Life Is Strange: Before The Storm can’t escape the first game’s use of harmful tropes


Spoiler warning: This article includes spoilers for the entirety of both Life Is Strange and Life Is Strange: Before The Storm.

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is, in its own right, a very good game. But it can’t avoid the fact that it’s a Life Is Strange game, specifically a prequel to the original. And in the original, one of its central characters is dead.

Before The Storm focuses on the relationship between Rachel Amber and Chloe Price. The first Life Is Strange focuses on Rachel’s disappearance. The fact that she was murdered isn’t revealed until the fourth episode, meaning fans had plenty of time to speculate about her: who she was; how she and Chloe felt about each other; and when she would return, alive.

But Rachel did not return. Instead, we were given a scene of Chloe sobbing over the body of the woman she loved; the first time that Life Is Strange leaned on the trope, known as Bury Your Gays, in which gay and lesbian characters are denied a happy ending. The problem with this trope hinges on two facts: there are relatively few LGBTQ+ characters in media, and those that do exist are disproportionately likely to end up dead. Taken together, they gives the impression that LGBTQ+ people (especially queer women) and their relationships are doomed to end in tragedy.


When it comes to Life Is Strange, Rachel’s death was largely overshadowed by the game’s second use of the trope: its ending. The player is asked whether they want to save Chloe, resulting in a storm wiping out the town of Arcadia Bay, or whether they want to save the town but sacrifice Chloe in the process.

Neither is a happy ending for Max and Chloe, and this is exacerbated by the fact that they only kiss in the “sacrifice Chloe” ending, as well as the fact that Dontnod seem to position this choice as the “correct” option. It’s given a much longer ending cutscene that revisits all the major characters – though you have to watch Chloe die alone on a bathroom floor first. The other ending cutscene shows Max and Chloe leaving Arcadia Bay, but gives no indication what they do after that.

Before The Storm only exists in this context: a follow up to a game that appealed to queer women in a way that few games even try to, but that had left many feeling disappointed through its use of harmful tropes. Once Deck Nine and Square Enix decided to make a prequel focusing on Rachel and Chloe, their already fraught position became even trickier to navigate, because, as far as the audience was concerned, Rachel was already dead.


Deck Nine did an admirable job in telling Chloe and Rachel’s story. Their exploration of the women’s relationship is, in many ways, better told than that of Max and Chloe, not least because the latter’s feelings are left more open to player choice and interpretation. It is an altogether better story about queer young people falling in love, and a better overall game for it.

Or it would be, if it weren’t for the elephant in the room for its entirety. When Rachel and Chloe talk about escaping their lives and moving to California together, as they do often, it’s not the hopeful (or perhaps fanciful) conversation that it should be. It’s tragic, because we know that it can’t happen. When bad things happen to them, it just feels unfair because we already know that they suffer enough. When they’re happy, it’s only a reminder that it will be all too fleeting.

Such are the constraints of a prequel, and the fact that Rachel dies doesn’t mean that we can’t explore her life. Almost all of Before The Storm avoids drawing attention to Rachel’s ultimate end, allowing players to become invested in her if they can personally overlook it.


But after the credits roll, a brief cutscene plays. In the first half, Chloe and Rachel are joking around in a photo booth. They look happy. At one point, Rachel kisses Chloe on the cheek. This is then juxtaposed with a shot of Rachel’s phone. Chloe is calling; she’s called seventeen times and Rachel hasn’t picked up. She can’t pick up, because in the background we hear her being abused by Mark Jefferson, in the lead up to her death.

This scene isn’t only wildly unnecessary, it’s profoundly cruel. It plays like a Marvel cinematic universe tease, as though we are supposed to get excited for the brutal murder of yet another queer female character. But we already know what happens; the scene has no purpose beyond being a gut-wrenching reminder that, yet again, the same-gender couple does not get a happy ending.

As if fans had ever forgotten, especially queer fans who see this sort of tragedy play out all too often in the rare times that they see themselves on screen at all. Many fans put that fact aside to become invested in Rachel and Chloe, not least because they don’t have many alternatives when it comes to representation. And the final seconds of the game threw away their good faith for the sake of cheap shock.


