There’s a reason that the most pervasive of viral videos are thirty second clips of cats meowing and running into walls, and that reason is very pertinent to the argument I want to get across.
After years of consuming questionable amounts of media, I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend begin to eclipse a great many narratives. A trend often labelled as Deep, Impactful, or the even more ubiquitous: Great Writing. Not to say these descriptors are incorrect, not in the least. In most cases, they’re probably true. A narrative can be deep, impactful, and well written, but it doesn’t make that narrative enjoyable.
The tone of a narrative should be able to encompass an array of emotions. A narrative may have a masterful grasp on anguish or loss, but is that really enough? Just because it makes you feel, does that mean you enjoyed it? Learned from it?
The Tragedy Trap
There’s something to be said about shock factor. It can be wonderful. It can be enticing. It can be totally overused.
In an effort to ditch the predictable, many games will opt for a route that ends up doing their own narrative a disservice. In the example of LiS, much of the game rides on the concept of choice. With the aide of Max’s time reversing powers, you can choose the outcome of almost anything to a shocking degree.
That said, there are a few outcomes you can’t reverse.
In Life is Strange, the removal of choice in its final hours, the resignation to a tragic destiny just for the sake of it, that’s when the game finally loses its edge.
“The Tragedy Trap” is not unique to LiS. Tragedy has been used for centuries in many mediums to further the narrative in a variety of ways. While it can be a useful plot tool, its redundant use can turn a story from dark to despairing. Sure, you’ll feel something―but, in the end, how valuable is your sadness?
Which brings me back to my point about cat videos.
Life, like any good story, has elements of both grief and joy. In a world cluttered by unnecessary tragedy, sometimes what matters is sitting down at the end of the day and cherishing what’s still innocent.
Like two friends, against all odds, making it out alive.
Like a pair of calicos falling down the stairs.
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You can find more of Celia’s ramblings at her blog, here.