Game theory: Max Must Die to Save Arcadia in @lifeisstrange

Hi everyone,

Before we get into this, be aware that 1) I love this game and highly recommend playing it, so 2) if you haven’t, go do that now, because this will contain major spoilers.

Those of you who’ve played Life is Strange know it’s a wonderful, albeit sometimes clunky, experience. The dialogue is either lovably goofy or a failed attempt to capture American teen-girl slang. The art style is either engaging and unique or overreaching and, for a game that runs on the latest gen game systems, unimpressive.

I’m not here to talk about how much I loved the voice acting, especially Ashly Burch as Chloe Price, or how I’d replay this game a dozen times if I hadn’t just picked up The Resident Evil Origins Collection. Fact is, in the words of the LIS characters, this game is the shiznit, playahs.

But, let’s take a look at why Max should’ve died.

You can’t really save Chloe:

Chloe’s entire character arc is based on her wanting her family back. All of her anger, anti-social behavior, drug use, and blue hair can be traced back to the day her father, William, died, and her mom then remarrying David Masden, an abusive, though well-meaning, military veteran.

When Max sacrifices Arcadia Bay, she does so knowing that Chloe finally realizes how selfish she’s been, and is willing to die as a means of apologizing to, and protecting, all those she’s hurt. That really is her shining moment: she offers herself as a martyr for the people she loves, even if she could never admit that she loves them. Max then rips up the photograph from the bathroom, back when Nathan shot Chloe in episode one, ensuring she can never go back. Arcadia is destroyed while “Obstacles” by Syd Matters plays in the background.

Problem is, this overwrites Chloe’s moral lesson, effectively showing her there is no consequence for her behavior, and she really can get away with anything.

Plus–I can’t stress this enough–she appears to ignore the fact that Max just doomed everyone she cares about, and is basically responsible for killing her mom and other friends. The hurricane would’ve also likely destroyed any and all relics of Chloe’s dad, leaving nothing to remember him by.

However, there are reasons to believe this is the “correct” ending.

–The natural disasters seem to arise as a result of Max not accepting the consequences of time travel, not time travel itself, so accepting Arcadia’s destruction is Max’s way of coming to understand what the hurricane was trying to tell her.

–Chloe smiling at Max at the end suggests she isn’t mad, because there’s truly nothing left in Arcadia holding her back. Rather, there’s nothing for her to hold on to. She has to move on from her father’s death, and recognizes that this was something she should’ve done years ago.

–Despite how touching (or forced) Chloe and Max’s relationship might have seemed, the fact that they don’t kiss in the Save Chloe ending shows Chloe as more of a caretaker for her time traveling best friend, who will no doubt be traumatized by guilt. This seems like a far more likely role for such an independent and adventurous woman, who might quickly grow bored with Max’s acoustic guitar playing.

A bigger problem: You can’t save Arcadia Bay either.

Back when Max used her time powers to save William, we see an alternate reality in which Chloe got in a car accident instead, resulting in injuries that slowly kill her, or prompt Max to kill her out of mercy. She still has time powers in that dimension, showing a few things:

–She does not become the alternate Max, she takes her place.

–Max retains her original self and powers, despite the fact that, in that world, she would never have been in the bathroom to save Chloe, because Chloe wouldn’t have been there.

We also see this any time Max dramatically alters reality: She stays the same self as before. So, when Max goes back in time to let Chloe die, she would return to a Chloe-less world as the same time traveling Max she’d always been.

Technically, she might still have her powers, we just don’t see her use them in that ending. It’s implied she doesn’t have them anymore, but creative license could let Dontnod make a sequel pretty easily. And while yes, this would mean the Max of that universe wouldn’t have used such time powers, the mere existence of time-traveling-Max in this formerly non-time-traveler reality would immediately mess something up.

The biggest problem: You can’t save Max Caulfield

Think back to episode one. Max is taking a picture of a butterfly in a high school bathroom. Nathan Prescott comes in, freaking out. Chloe Price walks in, spouting weird, dated slang and talking about drugs. They argue. They struggle. Nathan shoots her.

And then Max yells, “NO!” and reaches out toward Nathan.

That’s the moment she learns she can rewind time, but if she’d never had time traveling powers–which is the universe Max tries to live in, if she sacrifices Chloe at the end–then what do you think would’ve happened?

More to the point, what would Nathan have done, knowing there was a witness to his crime, while he was holding a loaded gun?

Sure, there’s a chance that he wouldn’t have done anything, being in shock from shooting Chloe, but it’s far more plausible that he would’ve just shot Max too.

In a world where Max never learned to rewind time, she would’ve died in that bathroom. Truly saving Arcadia means Chloe AND Max should’ve died.

This is, of course, just a theory. I spend perhaps too much time thinking about quantum physics, time travel, alternate universes, etc., etc., and couldn’t help but notice a possible problem.

Granted, this is a game about time travel, and it has no real rules about how Max uses her powers. It’d be entirely possible for the endings to play out as they do and everything be fine afterwards. It’d also be possible for an older Max to travel years backward to save her younger self. Even better, both the Save Chloe and Save Arcadia endings exist simultaneously, so a Max that still time travels could potentially jump between realities, literally living in the best of both worlds, at the possible expense of her sanity.

Anyway, if you agree, disagree, want to comment, just want to say hi, drop a line down below. I know this was a little long, so thanks for sticking with me. Have a good one!

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