Moreover, Life Is Strange is supposed to be choice based. The first game’s binary choice ending erases most of the other choices the player has made regardless of which way they go; Before The Storm offers no choice at all. Even Farewell, Before The Storm’s bonus episode, has a fixed end of Chloe grieving her father’s death, lying on the floor in a way that is strongly reminiscent of her death scene. Breaking from the series’ previous mechanics like this implies inevitability, as though these women were doomed no matter what they did.

It’s an extra layer to the inevitability LGBTQ+ fans already feel when yet another piece of media uses the Bury Your Gays trope. Before The Storm could not avoid the context of this wider problem, neither could it avoid the fact that Rachel Amber dies after its credits roll. But it did not have to lean into that fact. Its post-credits stinger offered nothing but a tired retelling of the same story that its predecessor and so much other media gives to queer fans, undermining the otherwise good representation of relatable, endearing young women in love.


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    Drib says:

    Wow, ending on that note just sounds like a cheap shot to make it seem more ’emotional’. Just end on them being happy, the original already tells the sad part, we don’t need to rehash it.

  2. Andrew says:

    When some TV show kills one of its queer characters there is a huge backlash, and rightfully so, but we celebrate that (this article is a rare exception), just because they kinda gay in the first game and definitely gay in second game? Fuck that noise!

    Also, Dontnod are guilty of hiring white woman voice actress in a black character role in “Remember Me” (digital blackface), and Deck Nine hired non-guild actors. They both, plus Square Enix, of course, are on my shitlist.

    • Beebop says:

      “Deck Nine hired non-guild actors” as an actor I’ll point out that you’re arguing both sides of the discrimination coin here, Equity and others’ attempts to control the marketplace are highly discriminatory in favour of those who can make it onto their books and they don’t offer any tangible benefits for it. I’ve yet to hear anyone explain what Equity have been doing up til now to advocate for all those who have come out as having been harassed in the workplace. As far as I’m concerned #metoo is the most damning indictment of acting unions possible.

      • Andrew says:

        I have my opinion about unions, but I’m not versed enough in it to discuss it. I just read both those situations as “we don’t care about you and we can replace you at any time”.

        • Someoldguy says:

          Because small development studios never collapse because of financial insecurity? I don’t mind pointing the fingers at the big publishers who can afford to do better. For small studious I strongly suspect it’s a case of not being able to cater to all the demands of unionised actors (some reasonable, some not) because it would mean everyone lost their jobs.

    • hey_tc says:

      Are you a parody account? If not please stop. Please.

  3. Hyena Grin says:

    As a queer person, I sympathize with this. The bury your gays trope troubles me too.

    However – and this might just be me, I’m sure replies will let me know – I tend to think that the core of the trope is similar to the ‘fridge’ trope. It’s about killing queer people (or women) to serve a straight (or male) storyline.

    I think there is a difference between a queer tragedy, and an opportunistic killing of a queer character in order to grasp at some cheap emotional hook. The former isn’t a trope, it’s a queer telling of a classic story. The line between the two is probably fuzzy, and there’s room for argument about what makes one a queer tragedy or a trope. But I think we risk cheapening queer stories if we don’t embrace one of the oldest stories in the history of human story-telling. And hetero-centric stories exploitively ‘burying their gays’ shouldn’t be used as misguided cudgel to prevent people from telling queer tragedies.

    Now, whether LiS qualifies is another story. It’s unclear what Max’s orientation is, but I’m not sure that it matters. LiS is very much a voyeuristic (not THAT kind…) narrative. Max’s powers allow her to see and understand people in and out of their element, but we don’t actually look very deeply at Max over the course of the series. She is our eyes and ears into the lives of others.

    We learn relatively little about Max, but we learn a lot about Chloe and her relationships with others. Chloe is the pivot upon which most facets of the story are told. She pulls Max into almost everything that happens. Her emotional highs and lows are the focal point of the drama. We spend the game empathizing and developing a relationship with Chloe.

