Life is Strange

How Life is Strange Helped Me Cope With Loss

The therapeutic benefits of video games aren't often spoken of. How they can help us through the rough patches in our lives, is incredible.

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“No!” Max screamed, using her hand to reach out to Nathan Prescott in attempt to stop him from shooting the punk girl with the blue hair. Before she could finish, time stopped at a halt, and she was pushed back through the last half hour of her life, back at her desk.

“This can’t be real,” she said, panicking and looking around her, “if Victoria’s cell phone rings, then I know this is real.”

The phone rang. Oh, it rang all right. From there she was able to fix her day in class to her favor, and continue on to save the blue-haired punk girl, who she later came to realize, was her best friend Chloe Price. Max knew the power she discovered was useful, but also dangerous at the same time. That although she may have the power to save one life (like the bird, for example), these things come with consequences.

For those of you who have yet to play Life is Strange, the game is about a girl named Max, who moved back to her home town of Arcadia Bay from Seattle to finish high school. The game opens up with a scene of a tornado and intense storm over the city, and Max on top of a hill overlooking the town. She wakes up in her photography class, and later on discovers she has the ability to rewind time, and change the way her life plays out. She uses this ability to save her best friend’s life, and later realizes her dreams of the storm may be a premonition to the future soon to come.

Nathan Prescott and Chloe Price

The chaos theory, or the butterfly effect as some people know it, “is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected.” Basically, it is the science of “everything happens for a reason,” influenced by a series of chain reactions (ie., Johnny sneezed because Isabel took off her sweatshirt). Some people find the chaos theory a way of coping with loss, and depression over certain events or factors in one’s life. In the game, Chloe talks to Max about how her time altering superpower affects chaos theory. If Max says something wrong, and isn’t pleased with the results, she can rewind, go down a different path, and her life is then changed in drastic ways.

I found out what happened on the drive home from Coachella. My friends and I stopped in Bakersfield to eat dinner, and my mother text me that “we need to talk,” and that “it was crucial I called her as soon as possible.” I had assumed my bed-ridden grandmother had passed. I was expecting to have that conversation with her, cry a little bit, and move on. My grandmother has been suffering from Huntington’s Disease for over a decade now, and part of me was hoping her suffering was over. Unfortunately, this was not the case. It was the opposite of what I had expected.

Baba and Deda
My grandparents at a restaurant, probably 30+ years ago.

I had stepped outside to take the call, just in case what I had expected was about to happen. I would rather be alone outside than in a public place when the bad news hit.

“When did it happen?” I asked, the second my mother answered the phone.

There was a long pause before she answered.

“It was this morning. But there is something you need to know.”

Another pause. I was still expecting some sort of closure on the death of my grandmother.

“It wasn’t your grandmother.”

At that very moment in time, I felt a deja vu, similar to what happened when Max tried to stop Nathan [from killing Chloe]. For me, time had frozen. Everything around me went quiet, and the only thing I heard was the sound of my blood pumping through my ears. My screams fell silent as I watched my friend Jorge run out of the restaurant in what seemed to be slow motion. My mother’s voice became more and more distant, and my entire body fell numb as I leaned against the trunk of my car for support.

Simultaneously, I felt feelings of panic, sadness, denial, and anger. The only thing I could think about was going back in time, and having one last phone call to try and save him, or to go visit him one more time before my road trip. I wanted to believe it was possible. For the first time in my life, I truly wanted life and time to stop, and not start again until I was ready for it.

Chloe Price

Life is Strange taught me a couple good lessons about life. The first lesson was that we, as normal humans on this Earth, do not get a second chance [in terms of our words and actions]. Every little thing — whether holding a door open for an elderly person, standing up for a waitress at a restaurant or keeping up with your car’s maintenance—matters. Every word, every action.

The other important lesson I learned from the game, is all actions, whether good or bad, do carry consequences. Spending a week and a half with my mother, legalities, and my insane family, I experienced a lot of insight on how my actions and words could help me for the better, or knock me to rock bottom. As I mentioned in my previous editorial about the cultural accuracy of Life is Strangemy mother and I have a very rocky relationship. This was put beyond the test in this very difficult time for both of us.

