Life Is Strange opens up conversations for bullying, suicide, & more between Parents and Teens

A deep look into how Life Is Strange is changing how parents can talk to their children.

At New York Comic Con, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to the Square Enix Media Suite. There, I was able to speak with Luc Baghadoust and Raoul Barbet from DONTNOD Entertainment about their hit game, Life Is Strange. At the time of our talk I had played the four released episodes, and it opened up some great dialogue.

Life Is Strange is a dramatic, episodic adventure game that centers around Maxine (Max) Caulfield. Max is a photography student at Blackwell Academy in Oregon who discovers that she has the ability to rewind time. This point-and-click takes you on a roller coaster of moral decisions and everyday scenarios that occur in the daily lives of most teenagers. With each episode, the dangers and dilemmas become darker and more challenging.

But the in-game drama offers a great opportunity to tackle some real-life issues.

Speaking with Luc Baghadoust and Raoul Barbet, I mentioned how sharing the game with my teenage son sparked discussions about bullying, suicide, harassment, and so on. As the player, you must make decisions to help other characters in dire need. And you may even wonder if you would do the same in reality. If you found a classmate standing on a rooftop attempting to jump, would you intervene to save their life?

These are the types of conversations I started to have with my son, which then extended to my older sons. The next thing I knew, I was sharing my knowledge of the game with other parents; encouraging them to play with their kids.

Why should you play?

As parents of young teens, it's sometimes difficult to open a dialogue on such delicate issues. DONTNOD Entertainment has, perhaps unintentionally, created a platform that can do just that. Life Is Strange has something that most every teen can relate to. And a lot of them love that the game really makes them think about consequences in a way that they wouldn't otherwise.

"I’m being serious: this is the first time I’ve had to walk away from a game, due to the weight of what it was asking of me, and when it was all over I had to get out, take a walk and get some fresh air. I had to process what it was that I had gone through, what Max Caulfield had gone through. DONTNOD have given us quite possibly the best narrative experience a game has ever offered." - Nick Gillham, God is a Geek

The hand-painted graphics are absolutely stunning, but it is the story that surprised me. I play games all the time and share them with my boys. But Life Is Strange is the first game I wanted them to play so we could talk about it. That says a lot for a game to have that type of an effect. And other fans of the game are as passionate about it as I am. The Community Forum is quite active with conversation.

Luc mentioned to me that he wanted to approach Square Enix regarding a website aimed at helping teens dealing with tough issues. The site is called LifeIsStrange.com/Talks. Many teens have come forward expressing how Life Is Strange has affected them and how it helped them deal with issues they face.

Yes, the content is intense but it is woven in a story with compassion. The dialogue, aimed at teens, is real and forward-thinking. Bullying, suicide, drugs, and date rape are not easy content, and often come across as either naive or "promotional." But DONTNOD uses these ideas to craft a powerful, emotional, and moving story that truly penetrates your core.

Speak up

There are many parents who do not play games, but I definitely recommend Life Is Strange. It will help you understand the world in which teens are living, especially online. It tackles issues that we normally only see on the news, over social media, or even via text messages. Sharing this experience with your child, a niece, nephew, or other young person in your life can perhaps give you a chance to talk about these things in a comfortable setting.

As a gamer and mother of four, this is a must. Perhaps it will save a life, whether it be another child or your own.

Published Oct. 22nd 2015
View Comments
  • gabfran
    I have to agree with the author on all her points here. LiS is such a fantastic game and I honestly didn't think it would be. I don't play games like this typically but it was insisted that I play, so I did. I thought I'd be bored but I was wrong. The story was intense and captivating. The decisions had so much weight to them, it amazed me that it was a game.
    This is perfect for parents and kids to play to discuss about these topics nowadays. I'm quite surprised you (the author) don't have a lot of comments either. This game is changing lives as the author states and I couldn't agree more. DONTNOD deserved every award they've won thus far and yes other studios should sit up and take notes as you said so well Venisia.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you so much. I cried quite a bit playing myself. The final episode... just OMG!

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