    It’s a game about Chloe, in other words. At least, that’s my reading. It’s not about Max – Max is the vehicle through which we learn about Arcadia Bay, its denizens, and primarily Chloe, while being a ‘welcome outsider’ in those stories.

    And I think it’s because of this setup, that this is a queer tragedy, and not a hetero story exploitively ‘burying their gays’ to drive hetero character and narrative development.

    There’s room for argument. Despite the setup, we are largely kept in the dark about the nature of Chloe’s relationship with Rachel, making it more difficult to – at least in isolation from Before the Storm – call this a queer story. It’s only in BtS that we are even given a firm footing to question whether this is a ‘bury your gays’ scenario, however, so perhaps judging them in isolation is impossible if we want to answer that question. Taken together, at least, I think this is, to my eyes, a queer story.

    As for the bit at the end of BtS… well I think that sometimes the ‘we’re making a game!’ overwhelms more sensitive aesthetic choices. I thought it was a little crass, but not, like, surprising. Given that it’s a prequel in a game series. I didn’t feel like it took away from the rest of the title, but it definitely seemed out of place, and misjudged the tone of both games in trying to tie them together.

    • Beefsurgeon says:

      Well said.

    • Jay Castello says:

      Honestly, I felt similarly for most of Before the Storm. They seemed to understand the failings of the first Life is Strange in a way that made me hopeful that this would become a respectful queer tragedy rather than another tired trope usage – but the after-credits scene really squandered that hope.

      • lara says:

        I agree, it didn’t match tone to the other game, exactly. It kind of withered away at the end and felt rushed and clipped. I’m still in denial about the death in game 2. I know, we saw an outfit, and it was Rachel’s, and she’s the only one missing… but until I get DNA proof I’m actually saying that’s not Rachel? Is that a common theory? :D

        • Jay Castello says:

          It is! I actually talked about these kind of theories a little in an earlier draft of this article as an example of how invested people are in these characters but ended up cutting it.

          • Someoldguy says:

            The episode 3 story line changed substantively and lost significant content from the version that was beta tested, according to one beta tester. The version that they paraphrased on their blog sounded a whole lot better (it allowed much more player agency) and didn’t end with that last kick in the teeth. Another game let down by lack of development time and money, or differing visions of how it should be told, perhaps?

          • lara says:

            Wow, really? If you write about it elsewhere tweet where it is. I’d love to read/talk that theory out :)

    • Faxmachinen says:

      I agree, and I don’t think this trope should have been actively avoided during the creative writing of LiS.

      The main characters in LiS are predominantly female. They have at least four different sexual orientations. They pass the Bechdel test with flying colors. And perhaps most importantly, LiS does all this while triumphantly telling a gripping story.

      To avoid every single harmful trope (by its “letter of the law”) while writing a story, you’re putting the story at risk of being crap. If you’ve done everything else right, the risk is not worth it. If LiS’ story is crap, it tarnishes every decision that went into making it, including the decision to not tell a traditional “white male” heteronormative story.

  4. mujie says:

    I haven’t finished Life is Strange, but from reading the article, it doesn’t sound inherently harmful. Some people want to tell tragic stories. And the game maker wanted to tell a tragic story between the characters. It could have been between 2 straight characters, but it wasn’t. I don’t think it’s a “bury your gays” scenario.

    It reminds me of this book: “They both die at the end” (really good by the way, check it out). The main characters are gay/bi, and they fall in love, and they die at the end. It’s supposed to be tragic, and the author wanted to focus on 2 LGBT characters. It’s not a “bury your gays” scenario: they were the main characters. And they didn’t die because they were gay.

    Just, I wonder: What would have happened if Chloe and Rachel were 2 straight characters, but it was the exact same story? Would we complain about the trope there too? Surely the bury your gay trope is only harmful in certain circumstances.

