Animal Symbolism In Life Is Strange
This contains major spoilers for all five episodes of Life is Strange!
Video games have evolved from 8-bit pixels to cinematic milestones. Many of these games include immersive storytelling and detailed cinematography that can be analyzed and interpreted. Life is Strange, a game centered around how the story can be changed and altered, falls into this category. There are many minor details in this game that come together to make it even more interesting. In this article I will analyze and interpret the symbolism of different recurring animals throughout the game.
Life is Strange, developed by Square Enix, is about a girl named Max Caulfield, who discovers she can rewind time. With this strange power the player of the game rolls through the story making decisions and using the rewind to change them. The story is centered on unsolved mysteries looming around and a devastating future vision of a tornado Max experiences, all while she is traversing college and reunited with her best friend Chloe.
So remember all of those times you said “man, I wish I could just go back and change that one thing”? This is where you can see that happen.
Max and the Doe
The doe can easily be seen as Max’s spirit animal, when it appears in front of her it shows no sign of fear and doesn’t flee as a normal wild deer would. It would even appear transparent in some circumstances, showing Max the way. The doe is known to symbolize innocence and being in touch with life’s mysteries.
Max’s tie in with innocence can be seen with her change of clothing in the third episode. Up until then, Max is only seen wearing two shirts: a shirt that says “Jane” with a picture of a doe and another one that is just a drawing of a doe. This changes after Max commits her first crime, breaking and entering the school. From here on Max continues to commit more acts that may not be evil but aren’t innocent either and she never wears a doe shirt again.
The symbolization of the doe being in touch with life’s mysteries fits Max perfectly as the game begins with Max discovering a phenomenal ability and spends the rest of the game using it to solve other mysteries. From the first second we are introduced to Max, we see something abnormal, the tornado vision, and from then on Max is mixed up in everything else unexplained. She discovers her powers, Rachel Amber’s disappearance, other omens science can’t explain, what happened to Kate, and the secret Nathan has been keeping. This is all wrapped up in the title Life is Strange.
Chloe and the Butterfly
The butterfly symbolizes Chloe’s life. Besides the likeness of the color of the butterfly and Chloe’s hair, it pops up repeatedly when Chloe’s life is about to alter.
In the third episode Max has the option of drawing a butterfly next to the fire place, right before she affects Chloe’s life drastically by saving William. When Max returns to the present, this butterfly sketch can be viewed again. At this point the butterfly is not just Chloe’s literal life but the course of her life as well.
It appears in the fifth episode when Max can open her journal to find a drawing of Chloe with a butterfly body. This makes sense as at this point it is clear that she has been the main cause for Max’s rewinds, to the point in which a decision about her is the determining factor for the end of the game. This is seen when Max has the option to use the photo of the butterfly she took in the bathroom in episode one to ignore Chloe in danger and alter the ending.
Many people would argue that the butterfly was an emblem for the butterfly effect, as it is seen around significant events and is the icon that appears when choices with outcomes are made, but this can be tied in with the concept that the butterfly represents Chloe. As stated before, she has been the main cause for Max using her power and is the determining factor for the ending of the game, so all the other choices could be seen as another step leading up to Chloe’s fate.
Arcadia Bay and its Wildlife
The state of Arcadia Bay can be reflected by the condition of the wildlife surrounding it. As impending doom draws near, the birds, whales, and fish echo what is happening.
Throughout the game birds appear time and time again acting as omens everywhere. They are lying around dead and act unnatural. In episode five when Max is bouncing around a strange limbo she witnesses a flock of birds diving into the window leaving a mass of blood. At this point of the story the results of her changes to the timeline are showing critical results. Reality is warped and the end is nigh.
Multiple times in the game the player has the chance to talk to town’s people that will discuss the state of Arcadia Bay. Many will say there are no more fish left to harvest and therefore much of the town is withering away as fishing is the main career. In this instance a balance can be drawn between the sea life and the bay, as one dwindles so does the other.
This can be extended to the occurrences with the whales. Right after Max makes her second major time alter, saving William, whales are then seen washed up on the beach. Whales are seen again if the ending where she sacrifices the town is chosen, then a whale can be seen crushing Two Whales diner, ironic isn’t it. This shows that the animal life around the town does not just provide for the town, it is immersed in it as well.
Animals, Animals Everywhere
Like a wonderful story would, Life is Strange sticks with you, answering the burning questions while leaving fans aching for more. What is great and unique to the stories of video games is that the stories themselves can be actively explored by the player. Details can be left like bread crumbs and it is up to the individual to hunt them down along with going through the main quest. In this way the writing and cinematography of Life is Strange envelopes the audience in an in depth search for more game content, including figuring out how so many animals tie into such a rich tale.
There are a plethora of them throughout the game, popping up around the story and hiding in the background, carrying meanings and representations. Much of their symbolism is up to opinion and interpretation, but that makes the game all the more compelling. This is another way Life is Strange invites you to pick apart the adventure and delve into the story behind the story.
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