Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2 Episode 3.
It looks like one Indie video game company and their flagship series are leading the charge for LGBTQ representation in gaming.
This past Thursday (May 9), Life is Strange 2 released the latest episode in the episodic anthology game series. The story follows brothers, Sean and Daniel Diaz, as they go on a long trek from Seattle, Washington to Puerto Lobos, Mexico. But along the way, older brother Sean realizes that he not only has to raise and protect his younger brother but also figure out why Daniel suddenly has force powers.
Episode 3 sees the boys stopping into California and taking up an illegal job at a weed farm. While there, they meet several fun and dynamic characters. Two of whom, Sean can romance. While many fans correctly assumed that Sean could romance the quick-tongued guitarist Cassidy, others were excited to discover a potential romance with the messy but sweet leader Finn.
Max and Chloe (And Warren)
Part of fan excitement over this development is based on this showing Life is Strange’s and Dontnod’s, the developing company, continued support of LGBTQ stories, visibility, and players.
The first Life is Strange followed childhood friends Max and Chloe as they reunite after being separated for years. The girls then explore Max’s new time rewinding powers while investigating a mystery in their town.
But on top of the overall plot, there was also the factor of deciding the type of relationship held by the girls. It was undeniable that Max and Chloe were special to each other. That said, the player could make choices to evolve Max and Chloe’s relationship to a romantic one. Life is Strange then gained fame for placing a lesbian relationship at the center of its storyline.
Though, players didn’t have to go that route. For players who preferred to see Max and Chloe as close friends in a platonic relationship, they could play that out. Plus, there was the addition of a second, though much smaller, option. The player character Max could instead choose to return the feelings of her classmate and friend Warren.
This “choose your preferred gender of attraction” dynamic is not new to gaming. RPG games such as Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect and farming games like Stardew Valley and My Time At Portia include the option of picking male or female characters to romance. But, those games often take on a “playersexual” aspect of having any character be willing to date the player.
Life is Strange, however, simplifies it by giving you one male and one female option who’re still dynamic and realized characters.
Sean and Finn
Then, Dontnod announced that the second game in the Life is Strange series would focus on a new set of characters and situations. Fans of the Max and Chloe romance were upset but hopeful for a story including some sort of LGBTQ factor.
As the game came closer to release, co-director Raoul Barbet lightly touched on the issue while talking to Eurogamer:
“We were extremely happy with the reception from the LGBT community for the first game, in the ending, in the way you were working your relationship with Chloe. We really hope with Sean and Daniel, we hope everybody – most of the players – will really love the themes we are dealing with and you’ll have to see what happens over the course of the season… We are here to talk about a lot of different characters. We want to be inclusive and to work in the best way possible to deal with real subjects in a sensible way.”
As much as that’s a non-answer, fans were excited to find the truth with the release of the game’s third episode. In it, players have the option of having Sean pursue a romance with the rebel-with-a-heart Finn.
In terms of these actual characters, there is some controversy over how the relationship comes together. Especially since the kiss scene is blocked by a major decision for the player. That said, most fans were excited at the mere inclusion of another same-sex romance. And this time, a gay male one.
While the gaming world has continued to support lesbian romance and characters, due to their palatable nature for male gamers, Life is Strange has given us male same-sex romance to savor. In addition, they did so with two complex and commanding characters within the episode (controversial decisions aside).
— 𝙨𝙤𝙛𝙞𝙖 🃏 (@bkgkthluv) May 10, 2019
Life Is Strange & Bi-Visibility
Perhaps one of Life is Strange’s most commendable achievements is its support of LGBTQ storytelling and visibility. While the first game placed a lesbian romance at the center of its story, the second game gives players a more subtle yet still compelling option.
“Episode 3: Wastelands” sees multiple LGBTQ characters. Not only is there the FinnxSean romance, but there’s also the inclusion of side-character Penny’s backstory. During the episode’s events, Penny tells of a missing friend. He includes the line, “I think I might have loved him” while explaining his journey to find the missing man.
In addition, Finn was depicted to be bisexual in the episode. Not only does he show an interest in the main character, but he shoots down a sexual invite from friend Hannah. This interaction showed that Finn is interested in women, and regularly engages with at least one, and not just men.
In addition, playable character Sean has an adorable train of thoughts after kissing Finn, assumedly his first male crush. Moments after the kiss, Sean thinks, “Wow. That was wild. I never thought I could actually do it, but I’m glad I did. I kind of want to do it again. Okay, shut up.”
It’s this conversation that shows the true heart and core of the Life is Strange series. While the series’ stories merge the fantastical with the intense and depressing side of life, they also seek to depict the true human experience. These stories are coming-of-age stories about youth discovering themselves and the world around them. These thoughts by Sean show a man discovering a new side of himself that he’d never considered. They show a realistic portrayal of a young man exploring his sexuality and his attraction/admiration of another boy. And that is why so many people, and especially LGBTQ people, adore this series.
Max, Sean, and LGBTQ-Supportive Gaming
The world of gaming is still a mixed pot of experiences, but it looks like LGBTQ inclusion is on the rise. Not only are there more and more stories including gay or lesbian characters in supporting roles, but some series, like The Last of Us, are making them the leads. That aside, there’s only one series that’s continually inclusive to bisexual characters.
Life is Strange and Dontnod are at the top of their game. The series continues to give us fun and dynamic characters while enticing us with moving storylines. But for LGBTQ fans and fans of LGBTQ media, Life is Strange’s inclusion of bisexual options and same-sex romance sweetens the pot.
We are currently at an emotional high with the Life is Strange series, and we hope that high will last for many episodes (and following games) to come.