It didn’t occur to me that people might mod Life Is Strange [official site] – I guess it seemed a better fit for Tumblr cosplay and fanfiction and fan art so I didn’t really think about people tweaking the original until the Max Punk mod turned up.
The idea is that it converts Max’s clothing, makeup and hair to present her more in line with the teen emo aesthetic. You can now imagine her listening to a lot of Evanescence and (and I’m aware of how badly I’m showing my age here) having a Livejournal. Actually, I think Max would probably have an Instagram and a Tumblr and maybe be part of all manner of classic camera communities ALSO she would probably be a really active part of the lomography community.
Here’s a comparison so you can see Max’s sleep look in the mod on the left and her original on the right:
There are a few problems here which I’ll quickly run through, but overall I think it’s really interesting to see Max this way and it’s not actually at odds with her character. There’s a mild spoiler in one of these concerns so stop reading now if you want to go in totally blank.
Thing 1: The release blog note thingy says the eye makeup makes Max more attractive and that makes me feel kind of awkward because the creator’s gender is given as male. I like the idea of Max as a female character and with interesting female friendships so I’m wary of a mod which makes her different and states that one of the reasons for those differences is making her more attractive.
I’ve experimented with emo styles of makeup and clothing before and attractiveness was part of the equation, but I was also the person in charge of the look – I had my own agency. In games and in mods this isn’t about Max’s agency because she’s a character not a person. I guess I’m okay actually using the mod because it feels like I’ve chosen to use it because it’s appropriate to how I view her character but the line about attractiveness did stick out and bother me given how I view Life Is Strange’s strengths. There’s also a chance it might just be a translation issue as the sentence is slightly clunky and the modder states they’re from Russia – maybe it’s language clunkiness. Interesting to think about where the agency lies when deploying optional mods though.
“In first version of this mod Max doesn’t have a dark makeup, but my friend AntiEvil gave to me an advice to add it. And Max became more attractive than before.”
Thing 2: It’s worth noting that Max not wearing her twee outfits and original hair and makeup means there’s a moment well into the game which will lose some of its impact, as well as a couple of lines which, if memory serves, will make a bit less sense.
Thing 3: The mod works in most of the game, but when I skipped to a different episode the recap cut scenes features Max with her regular hair and outfits which was kind of jarring.
You can also make some points about showers being disastrous for eye makeup when you’re going for the panda-eye look and the effect hair dye has on pillows but it’s a game and that side of things is where I’m fine suspending my disbelief – god, imagine how tedious it would be if you had to reapply black eye makeup as often in a game as in real life.
Overall I just really like that this thing exists and I’m hoping that more people will maybe add mods to share how they think Max would have dressed. I’m not interested in massive changes or Saints Row-style characterisations. I want to see other iterations of teen girl – the subtle variations in hair and makeup and dress that denote particular phases on the way to forming an identity.