Jay Castello
Freelance Writer
jaymcastello@gmail.com
@jayplaysthings

On Reactions to Life is Strange

People are entitled to their feelings on a game. Particuarly, fans are entitled to their reactions to Polarized.

Yes, Luc Baghadoust, producer of Life is Strange posted a tweet saying he was sad about some of the reactions. However, there are a bunch of problems in using this to call out people who are vocally disappointed by Episode 5.

Firstly, he specifically mentioned several professional review sites, and stated that he was upset that they said that it was “one of the worst games of the year.” This is honestly really weird, because IGN and GameSpot, which he mentioned, seem to have given LiS between 3 and 4 stars out of 5. All three sites he mentioned critiqued episode 5 harshly compared with the other episodes, but never did they call it one of the worst games of the year. So that’s weird in the first place.

Secondly, many other review sites gave LiS extremely high praise, so Baghadoust needn’t focus on these negative reviews. Sure, take their criticisms on board, but he knows that the game was well received in other critical spheres.

Thirdly, these review sites are a completely different thing from the fans of the game. There could have been absolute silence from the fans regarding Episode 5’s ending and Baghadoust still would have posted that tweet.

But, the fans weren’t silent. They were, overall, disappointed. So they expressed themselves online. This is how commercial acclaim works at the moment – everyone has access to a platform on which they can make their thoughts known. As far as I know no one was tweeting directly at Baghadoust or the other devs, telling them that their game sucks. They were just expressing what they saw as the flaws in it on their personal platforms.

Moreover, most people I’ve seen talking about it (myself included) have said that LiS is still a great game. On top of that, their criticisms are made more valid as they often revolve around LiS’s falling into the “hide/bury your gays” trap. In other words, they failed their queer fans. Their queer fans who are constantly failed by the media. They also often point out plot holes, bad pacing, the lack of meaningful choices etc., which I think are less crucial but are still important parts of writing. It’s constructive criticism, and it’s important for Baghadoust and the rest of the devs so that they can grow as content producers and as people.

I understand why Baghadoust might be upset by the fans’ disappointment, but in no way has he been harassed or unduly attacked. The criticism seems widespread purely because there are a large number of people invested in LiS, almost all of them have a platform and voice, and many of them wanted to share their thoughts accordingly. There are a lot of people saying the same thing about the ending, certainly. But no one is directly harassing the developers, as far as I can tell.

Yes, the devs worked really hard on this game for two and a half years and went through a lot of struggles to bring it to us. I’m very grateful to them for that, and I respect them very highly. That doesn’t absolve them from criticism at all. I understand and empathise with their stress, and no one likes to be told that they didn’t live up to expectations. But as long as no one is directly attacking the people who made it, sharing an opinion isn’t harming anybody. In fact, it’s part of a positive conversation that’s moving the industry in the right direction.

Finally, (and on somewhat of a tangent) plenty of people are saying that LiS might have run out of money and/or time to produce Episode 5, leading to the disappointing ending. That’s not really an excuse. It could have been delayed, which would have been disappointing in and of itself, but if the final product was that much better, it would have been worth it. It’s also ABSOLUTELY not the fans’ fault that the series struggled financially. It’s so, so sad that a story about two queer women didn’t sell well, but the people who enjoyed it aren’t to blame - it’s completely the opposite. Certainly, some people watched playthroughs rather than buying the game themselves, but those people are usually young people who don’t have that much disposable income. (The amount of people who wrote something to this effect in their tags when I did the LiS giveaway was amazing.) Yes, it would be great if everyone could buy the game, but blaming school-age fans is hardly addressing the root of the problem. Yes, it’s really upsetting that the community as a whole is so hostile to this kind of game and so it was financially and logistically difficult to produce, but each and every fan participated where they could. Watching playthroughs encourages video creators to make videos of these kinds of games, which works as basically free advertising, so it helps in its way. So does buying it twice and writing about it a bunch of times, which is what I did, but I’m in a privileged position in which I had the money and time to do so.

Anyway, TL;DR: Fans always, always have the right to speak their opinion in a respectful way, no matter if the content creators are upset, no matter how hard they worked or what constraints they faced. Life is Strange did a lot right and the devs should know that and be very proud, but they should also take constructive criticism on board, especially when it concerns hurting vulnerable sections of their fanbase. 

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