  5. dontnormally says:

    Hey the fucking spoiler is before the goddamned break you dingus

    Someone playing the game for the first time and just had something major spoiled when scrolling rps

  6. batraz says:

    Trope’em up ?

  7. Booker says:

    “there are relatively few LGBTQ+ characters in media,”

    Really?!? Don’t know what you are watching, but I haven’t seen a show in years without such characters. :D

    • brucethemoose says:

      True. Heck, they’re (proportionally) more common than people in the real world by a longshot.

      However, it IS true that very few LGBTQ+ characters pair up and survive. Heck, I can only think of one surviving couple out of many dead ones, though I have been living under a proverbial rock for a few years when it comes to TV, at least compared to the media savvy RPS hivemind.

    • TheSplund says:

      The last two shows I’ve watched did – I’m currently rewatching the excellent ‘The Wire’, (which handles it ‘right’ IMHO), and ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ (a little too forced), and going back only a little further in my viewing history I recall ‘Dirk Gently’ and a ‘Black Mirror’ episode – and I’ve never even watched the obviously includable ‘Orange is the New Black’!

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    alison says:

    I haven’t played BtS yet due to needing a tablet upgrade, but I thoroughly enjoyed LiS and don’t feel it was tropey in a problematic way. I very happily chose the “save Chloe” ending and have no interest in the other ending, which seemed to go against the spirit of the game as I understood it.

    To me the whole game was about fulfilment of the teenage dream. You are placed at that moment in your life where you start to truly understand that Bad Shit Happens. You can’t trust parents or people in authority to protect you. At the same time you encounter a first crush that feels like it’s the most important thing in the world… And it turns out she’s doomed. But instead of real life where you are powerless to change any of this, where these traumas would be turning points that guide you to adulthood, you have the ability to shape your own destiny.

    To me, LiS expertly brought back the emotions of being a teenager. Certain moments in the game force you to rewind to progress, so even as a (presumably adult) player whose moral compass may find that action problematic, you are pushed into roleplaying an impulsive and self-absorbed teenager unused to dealing with pain, loss, embarrassment and so on. Let’s be honest – if it was teenage me, hell yes I would have fixed my mistakes and hell yes I would save my love. My real life is full of tragedy that in retrospect has made me a far better person, but how would my life have looked if I had never been forced to become that person? What if I could keep on burning with teenage passion and run away with the love of my life and never have to see any of the people who hurt me ever again? That was the essence of LiS to me.

    BtS I will buy because I want to support these types of games, even though the setup removes the time travel gimmick that made LiS tell the story it did. It sounds like the BtS closing scene is a bit insensitive, but I suspect on balance the representation here is still on the better end of non-indie games.

    • Andrew says:

      No one arguing what those games did. The problem is, that they killed at least one in the ending you chose, or at least two queer characters in “canonical” ending (where you save Arcadia Bay, and yeah, I chose the other one, too) to do so. There are a lot of media where everyone you love gonna be dead, and that’s fine, that’s tragedy/drama for you. Problem is with this specific harmful trope.

      Also, I read “canonical” ending as even more awful message: even if girl has superpowers, she can’t do anything in this world, she can’t save anyone, she is powerless. Again, maybe a perfectly good message on its own, about growing up and such, but in a context – awful, very awful.

      And this is why it is so frustrating, because we need more stories like that, we need more characters like that, we need, like, 95% of “Life is Strange”, but… argh.

      P.S. Go watch “Colossal”. Just sayin’.

  9. Stickman says:

    I don’t know what your talking about? Everyone else died, but Chloe is very much alive!

  10. Babymech says:

    I feel much the same way about the Super Mario Brothers.

  11. lara says:

    I created an account to comment and say thank you for this article.

  12. costik says:

    I played Before the Storm before the original game, though I knew from media that it doesn’t end well for either Chloe or Rachel. My 14 year-old daughter had played the first episode of Life is Strange (free on PC), and played through the rest of the game with me. I won’t tell you what choices we made.

    Yes, it was disturbing. But that’s a reasonable artistic choice.

    We both found it so, particularly as one of her siblings is trans, and another non-binary.

