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View Full Version : Regarding "Illusion of Choice"



Messiah_X
27th Nov 2015, 22:00
Hi everyone, first post here. I just finished the game the other day and have spent some time lurking around various discussions of the ending, and keep seeing a common theme: that your choices don't matter in the end. If you sacrifice Chloe, you literally reset the entire timeline and all events you went through, and if you sacrifice Arcadia Bay, then you get to move forward with Chloe, but every person you touched is gone (sorry, but I consider anything else to be wishful thinking).

The thing is, in my opinion people seem to be asking the wrong questions. What was the point? Why would the universe grant Max these powers with the hidden subtext "don't ever use them or you'll screw up time." My answer is why does there have to be a point? Because a good narrative always has a purpose behind it? I think that having a purpose or final goal in this scenario actually hurts the narrative.

Instead, I've come to think that the story is not so much about doing the right thing as it is about second chances. Let's be honest here, Max was not the greatest friend when she was gone, and their reunion may not have even happened the way it did without Max's new power. Imagine for a moment that Chloe survives the gunshot in the bathroom, what next? She doesn't show up to rescue Max from Nathan, and even if they do reunite later, their relationship is subdued. Chloe isn't impressed because Max didn't rescue her and is still bitter that they didn't keep in touch. They don't bond over their search for Rachel because Nathan would still be arrested and likely rat out Jefferson whether he was being convicted of murder or attempted murder. Many of the things Chloe and Max did together were heavily based on her powers. I'm being a bit harsh and cynical here, I'm sure they would still be friends, but would they be so fast to rekindle their best friendship and have the same tight bond reinforced by a common cause? I'd say it's more likely that they would split their time up between their new friends and interests while taking time to get to know each other again.

That isn't how it played out however. Instead, Max was presented with a unique opportunity to save her friend and rekindle their friendship in a short, albeit limited, amount of time. Why and how was Max given this? It doesn't matter. It could be a benevolent god, or a tricky deal with the devil, or a strange occurrence of entropy with no conscious or reason behind it. It could even be, as some people suggested, Rachel reaching out from beyond the grave. The point is, it might be nice to know, but it isn't all that important. What is important is that Max was granted this bittersweet chance to spend a week reuniting with her best friend, and then given a hard choice in the end: to lose her friend but restore the natural course of time, or live in the world she and Chloe made together, but with horrible consequences as the universe must course-correct itself. Either way, there must be an exchange.

Let's ignore that second choice for now, as the "illusion of choice" seems focused on reverting the timeline and negating all events of the game. What was the point of it all if it all just gets reset in the end? Well, it depends on how you think of time and Max's ability. Yes, the choices made in the game belong only in the timeline of the game. However, everything that Max lived through and experienced really did happen. All the memories, emotions, and knowledge is real. Just like Max rewinds when she gains a bit of insight that she can use in conversation, this whole week is like one big rewind. It is kind of interesting that the first episode is called Chrysalis. The whole game could be seen as a kind of time cocoon, where a shy and uncertain girl emerges much stronger and wiser in the end. Even if the choices aren't the same, Max is now much better equipped to deal with the new ones the world presents. Warren may never have to stand up to Nathan for her, but she knows he would. Kate might still be depressed, but Max will know to give her the compassion she needs. Victoria and friends might still be *****es, but Max knows that deep down they aren't bad. David might still be a creep and a hardass, but Max knows that he is really a great man. She has gained insight into the world that most of us could only dream we had. This might all seem like a fancy way of saying "It's the journey, not the destination" but it's so much more than that. The universe might be cruel to give you back your best friend only to take her away again in a few days, but what the universe (and Chloe) really gave Max was some immensely valuable and deep lessons which she can apply for the rest of her life, and that ain't nothing.

If you instead choose Chloe, it just goes to show that Max has still undergone immense development in one week. At first glance, saving Chloe might seem like the most selfish thing you can do, an irrational, emotional decision instead of a reasonable one, but really it's a testament to how far one might go for love. Either way, neither was a bad ending for me. The whole game was incredible and there was no "illusion" of choice. Every choice mattered because it mattered to Max, and in the end that's what this was, Max's story.

Kafuku
28th Nov 2015, 04:40
I agree with you on mostly every you said here. Especially towards the end, by sacrificing the bay, it's showing how Max as a character developed through experiences with Chloe, Warren, and Kate. However, I don't think Life is Strange is based solely on Max's story. I think it's about the friendships that she created, especially with Chloe, seeing as the whole reason she got her power was in the stall with Chloe/Nathan. I also bring this up because the whole game, once you move on from Ep. 2 (in my opinion), is where everything starts focusing on Max and Chloe's friendship and how it develops. Chloe as a character may not develop like Max had, but her friendship with her I think has changed her. Especially in parts where you tell her that David does care about her etc. So, really, I think the game is more based off of Chloe and Max's friendship as opposed to Max's story. However, that brings me with a question, would Max still "activate" her powers if it was per say Kate in the bathroom? As opposed to Chloe? (Of course it doesn't make much sense for Kate to be Nathan, but just make up some reasonable story.)

Messiah_X
28th Nov 2015, 16:20
I disagree. Chloe may be the most important part of Max's story, but Max is the decision-maker. It's Max's eyes we see the world through, Max's feelings that we associate with our own. When something bad happens to Chloe, we empathize from Max's perspective, and if Chloe dies at the end, we are sad for Max's loss. The story IS about their friendship, but as told by Max, making it Max's story about her friendship with Chloe, if you see what I mean.

Would Max's powers activate for Kate instead of Chloe? We don't know, because we can't know how or why she got them. Max is convinced that she received these powers because of Chloe, but that sure is putting a lot of faith in an uncertain teenager to explain away the mysteries of the universe. It's just as possible that she had the power all along and it took a moment of extreme fear and emotional stress to activate them. I'd say in this case it could have been Kate instead of Chloe, because recall that Max didn't even recognize Chloe in the bathroom. On the other hand, if it was Rachel, then the power probably wouldn't have been granted for anything but Chloe. There are a lot of "what ifs" to consider, because that is a big part of what this game is about, even the "what ifs" that you have no control over.

And that's kind of what makes every choice leading up to the final choice important. Max is defined by these things every step of the way. I've seen some people say that Max would choose to save Chloe every time in reality, but I think that severely underestimates Max's sense of morality. Max who wanted to do the right thing for everyone and even had compassion for her "enemies" like Nathan and Victoria would probably not have it in her to destroy the whole town and kill all those people. The Max who decided to stand by Chloe at any cost would destroy the whole world to keep Chloe alive. Keep in mind too that Max doesn't know for sure if sacrificing Arcadia Bay will put an end to the disasters. We see it as the universe restoring the balance, but in that moment Max could have very well believed that disaster and death would follow her forever.