Introduction: A Strange Life
Video games as an art form have a tendency to tell stories. As with any good story, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from them. The same can be said for Deck Nine and Square Enix’s narrative-focused game, Life is Strange: True Colors. In fact, through the use of its characters and storyline the game delves into some touching topics and manages to express them quite deeply. The game follows the story of Alex Chen, a young woman with extraordinary powers of empathy, as she solves a mystery revolving around a small town.
The game uses Alex and her past as a vessel. Though the game depends on players to make choices. Of course, different player choices will impact an individual’s experience. For the purposes of this article we will explore one of the better endings of the game. Life is Strange: True Colors always gives players the option to learn lessons. In particular, lessons about Forgiveness, Self Love, and the importance of Human Connection.
The exploration of these concepts is built through character interaction as well as player choice. Importantly, because the game allows players to experience Alex’s thoughts, as well as other characters thoughts and emotions, the ability to explore these concepts opens greatly. Life is Strange presents everyone as an equally complex character. Of course, this allows diving into these concepts all the more deeply.
It goes without saying, there will be spoilers below. So, if you haven’t played the game, we highly recommend you go do just that. So, without further ado let’s dive into the lessons of Life Is Strange: True Colors.
A Lesson in Self-Love
Perhaps one of the most important and meaningful lessons that Life is Strange: True Colors keeps wrapped up in it’s story is: Learning to love yourself. Of course, Alex is the perfect candidate to convey this message as her initial outlook on herself, and her powers, is not high.
The game conveys this through Alex’s first meeting with her brother Gabe after she leaves the group home. Her initial thoughts are how to keep her “weirdness” from showing. How to hide a part of herself from the world around her. This becomes a recurring theme throughout Alex’s story. An entire aspect of Alex’s personality is suppressing herself out of fear, as a response to her past experiences.
However as the story develops and she learns to trust her friends, Steph and Ryan, she too learns to trust herself. This progression is one of the most important themes of the story. As players experience Alex’s story, making choices, and unwrapping a deeper understanding of her powers, Alex learns to love who she is. It’s through experience that Alex grows, and understands that her powers do not have to be a curse.
In this version of the game, where players make all good choices, Alex is given the chance to love herself. She understands that despite her powers, despite her past and all the things she wants to fix, she is a human being. An extraordinary human being, but a human nonetheless. More importantly, through the connections she makes with others and deep introspection, she realizes she is also worthy of love.
The lesson being, every person is worthy of loving themselves. It may just take some outsourcing to figure it out. Some real human connection. And once you love yourself, you may find it easier to forgive others for the damage they caused you.
Forgiveness and Healing
A huge theme in Life is Strange: True Colors is the idea of forgiveness, as well as the strength it takes to forgive someone. Of course, Alex has endured a great deal of hurt through her life before, and during, the game. Any number of examples could be given to describe how Alex goes from a point of hurting/being hurt to a point of forgiveness and healing.
It’s important to note that this explanation is functioning off of the idea that the player chooses the forgiveness route for Alex in the first place. With that in mind, perhaps the most shocking display of Alex’s strength through forgiveness is with Jed. A father-like figure for the town of Haven Springs, Jed is a constant force for good throughout the majority of the game. However, he harbors a dark secret.
Responsible for the death of Alex’s father, in a way her brother, and a dark coverup, Jed betrays Alex and leaves her for dead to keep his secrets. Of course, Alex survives and this all comes to light, but the forgiveness Alex shows to Jed is the most extreme form of the act. Alex realizes the importance of forgiving Jed.
It’s what her brother would want. Jed will suffer punishment. Holding a grudge against him won’t make Alex feel any better, and it won’t bring her family back. The understanding that forgiving Jed does just as much for her as it does for his guilty conscious. Forgiveness is freeing.
Life is Strange: True Colors teaches players, through Alex, that human connection opens the possibility for hurt. People will hurt you. The question becomes: do you have the strength to forgive the hurt? Of course, Jed is an extreme example, and the forgiveness of this man practically makes Alex a saint, but that’s beside the point. This understanding brings about the third, and perhaps most important, lesson of the game:
Human Connection and Understanding
Perhaps the most important people that Alex meets throughout her adventure are Steph and Ryan. Her closest friends are the same people who became the most accepting of Alex as a person. They are the ones who taught Alex self-love, confidence, and how to depend on others when you need them.
Yet, despite the importance that Steph and Ryan play in Alex’s story, one could argue that on a whole level the game is about human connection. This is simply because of the nature of Alex’s power. She is able to tap into the thoughts and feelings of the people around her. Of course, this makes her especially receptive to the emotions of others. Yet, it also does something else. Something deeply important.
Because of the nature of Alex’s power she is able to understand people. Truly understand them. It is in this ability to connect to people on such a level that Alex can find forgiveness for others, where she can learn to help those who are hurting, and how to direct the love others feel for her and internalize it.
It’s through human connection that people learn to grow. Understanding one another is a beautiful thing. Maybe, if we all try our best to be more like Alex, this world would be a better place. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson Life is Strange: True Colors teaches us. That despite what you may be going through, others feel the same or at the very least they can try to understand. Maybe if you can learn to forgive others, you can also start forgiving yourself.