    I actually think Before the Storm makes it worse in a way; Life is Strange is a tragedy that plays out, but BtS makes the connection between Chloe and Rachel more intense (though never explicitly so). Max is almost a non-entity and observer. I won’t get the ending where I get to save them, because it isn’t offered, but I’d prefer either that or “they all die at the end.” It feels cheap, in a way.

    I can recommend Doki-Doki Literary Club as an equally unsettling game, though.

  13. TheSplund says:

    Good review, though after enjoying both the first two games you’ve rather convinced me to not bother with this one

  14. Granath says:

    Wow, an absolutely awful review in which the writer tries to take their own personal political agenda and project that into the review. No wonder RPS’s reputation has sank in recent years.

    Bury Your Gays? Bury this “review”.

  15. left1000 says:

    This seems a bit like a hatchet job.
    “Before The Storm only exists in this context: a follow up to a game that appealed to queer women in a way that few games even try to, but that had left many feeling disappointed through its use of harmful tropes.”

    ya know, except this game is wildly popular with everyone and has tons of critical reviews praising it’s brilliant writing and acting. Also of course, something bad happens in every video game ever made because uh, games need strife, much more so than simply stories.

  16. ashleys_ears says:

    Man, the comments on the Facebook link to this article are a treasure. Literally just straight white manboys shrieking SHUT UP SHUT UP GET YOUR POLITICS OUT OF MY VIDEO GAMES QUEER ERASURE ISN’T REAL

    It’s nice to see the commentary here is more thoughtful.

  17. hthfhfhgj says:

    I disagree with almost everything in this article.

    To tell the truth, I thought it was complete bullshit.

  18. Wintermuter says:

    Jay, that’s not how drama works. Experiencing the profound tragedy of loss is what makes this story so memorable. Chloe is such a beautifully portrayed complex character and will stick with me for a long time. A happy ending, while it would avoid your tvtrope, would just give a quick sense of pleasure and be directly forgotten.

    • Jay Castello says:

      This article is predominantly about Rachel, not Chloe, and I strongly disagree that tragedy is in some way more inherently profound than joy. As a queer woman myself, seeing a happy queer couple, rare as they are in media, would have stuck with me just fine.

  19. ericanadian says:

    Only played the first game, and I disagree with the premise that the Save Arcadia Bay is the “correct” ending. To me, it’s a choice between free will and fate. You can accept fate, save the town, and the game will show you the terrible future that awaits Max. Alternatively, you continue to fight against fate, stay with Chloe, and the game leaves things open ended because what happens is ultimately up to you.

    Chloe starts the game as selfish, prepared to turn on people over minor infractions. She trusts no one. Her interactions with Max lead her to overcome this and reestablish trust and faith in people and ultimately offer to sacrifice herself to save the town.

    Max struggles with self-doubt throughout the game and most of her decisions are made with the intent to please others and really have almost nothing to do with Max’s own desires. She questions every decision, worrying that she may have upset someone. Her entire character arc is about building her confidence enough to finally do what she wants instead of what she thinks others want.

    Saving Chloe is about Max finally choosing for herself. Saving the town makes the entire game purposeless and sad. Chloe is dead and never got to reconnect with her friend. Max is emotionally broken inside and will probably never be able to connect with another person ever because she can never share the trauma she’s been through because it never really happened.

  20. drseahorse says:

    Thanks for this, as a queer woman I loved LiS right up until its ending(s), both of which I found incredibly sadistic to the characters and the audience both. I skipped Before the Storm for this reason and I’m relieved I did based on this article. Disappointed too. I wish they could have learned from their mistakes but I’m not surprised they didn’t.

