Loss can be a difficult thing to translate. Sure, the simple fact of it can be easily adapted into just about any medium. Here’s the character, here’s their back story, here’s their dead relative or lover, and here’s how it drives them. That’s the easy part. To make that loss actually felt by the person experiencing your story though, is a much more difficult task, and it is with this that Life is Strange: Before the Storm succeeds.
Anyone who has played DONTNOD’s original Life is Strange will no doubt be aware that Chloe Price’s father died when she was just 13 years old, and that this particular plot point popped up again and again as a very relevant element of Max Caulfield’s journey to try and save her friend from the death that fate had seemed to ordain for her.
So, when I say that the death of Chloe’s father, and the knowledge of it, will be old hat for most folks when they sit down and play Life is Strange: Before the Storm, you’ll understand what I’m getting at.
With that in mind, what I didn’t expect to see in this game was a scene involving Chloe’s deceased father that hit me like a freight train of heart-ache. The scene in question unfolds early on in the story, as Chloe falls asleep in the passenger seat while being driven to school. A moment later she awakens to find herself in the back seat. It’s a bright, sunny day, and her father is driving.
Though she’s initially confused, she soon forgets her reality, and begins to just bask in the moment of being with her dad again. She stares at him with heart-breaking joy, gazes out the window with a wistful look, and even tells him to turn up the crummy country song she hates, just because she knows how much he likes it.
Then it’s over. She awakens to her asshole step-dad-to-be telling her to get out of the car, and has to return to a reality where her father is gone from her life.
Now, you might be wondering how this is relevant, and why I’m taking the time to describe it to you, so let me elaborate a bit. You see, my fiancèe lost her father when she was just 18 years old. Though she’s now 35, she still feels that loss regularly, and it’s a part of her that I’ve never really been able to understand.
I’ve never lost anyone close to me really, outside of a couple of family dogs, so I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent. Parents are very important figures in our lives, and while I will no doubt experience the loss of both of my parents one day, I had never felt what that was like before.
Yet somehow this small scene conveyed to me what that feels like in just a couple of minutes, to the point where I found myself in tears. When my fiancèe walked through the door a few moments later, I couldn’t help running to her and giving her a big hug. She didn’t know what it was for until I later told her about my experience with Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and we both got a bit misty-eyed all over again.
This is, ultimately, the power of the gaming medium when placed into the right pair of hands: the ability to completely replicate a feeling that the player may have never experienced, and communicate it to them so accurately that they can empathize with a loss that they’ve never known.
I’ll always be grateful to Deck Nine for creating Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and allowing me to feel how that loss effects the life and heart of my soon-to-be-wife. This game, and particularly that one scene, has helped me to identify something I’ve never known, but can now, at the very least, understand.