Particia Hernandez posted this earlier today, which lead me to this baseless accusation. It got me thinking about that opening scene, the mechanics within, and how it uses them to manipulate the player away from important information.
Obviously, there is going to be some information in here that could be spoilery if you haven’t played through episode 4 of Life Is Strange. Also This is all of my interpretation, so who really knows if I’m correct about any of it.
In the opening scene, Max wakes up from a vision of a gigantic hurricane bearing down on the town she lives in. She is in class and the teacher, Mr. Jefferson is lecturing. The first instinct of a player is to start testing the extent of control you have over a scene, so here you find that you can only move the camera around to scan your environment.
As you do this, you notice certain objects on your desk will highlight with options for interaction listed out for you. The players natural instinct to see everything will drive them to select every option and listen to everything Max has to say. She going to tell you about how childish her pen pouch might be, about the time she took that photo, the book in her backpack. It’s all some set dressing and character development, but ultimately adds up to nothing very revealing or even remotely important.
That’s because the actual important information, is being lectured to you by Mr. Jefferson. Information that will stop the second you choose to pick up your camera and take a selfie.
So how is the game manipulating you? It is preying on you instinct to actively gather information to distract you from incredibly revealing foreshadowing. The player is so intent on finding out what Max has to say about the doodads in front of her that they miss the the good stuff right off to the side. Your natural gaming instincts betray you. Your expectation to find all pertinent information through interacting are subverted by having your actions pull your attention away from what you should be paying attention to, even if the importance of the information isn’t revealed for four full episodes.
Which is an interesting parable. In direct comparison to class life, the little bits of your life brought along with you to class can often act as a distraction from the entire reason you’re there (assuming you go to class to learn). On a more life sized scale, the unimportant things we carry around wherever we go (phones) can suck our attention away from the truly important things (people, life). It’s not often we can learn real life lessons from a game and who really knows how deliberate it is here, but it is certainly there is you know to look for it.
This most recent episode shows that despite some clunky dialog, DONTNOD is presenting some absolutely masterful game writing. They used cliffhangers and stingers to take advantage of the episodic format. Set dressing, context clues and body language to leverage the visual medium. Foreshadowing, red herrings and every other literary trick in the book. Most of all, it has tricked us into thinking that the story was straightforward and kinda dumb, when it is actually so well thought out and clever that most of us never saw it coming.