  21. thisarticleistrash says:

    this is one of the worst articles I have ever read in my entire life

    “bury your gays”… yikes

    had to make an account just to say this, whoever wrote this needs to be fired as they are not fit for journalism of any kind

  22. philomathes says:

    Like the author and the more thoughtful commentators above, I find the use of the “Bury the Gays” trope in media in general troubling and dehumanizing for queer people. But I think it is necessary also to take into account, as several others have noted already, how the tragic story of Life is Strange differs essentially from the tragic ends queer characters commonly meet in fictional works that invoke this trope. Contrary to the author, I think that, rather than reading in the story of LiS a straightforward, uncritical endorsement of unconscious social attitudes towards queer people, it is possible to understand it as a more politically significant narrative that critiques, rather than accepts, predominant social ideology and attitudes and forces us to confront them instead of offering a mere queer version of the typical escapist fantasy unthoughtful video games reduce themselves to.

    That “there are relatively few LGBTQ+ characters in media, and those that do exist are disproportionately likely to end up dead”, as the author notes here, are plain truths that few might be disposed to reject. In a way, this merely reflects reality: of course real queer people are disproportionately likely to end up worse-off than their non-queer peers owing to discrimination! But of course the job of a good work of fiction is not simply to reflect reality (we already have reality for that), nor is it to simply airbrush away parts of reality that we don’t like; it is to make us aware of what, precisely, is wrong with it so that we can work to make it better. In the words of Marx, “the point is to change it [the world].” I think this is why typical uses of the “Bury Your Gays” trope fall far short of raising awareness of the real difficulties queer people confront. Typically, queer people are presented fetishistically as a heteronormative transgressive fantasy who die through absurd causes (in the sense that they are not coherently explained by the formal logic of the work of fiction) and, through their death, re-establish the unquestioned dominance of heteronormativity. Its problematic aspect lies not in the death of the queer character(s) per se, but rather in the structural purpose of their death as reinforcement of the underlying, implicit heteronormativity that permits the very existence of these queer characters as a demonstration of its power. This is the dialectic aspect of power noted, among others, by Foucault: power without the possibility of rebellion is no power at all. Heteronormative works of fiction that “bury their gays” are only problematic insofar as the meaning of this rebellion is preemptively dismissed from the work and the heteronormative power structure unquestioned.

    Which brings us to why Life is Strange, in my opinion, succeeds in transcending this typically uncritical assumption of heteronormative power structure in media precisely through its tragic story. Tragedy is no mere pessimism: it isn’t simply a kind of fictional narrative in which things fall to pieces and people suffer in terror. In Life is Strange this terror is two-fold: on one hand there is the terror of the Prescott-Jefferson cabal of evil, the one destroying the town through economic domination and the other murdering young women by taking advantage of his authority as a well-connected and charismatic teacher. On the other hand, there is the storm (associated with the supernatural power inexplicably gained by Max, the protagonist) which destroys everything indiscriminately. The tragedy of the story, of course, is that we know the Prescott-Jefferson cabal has already killed Rachel (whom we get to know in Before the Storm) and will also kill Chloe (whom we spend the entire original game interacting with) unless we let the storm destroy the town. The Prescott family, which forms the backbone of the cabal, is explicitly identified with capitalistic exploitation of nature and working people and yet ubiquitously praised in dedications as a benevolent philanthropist, while Jefferson, of course, spends most of the earlier episodes masquerading as a sympathetic representation of unquestioned heteronormative male symbolic authority, reinforced by insinuations that certain students, such as Victoria, attempt to offer sexual favors in exchange for preferential treatment. This identification is the politics of the story: queer people are not just killed; they are killed by what is inherent in societal order that constructs us as individuals. They are not killed by absurd forces of nature; they are killed by ideology.

