I read a tweet one time from a prolific novelist—the first I ever interviewed, actually—it goes, “As a reader and a gamer, I continue to find it odd how many people think the former is a worthy pursuit and the latter isn’t.” It got me thinking about how we all have a tendency to join a gang, a group, a tribe. We want to be labeled. Some of us want to be pessimists. Others hipsters. I know a lot of people that considers themselves gamers, and others readers. The former two tend not to overlap, at least not in my circle of peers. But why do those who pledge allegiance to one camp so often choose to berate the other?
Starting up in the video game industry has given me the opportunity to cover artistic projects that range from goofy and stupid to thoughtful and poignant. I’m thankful for them all; all the opportunities, all the games. Writing about the lives and brainchilds of game developers has given me new insight into an art form that not so long ago I was told did not even count as art, whatever the damn word means.
It’s also flipped my perspective on the hundreds of hours I’ve spent hunched over my console, spidery fingers laced around the triggers and bumpers, tired eyes squinting at the screen, every day at midnight for many fucking days (god does it feel good to swear on digital papier… censorship is not a thing on my blog). Other than the many school hours I’ve missed for “just another match” of Mortal Kombat X, I don’t regret acting heavily on my penchant for pixelated pleasure (no, not porn). Every waking moment I’ve spent roaming around the land of the Witcher 3 is just as memorable as when I read about Harry Potter or when I was watching the Watchmen. I don’t feel unproductive or guilty anymore, taking the night to peruse my game collection; maybe tonight I’ll slay monsters or race around in a Ferrari… who am I kidding, I’ll probably end up doing both.
But the beauty of the thing is, there’s more to video games than just kicking around a soccer ball, gunning down pedestrians and mining for rough ore. I finally got around to playing Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange after putting it off constantly since the fifth and final episode was released back in January 2015. For the uninitiated, Life is Strange is a tale that follows teenage photography student Max Caulfield and her rebel friend Chloe as they embark on a search for Chloe’s friend, a pretty cheerleader gone MIA. Of course, there’s much more to it, not least of which the fact that Max has rewind powers. This ties in to the choice and consequence concept of the game, as you can scroll back in time and re-choose your actions and words, and inevitably observe in awe as you burn or build up relationships with those around you.
There are some truly moving moments in Life is Strange that often had me comparing the protagonists’ lives with my very own. It’s a masterpiece, and don’t you be taking that label lightly; I’ve played through my fair share of video games, the ugly, the good and the really effing great. It’s a masterpiece not only for its touching narrative, lovable cast and immersive world but because the game is a step, no, a leap forward for the industry. Life is Strange is a springboard for game developers as well as the game community as a whole.
There’s so much potential out there for games to transcend stereotype and convention, to equal and perhaps even surpass the magic of TV and the silver screen. Video games have the power of real interactive storytelling, and memorable, astounding storytelling at that. Max Caulfield’s voice has been echoing in my head since the end credits rolled out in episode five, clawing at me to relive her story again and again. And I succumbed—I’m playing the game a second time through and thoroughly appreciating the finer details I glossed over in my original playthrough. There are a whole lot of articles out on the net about Life is Strange and how games like it are making waves in the entertainment industry, but as a passionate game journalist I wanted to throw my two cents in the bucket, whether it ripples or not.
As an end note, shout out to my best buddy who recently re-instilled in me the passion (and necessity) of posting in my rather barren blog. No need to name names—you know who you are. As fun as it sounds—and it is really, really fun—writing about video games can be a mighty lonely endeavour often wracked with bouts of tediousness. And once you start getting paid for your writing and time, you count the minutes. You count the words. You constantly ask yourself, am I getting enough dolla-bills for the seemingly quantum effort I’m putting forth? The answer is often a resounding yes, although seeds of doubt do crop up from time to time.
My point is, you often lose sight of your roots when bank starts to flow, even when typing about something as mighty enjoyable as video games. When do you find the time and more importantly; where do you find the impetus to write for free? You even start to ask yourself why, why on earth would I write for myself when I could spend time instead writing to benefit a game developer, an editor and a publication? Blessed I am that due to the digital age, I can voice my opinion in my tiny corner of the universe and someone an ocean away can get a handle on it and maybe even respond in kind. This blog is my megaphone and I’m going to keep shouting until I go hoarse.