If you, like me, love choose-your-own-adventure narratives that feel inherently female in perspective, 2015’s Life Is Strange is undeniably one of video gaming’s most interesting options.
The episodic game series followed the adventures of Max Caulfield, a photography student who witnesses the murder of her blue-haired punk bestie Chloe Price in the school bathroom at the hands of posh rich boy Nathan Prescot. Max discovers she has the ability to rewind time, and through a series of moral choices is forced to wrestle with what she can change and what she cannot, and unravel a mystery involving a series of missing young women.
The original five-episode series of games and the three-episode prequel Before the Storm both explore the difficulties of being a young woman finding yourself in really interesting ways by allowing players to choose how their narratives play out. However, a recent comic book sequel makes the interesting decision to follow the outcomes of just a single possible choice from the games.
Beware narrative spoilers for Life Is Strange if you have not played it.
This is the major choice that Life Is Strange: Dust decides to make canon and explore as a linear story.
Right off the bat, Life Is Strange: Dust is far more diverse in the design of its speaking characters, and far more explicit about verifying aspects of existing characters than the game series that preceded it. We’re introduced to a new group of friends, a band writing songs based around our protagonists, who are more diverse both racially and in terms of gendered presentation than anyone seen in Arcadia Bay’s swath of predictable character designs. It’s a small addition, but it really goes a long way to making the cast feel more inviting and interesting than those we lost in the destruction of the town left behind. The addition of a series of new types of female characters to the mix gives the comic a really varied and powerful female energy that permeates the work.
It’s clear that the comic’s creators are aware of the real-world impacts of the topics it is touching on, too, with some really important comments made about the disparity in repair efforts made across American towns based often on race, for example.
When compared to other video game stories about queer identity, such as Gone Home, the focus on life after you’ve run away into the sunset together rather than treating that as an endpoint really gives Dust’s story some much-needed grounding in reality, in spite of the story’s supernatural trappings.
The thing that stood out most to me about Life Is Strange: Dust, perhaps more even than the odd nature of having a linear sequel to one branch of a choice-based narrative, is the decision to make Max and Chloe’s sexuality and relationship status canon in said linear arc.
That said, the way Max and Chloe’s romance is portrayed in Dust is really charming and sweet. Watching punk rocker Chloe lead Max by the hand, or the playful teasing about how Max wouldn’t dare lie to her confident tattooed lady, offers a series of small moments in the comic that make their relationship, even outside of its eventual confirmation, feel very real and tangible.
While Life Is Strange: Dust only just manages to start exploring an interesting supernatural mystery story, it does a great job of fleshing out my preferred queer interpretation of my chosen ending to a choice-based game. It’s not going to be a read suitable for every Life Is Strange fan — if you chose to save the town rather than Chloe this might make for a slightly jarring read, but for me it offered the kind of direct, rather than implied, queer diverse female energy that I had always hoped the series would lean into.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.