Life is Strange spins superb story through symbolism

Life Is Strange is a five-part episodic story-based choice and consequence game that allows players to rewind time that affects the past, present, and future. Released in 2015, the style the creators used to animate the characters is timeless, and the themes are universal keeping the game relevant eight years later. I love all of the theories surrounding the game and I decided to explore some of them myself.  

The main character, Max Caulfield, obtains rewind powers in the school bathroom after she witnesses her best friend, Chloe Price, get shot. Every time Max reaches her hand out, she is able to rewind time and change the course of events that happen throughout the game. However, her rewind powers may not be as great as they seem; there are strange weather phenomena that occur leading up to the finale of the game, building suspense for the player. At the end of the game, Max has to choose between saving Arcadia Bay, the town they live in, or saving Chloe. 

The main symbols that are discussed within the fandom are the animals, specifically, what they represent and which character they are associated with. 

The blue butterfly is featured in the game multiple times and is the most influential symbol. Most people believe it represents a butterfly effect of the choices throughout the game. The color blue is associated with both the butterfly itself and Chloe, as she has blue hair.

There is also a poster of a blue butterfly in Chloe’s empty room within an alternative timeline and they appear as part of a pattern on Chloe’s boots. 

The only entry in Max’s nightmare journal features a drawing of a butterfly with Chloe’s head coming out of it, showing that Chloe is the center of all of the player’s choices throughout the game. 

Butterflies are a symbol of rebirth and are utilized in multiple scenes in which Chloe dies but comes back to life. In the ‘Sacrifice Chloe’ ending, a blue butterfly lands on Chloe’s coffin, representing the final destination of where the player’s choices have led. 

Though the butterfly is the dominant symbol throughout the game, the doe also plays a role in connecting the characters and the storyline. 

One of the many theories surrounding the doe is it doe is the spirit of Rachel Amber, who was tragically murdered by both Mark Jefferson, the photography teacher, and Nathan Prescot, a wealthy brat who thinks he can do whatever he wants. This is mostly because the doe appears over her burial site and then once again when Rachel’s body is discovered. 

I believe the doe is simply Max’s spirit animal sent to guide her through her whole time-travel ordeal. It leads her to the burial site days before the discovery of the body and bows its head in peaceful reverence for the dead when Max and Chloe find the body. 

Due to the doe T-shirt designs that Max wears, she has even more connections to this animal. Another fact that lends support to this theory is that the doe seems immune to Max’s rewind power. The doe guides Max on two occasions, during the lighthouse climb in the final scene of Episode 1 and during a short part of her nightmare in Episode 5. Max’s personality traits fit better with the doe as her spirit animal than Rachel’s, leaving Max as the more likely fit for the doe as a spirit animal.

In addition to the animal symbols, the game uses other items that are less explored by the fandom such as Chloe’s necklace. Though this symbol is less popular, however, I have come up with my own theory. The necklace consists of three gold bullet shells strung across a piece of thin black leather. 

I think that the bullets represent each of Chloe’s inevitable deaths throughout the game. The first one is in the school bathroom at the beginning of the game where Nathan Prescot shoots her in order to cover up the bad things his family is doing. 

The second death is when she uncovers Rachel Amber’s body and Mark Jefferson shoots her. 

The third happens if the player chooses to sacrifice Chloe to save Arcadia Bay from the hurricane. Although there is another scene in which Chloe dies as she shoots a bottle and it bounces back to her, this death is avoidable if the player chooses not to do the actions that lead up to that scene.

Though the storyline, art, and gameplay are enough to make Life is Strange one of my favorite games, the addition of little details and symbols propel it to a level unmatched by most other games on the market.