My mother and I hugged, cried, screamed, argued, and almost engaged in actual fist fights. The day of the funeral, we got into a heated argument in the garage, which resulted in me storming out of my [grandparent’s] home. Emotional and outraged, I fled past all three of my aunts, my uncle, and grandmother without saying goodbye. I yelled at one of my closest friends to get in the car, without any consideration for their feelings at all and on that ride home, I had a mental breakdown.

I decided to have a conversation with my mother as a way to put my feelings out on the table. A conversation on why I never opened up, why I made certain life changes, and why I didn’t appreciate the way she treated me in certain situations.  I wanted her to somewhat understand where I was coming from. Unfortunately for both of us, not an ounce of mutual understanding occurred that day.

Chloe and David
The relationship between Chloe and David is very similar to the one my mother and I had when I was Chloe’s age.

After this argument, I did a lot of hard thinking. I was at the point where I truly realized what had happened, had happened, and there was no changing that. I will not be able to go back in time and hear Deda’s (Serbian word for grandfather) voice again. I would not be able to call him Sunday morning to warn him of what was to come. I would not be able to stop any of it, prepare myself, or make myself somehow okay with it. That was all out the window.

In 2012, I put myself through a course to become a certified interrogator. Through the course, I was taught how to analyze and look at people differently with more accuracy. The course helps you analyze conversation and body language to make the right decisions in what you, as the interrogator, are to say and do next. Unfortunately, I cannot go into to many specifics about the course, but it got me thinking about Life is Strange. 

In the game, you are given time to select actions or dialog options. In real life, I unfortunately cannot rewind if I don’t like my choice, but, my skills as a certified interrogator have helped me make educated guesses in what certain actions may result in my choices. This thought process has helped me grow up. I knew that now was the time, more than ever, to start truly thinking about my words and actions before I commit to them.

Life is Strange and the loss of my grandfather, together, matured me in ways unimaginable. The game helped me self-reflect; I was able to calm myself down, and think rationally when speaking to my mother. My mother and I don’t get along, but because of the experience I’ve had with Life is Strange, for the first time in a long time, we were able to. I stopped, thought about her possible reactions to certain words, and formed what I said around that.

The loss of a family member is not easy. Not just emotionally, but the laundry list of tasks you have to take on if the assets are left to you, are nearly infinite. It has been a month since his death, and I’m still knee-deep in paperwork, tasks, attorneys, and bank statements. The way Life is Strange shows the player the importance of time in doing certain things helped me plan my days, and prioritize certain things with the consequences of doing one thing before the other in mind.

Grandpa's birthday
January 2nd, 2015 – I surprised my grandpa at work with a bag of treats and cake for his 78th birthday. I’m so glad I decided to do this.

Video games have helped a lot of us get through tough times in our lives. Uncharted 2 came out when my grandmother first became bed-ridden and diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. Playing Uncharted 2 helped me escape from the realities of life temporarily, and adventure through the gorgeous scenery and secrets of Tibet.

I got my first XBox 360 in college when I was dealing with anxiety, depression, and severe weight gain. My friend Erin loaned me his copy of Mass Effect 1 and 2, which became my therapy. I would reward myself with Mass Effect after a good workout, and once my weight was really under control, it replaced my medications and mental breakdowns. Tekken was always, and will always be my outlet for anger.

Not everyone can relate or will understand the therapeutic value of gaming, and that’s okay. You may be reading this asking yourself, “why is this woman I’ve never met opening up about this deep, personal subject?” I’m doing it to hopefully shine awareness on this, and to let you know it is safe to open up about it too.

My team here at The Koalition, and so many of you on Twitter have been incredibly supportive of this rough time in my life. I have no words to describe how much this means to me, and how much of a help everyone has been. I would be a lot worse off without all of you, so thank you. I want to give a shout-out to Susan Arendt, Marcus Beer, Dianna Lora, Cynthia, Jake, and Tony Polanco for helping me through the darkest times. You are all beautiful reminders that this industry is a family.

Have video games helped you a tough patch in your life? If you are okay with telling your story, please share in the comments. I would love to hear your story, and I’m sure all of you want assurance that you are not alone.

About The Author
Tatjana Vejnovic
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