    But then why tragedy? Why not a story where Max, Chloe, Rachel can be happy after all, in what one might call an inspirational success story for queers? The author says that “seeing a happy queer couple, rare as they are in media, would have stuck with me just fine.” Much as this desire is perfectly understandable to all of us, its very impossibility within the internal, fictional logic of Life is Strange, at least without a catastrophe on the order of a storm destroying the entire town, is poignant. Impossibility animates tragedy. It was Nietzsche who first saw in tragedy a joyful affirmation of life in the face of the world’s meaninglessness and, more importantly, a rejection of petty escapism in the form of salvation in another world. Life is Strange is not a paradise for queer people some seem to want, in which their suffering is abolished, but nor does it resign its queer characters to their absurd fate as in typical invocations of “Bury Your Gays”. In this way, it is after all more inspirational than any story featuring a “happy queer couple” can ever be. It affirms suffering, but more importantly it affirms positive struggle even in the face of what seems, objectively, like an insurmountable obstacle. Rachel’s death (and Chloe’s potential one) is not a case where the work of fiction, serving in its capacity as apologist for ideology, tentatively holds out the possibility of rebellion but immediately withdraws it to demonstrate the potency of power. Rather, they are catalysts for Max’s awareness of an underlying injustice beneath the surface positivity of Blackwell Academy and what enables her to struggle; it is no accident that the moment when Chloe “dies” the first time is when Max acquires her supernatural power that heralds the storm.

    Moreover, the tragedy of Life is Strange does not only have to do with queer struggle against a heteronormative power structure; it contextualizes that struggle in a larger ideological framework in which capitalist ideology affects the very mode of our desire, including even heterosexual desire, and it is for this reason that a “happily-ever-after” ending for it would be truly missing the point. It is easy to dismiss the many allusions to the Prescotts’ capitalistic exploitation as mere flavoring to the main story of Max’s struggle to save Chloe and to bring down the murderous Jefferson, but I would like to proffer the thesis that it is resistance to the capitalist ideology embodied by the Prescott family that sets apart the (implicit or explicit) passion of love that enables Max’s struggle in the first place. Capitalistic love is a commodity: it is positive pleasure as utility that is incompatible with suffering. Under this commodity logic, negativity and suffering in love can only be temporary investment towards a future greater satisfaction, and of course in this ideological framework that satisfaction is what we call the “happily-ever-after” (traditionally associated with marriage but increasingly in the air owing to capitalism’s dissolution of cult value in the first place). It is only when viewed through this lens of commodification that the fate of the queer couples in Life is Strange appear unsatisfied, unhappy and, by the same ideological logic, unfulfilled and valueless. This is an essentially narcissistic attitude; the German philosopher Byung-Chul Han says of it that “the world appears only as adumbrations of the narcissist’s self, which is incapable of recognizing the Other in his or her otherness—much less acknowledging this otherness for what it is.” Is Jefferson not, then, the perfect exemplar of this capitalist, narcissistic lover who effaces the boundary between the self and the Other, but not in the traditional, religious sense of marriage but rather in a perverse sense, embracing fully the twin strands of the commodification of love and the capitalist dissolution of religion? In a perverse way, his horrific crimes are the perfect late capitalist equivalent of the “happily-ever-after” when disrobed of the religious trappings of marriage and exposed fully to the logic of commodification. The young women to whom he commits his crimes are unconscious, totally objectified: the traumatic real kernel of the logic of commodification where the Other is finally totally robbed of its otherness. Having realized this, it would simply be wrong for us to return to the very same ideology and reward Max with her “happily-ever-after”; it would be like the movie The Matrix where, waking up in the real world, Neo stumbles around only to realize that the real world is exactly like the world of the Matrix. It totally negates the lesson we are supposed to draw in the first place.

    We should remember that the word “passion” comes from the Latin verb patior meaning “to suffer”, a meaning that is preserved in the set phrase “the passion of Christ”. True love passion resists the commodification that the narcissist embraces; the narcissistic self recognizes meaning only when “it catches sight of itself”, while Max affirms love’s meaning in a Camusian-Nietzschean mode of struggling against the absurdity of fate itself. There is no salvation for Max and Chloe, no kingdom of eternal glory where suffering is finally abolished and eternal, blissful life awaits. Tragedy is the highest order of joy Max can achieve: in recognition of Nietzsche’s amor fati, perhaps we should speak of amor passionis as the animating principle for love: the passion of love and the love of passion in their unity, the final antidote to love’s death at the hand of capitalistic commodification and that in which the possibility of resistance, of struggling is revealed. Passion and suffering is what gives meaning to the relationships of Life is Strange, not a vaguely idealist-mythical future salvation, a “happily-ever-after” that returns the audience to commodity logic after all, only with a fresh new coat of phantasmatic paint that disguises the traumatic real kernel. Indeed to do so, ironically in this case, would be to make exactly the same move that works of fiction typically do when they “bury their gays”, essentially saying “yes, you’ve had your transgressive fun, now come back into the framework and don’t question it any more.” Paradoxically, then, what in other works of fiction is the imperative to not “bury their gays” is, in the case of Life is Strange, to do the exact opposite, and by doing so opens the entire ideological edifice to questioning and points at the way to meaning through struggle.

