New studio, new heroine, but still the same attraction for poignant stories: the series of video games “Life is Strange” returns in a new opus which always gives pride of place to LGBT + characters.
Subtitle True Colors, this narrative game proposes to play as a young woman, endowed with the power to feel the feelings of others, who is investigating the death of her brother in a small town in Colorado. Depending on the story and their choices, the player will be able to form friendships and develop a romance with several protagonists, regardless of their gender.
“We really wanted to continue highlighting gay characters in Life is Strange,” explains Jon Zimmerman, narrative director at Deck Nine Games, the studio behind this episode.
Launched in 2015 by the French of DontNod, the first “Life is Strange” has sold more than three million copies. The critically acclaimed game impresses with its sensibility and believable portrayal of LGBT + characters. “For me, Life is Strange marked a turning point ”, testifies Mai Torras, developer in a studio in Buenos Aires and fan of the series. “In 2015, I had not yet done my coming out. The game has allowed me to achieve a lot of things about myself. Feeling represented is important. ” It will be followed by a second opus in 2018.
Represent the company
For Life is Strange: True Colors, the Japanese publisher Square Enix has entrusted the license to the Americans of Deck Nine Games. The studio was already behind Before The Storm, a prequel to the original game released in 2017. To tackle these topics, “it’s one of the most difficult things to do,” Jon Zimmerman says, “because it can be related to trauma or pain.” Long confined to independent games, LGBT + characters appear more and more in big productions, like Ellie in The Last of Us: part II, one of the video game blockbusters of the year 2020.
But not all have done so well: in 2018, the Ubisoft studio offered players the possibility of a homosexual relationship in the latest episode of its flagship license: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. A choice finally canceled in favor of a heterosexual relationship. Faced with the controversy, the creative director had to apologize.
“I think that there are more and more creators of video games who realize that they have an impact on society and that it is necessary to represent society as it is” analyzes Elizabeth Maler, co-author of A Normal Lost phone, a French game published in 2017 which addresses the theme of transidentity. However, this desire for openness also comes up against the reluctance of certain players.
“I do not play video games so that they inflict on me the ideology of others” can one read for example on the page comments devoted to Life is Strange: True Colours on Steam, an online sales platform.
“It can be risky to talk about these subjects in games,” says Elizabeth Maler. “There are people who will hate it and who will write negative notes. Except that the ratings on Steam, it is the sinews of war, it will completely influence the algorithms and our visibility ”. And while many studios are trying to include more diversity in their games, it is not necessarily found within development teams. “We remain in an industry which is very sexist, which can be racist, validist (people who make disability an inferiority)” laments Elizabeth Maler, who founded in 2019 Abiding Bridge, a small video game publishing house that supports independent creators.
Still, with this new episode, Deck Nine Games wants to continue to dig the furrow of representativeness. “I like the idea of being at the forefront of what games can offer, and seeing how players react,” says Jon Zimmerman. Pop folk soundtrack, pastel-toned graphics, peaceful rhythm, this opus follows like a good series, following the tracks of its predecessors. A universe that will extend beyond video games since Life is Strange should soon be adapted into a television series. Life is Strange: True Colors is available on PC, PS4 / PS5, Xbox One / Series, Stadia, and late 2021 on Nintendo Switch.
Writing with AFP