My therapist ran me through a program of CBT techniques to combat my anxiety and depression, and though I felt at the time that their impact was negligible, now - years later - those same techniques have proven invaluable in maintaining a positive outlook and preventing relapses. I qualify this with the fact that I am also on anti-depressants, which themselves have made a huge difference in my day-to-day life, so the CBT alone was not sufficient to conquer my mental hangups.
It's often a long, arduous road dealing with issues like anxiety, and it can be rough when progress seems to be non-existent. But the important thing is to keep trying. I've taken numerous approaches that had little to no impact, but eventually I found what worked for me and my life has improved significantly.
Excellent piece! You've nailed so many of the reasons Life is Strange is my most powerful gaming experience of this year, and perhaps one of the most powerful, period. The near universality of the high-school experience and the inevitable chaos of the teenage years allow for some potently relatable moments, especially for anyone involved with bullying and/or depression. The game hits so many evocative themes throughout its five episodes that I felt like my head and heart were being constantly wrenched in every direction at once.
I, too, thought at first that the rewind mechanic would invalidate the entire decision-driven structure, but as you said, the ambiguity of those decisions ensures that there is always some element of regret, some hangover haunting you no matter which choice you make - just like real life.
Life is Strange caught me in its storm, and I never wanted to escape.
I'm fully with you on Life is Strange. Such a moving, heartfelt experience that explores themes few other games have ever broached, and does so with an honesty and earnestness that conquers all its flaws. It hit me the same way Journey seemed to for many people (not me, sadly), engaging my empathy and sympathy unlike any game has done before. So many notes resonated with my personal experiences; I'm glad my episode 2 ended the way it did, because if it had gone the other way, I would have found continuing on pretty rough.
@iam3dhomer: Fair enough. I can totally see where you're coming from, but for me the ending didn't feel neat or conclusive, so the threads woven through the story don't seem like they were thrown away. I really like your idea for the puzzle-based ending, though; that could have been really powerful if it managed to draw on the myriad smaller stories you experience along the way.
I guess maybe I'm just more accepting of stories that don't end so conclusively, allowing me to muse on how unfinished tales might have played out. As for what Max's tale ultimately represented, I've got a few different theories rattling around in my head that I'm probably going to write up soon. There are a lot of themes that I feel justify the way the game ends, especially in relation to undoing Max's attempts to keep Chloe alive.
@iam3dhomer: Out of curiosity, what kind of stuff did you feel let down on in the ending? For the most part, I felt satisfied with how things were wrapped up.
I agree that poor endings, and simply poor stories are common in video games, but they're not exclusive to the medium. Endings are an issue all fiction struggles with, which is why the Hollywood Happy Ending is still such a trope: it's the best bet to leave the audience satisfied. The more ambitious a story, the more difficult it is to craft a conclusive ending. Lost, Twin Peaks, X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; it's not so much a case of limited time and money, but the tremendous task of tying up a vast narrative with a neat bow. For Life is Strange, where player choice adds even more variance to the mix, the challenge becomes that much harder.
Personally, I don't feel that the end defines the journey. The fact that Max's tale wraps up with a binary decision doesn't invalidate the path she walked to get there. As Chloe herself says, they'll always have that time they spent together, regardless of what happens.
Also, my theory as to why Max couldn't sacrifice herself instead of Chloe is that the tornado wasn't so much a result of her using her powers as it was her manipulating the past. By intervening with Chloe's death, she would still be changing a preset past even without rewinding. Again, just my personal theory, but it satisfied me.