns to the start of the week where she watches her friend get shot in the school bathroom and die, bleeding out on the floor. There is no rewind button this time. Max and Chloe never reconnect. Chloe never gets to understand Max’s love, to realize the lengths to which someone would go to save her and how much she matters.
It should probably be sad, but it isn’t. To me, my choice means that she’ll never be mad anymore. She’ll be at peace. She’ll finally be a little less extreme.
It’s what she wanted, after all. In my entire playthrough, I’ve done exactly what Chloe wanted -- even when it broke Maxine’s heart.
And did you really expect me to pick another ending? Did you think I would let Chloe and Max ride off into the sunset in true love? No way. After all, everything I do has always been in the extreme.
Hopefully I can at least treat my Max with a little more trust than Chloe did, though. After all, they can’t rewind time.
Ashelia is the producer for LolKing. When she’s not busy crying over videogames, she’s busy trying to convince Riot they need to just delete Janna from the game and posting cute pictures of her cat on Twitter.