    The last piece of the puzzle, then, is how the story will end. The ending to the original Life is Strange, controversial among players, give us a choice between saving the town and everyone living in it at the cost of Chloe’s life, or letting the storm wreck the town so that Max and Chloe are ostensibly the only survivors. The surface reading of this choice is, of course, for Max to either abandoning the struggle, resign herself to living within the ideological edifice so that she doesn’t run the risk of destroying everything, or carry out the struggle to the end like a true revolutionary, thus saving one’s love but, like the Jacobin, ruining everything in the process. This reading of the ending may impress us as being profoundly reactionary for obvious reasons; yet of course we may offer an alternate understanding of this seemingly intractable antithetical pair by appealing to its Hegelian Aufhebung: it is not one particular version of the ending which provides the closure to the story, but in the contradiction between the two in which the ideological limitation that makes the story of Max and Chloe into a tragedy is most acutely felt. The right question to ask is not “which should Max choose?” but rather “what is the significance that these are the only alternatives?” The fact that these endings, unsatisfactory from a naive perspective, are preordained in the sense that the mechanics of the fictional narrative does not permit another ending itself determines the meaning of the narrative instead of demeaning it. Rather, it completes the recognition of the impossibility and inevitability that, far from undermining anything, is the animating force of tragedy and allows its critique of capitalist ideology to shine through untarnished by that very same ideology. It is only by being a tragedy can Life is Strange be of any value at all. Shocking, yes, but by no means cheap; rather, it is a shock that, judging by many people’s reactions, all of us need more of in order to fully appreciate the invisible ideological edifice that stands between where we are and where we would like to go.

  23. Just Endless says:

    “Almost all of Before The Storm avoids drawing attention to Rachel’s ultimate end” is pretty much “I willfully ignored 10 hours of dramatic irony.”

    It *most certainly* was there, and the tragedy of these games is exactly why people like them: there’s actually stakes. Besides, the LGBT characters don’t get killed for being such, or because such a thing is taboo, and so I’d be very hard pressed to even count this as a Bury Your Gays; it’s moreso “not treating the minority characters with kid gloves.”

  24. KyukiYoshida says:

    There are a ton of hetero romantic tragedies, so why is an lgbt romantic tragedy bad? Rachel wasn’t even killed for being bisexual, her death was a result of a guy’s obsession. But being gay shouldn’t automatically get you a happy ending, very few things in the game are happy, in case you failed to miss the general atmosphere in a majority of it. And chose to ignore the main plot in the storyline. Max’s power is basically a side story that has it’s own consequences. The entire game focuses on shock as well as hard to swallow, cruel and even “controversal” topics. Suicide, implied rape, kidnapping, bullying, murder, trauma, death, stalking, abuse, drugs, addiction, and even a passing hint at abortion. The “shock” ending, was very well done in my opinion. Anyone that became comfortable and ended up loving rachel was quickly reminded of what happened to her. I personally never forgot, the entire game became more sad for me the more I played it. I loved both games, but I wasn’t able to truly appreciate the first one until I played the second one. Sure I think there were some over dramatic moments, but I absolutely adore chloe, and ended up loving rachels character. I wanted so badly for them to be together. It makes chloe’s reaction in the first game feel so much worse. The ending tied into the first game perfectly, and was a harsh reminder that in life is strange, there are no happy endings.

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