Being in high school sucks.
It is a point in life for self-discovery whilst also feeling like everyone is judging you for trying to discover that self. For sophomore neuroscience major Dylan McMurray, he felt disconnected at times with his high school peers. During that time, he discovered the video game “Life is Strange.”
“When I was a freshman in high school, I found this game called ‘Life is Strange,’” McMurray said. “This game has an emotional, story-driven gameplay which draws you in.”
To give a little context, “Life is Strange” takes place in Arcadia Bay, a small Pacific Northwest town at a private residency school called Blackwell Academy. In this game, you mostly follow the story of Maxine “Max” Caufield, a 12th-grade student who struggles to fit in.
This video game is a heavy choice-based experience adventure title where the player is exploring this environment and trying to understand some mysterious oddities happening in and around Arcadia Bay.
“I did not really know what I was going to do,” McMurray said. “I did not know what I wanted to do. With this game, it helped me realize I am not the only person who goes through stuff alone.”
Whilst this video game is a purely single player experience, McMurray felt a strong connection to the story this game created which helped him in understanding the struggles of going through high school and, eventually, college.
McMurray admires the choices one can make in “Life is Strange.”
“This game’s relatability relies on the choices you make,” McMurray said. “[‘Life is Strange’] is not like some games where you are following a linear story that is being fed to you over the course of gameplay. You are the one in control of the choices.”
Being able to decide his own destiny connected to his desire to carve out his own paths on the journey of life, which is what McMurray explained is the relatability of this game.
Part of the discovery for McMurray was discovering his passion for music.
“Growing up, music has been a huge part of my life,” McMurray said. “I have listened to pretty much everything and I feel like at that young age when I was trying to figure out who I was, I feel like [‘Life is Strange’] really influenced my music taste.”
The game’s soundtrack is important in the atmosphere and tone the game sets, opting to use a large variety of independent musician’s pieces throughout the work in ways to invoke a deeper emotional connection to the story.
“One of the songs I show to a lot of my friends is ‘Santa Monica Dream,’” McMurray said. “It’s a really great song that goes well with the game’s story.”
The concept of leaving something behind to start something new is a common theme between both the video game “Life is Strange” and the song “Santa Monica Dream.”
“This game has really influenced my music tastes and my exploration of the indie genre in music,” McMurray said.
These single player choice-based video games have been a huge draw for McMurray as he has grown older. They continue to press on as his favored experience for playing video games.
“I was working on campus over the summer,” McMurray said. “I ended up meeting my current girlfriend because of our common interest in games like ‘Life is Strange.’ I have a lot of friends here and back home who are really into massive multiplayer online games. I have not found a lot of people into the single player story games like I have been.”
Although McMurray and his friends have different interests in the kinds of games they enjoy, McMurray has not had trouble feeling like he is part of the community, especially knowing there are others who enjoy the games he also enjoys.
“Sometimes, it can be a little frustrating to have people who play different games from you because it is hard to explain those differences with one another,” McMurray said. “How I try to see it though is a conversation between genres of games rather than an attack against each other.”
McMurray hopes others would be willing to explore different types of games like how he has been opening up in both video game interests as well as his music interests.