I Feel You, Life Is Strange Teen

I Feel You, Life Is Strange Teen
Gif: Deck Nine / Kotaku

I haven’t played any of the Life is Strange games, because I have no nostalgia for my teenage years. Today’s trailer for the next instalment in the series, True Colours, with its moody acoustic cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” has only reaffirmed my desire to leave my past in the past. How were any of us ever teenagers?

In gameplay footage shown during today’s Square Enix Presents, we saw True Colours protagonist Alex Chen pick up an acoustic guitar and play a passionate, thoughtful version of Radiohead’s 1993 hit. The camera pans over a framed photograph of her family as she whispers “I wish I was special.” Her voice wavers as she sings “But I’m a creep;” her eyes close as she sings “But I’m a weirdo,” certainly thinking of her empathic powers. “I don’t belong here,” she realises, as the clip ends.

It’s a pretty cover, for sure. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Ellie’s cover of “Take On Me” in The Last of Us Part II, with both characters seeming to feel their way, in real time, through songs whose words are so permanently etched in the brains of people my age that they’ve lost meaning. A full version of “Creep” posted by the singer behind Alex, mxmtoon, is higher energy than the in-game version. It’s cool to hear the song sung by someone other than a tortured cis guy moaning out his pain in that cliche ‘90s grunge voice. In a press release, mxmtoon said of recording the song, “It’s nerve-wracking to make your own version of such an iconic and established song, but ‘Creep’ is a classic and I had so much fun being able to put my own spin on it.”

A classic! “Creep” is a song I completely forget about until I hear it somewhere, at which point I remember, in full cringing glory, how passionately I sang along to its inane words in the ‘90s, sitting in my car in the high-school parking lot, overcome with suburban drama I can now barely recall. So much time has passed since then, but today’s presentation reminded me that the ‘90s may be gone, but teens still feel like creeps and weirdos who want perfect bodies and perfect souls, unaware that they’ll only have about 10 years of good body in their 20s before it all starts going downhill.

I’m as embarrassed for Alex’s passionate rendition of the song as I am my own passion for the original, how it spoke to my soul the way music does to teens. I can’t believe I had so many feelings that felt like such big deals, so unaware that in my adulthood, I’d have less feelings but they’d all be way more serious, so much more complicated and full of consequences. My personal music tastes are permanently stuck in the ‘90s; I still make everyone shut up when The Get Up Kids come over the bar jukebox, and the furthest I’ve gotten into music released in the past — oh god — decade is Julien Baker, whose sober religious yearnings are relatable to my late-30s life. Watching a young person take what I can now see is a completely ridiculous song so seriously is a reminder that, while so much changes, there’s something about being a teen that never does.

As the world hurtles toward the joint catastrophes of climate change and capitalism, it’s relieving that teens will always be teens, feeling way too much and having those feelings all over the place. Enjoy cringing at the YouTube video of your recording in 10 years, Alex Chen. I know how you feel.


  • I love Radiohead, and like the band themselves more or less hate the song, but generic 90s grunge voice seems harsh.

    Leaving that aside though the discomfort of looking at characteristics and mannerisms I probably shared with the characters of Life is Strange is a big part of the appeal for me. It is uncomfortable at first, and Chloe’s dialogue in the first game will never be good on any objective level, but there is some joy and sincerity to be found inbetween the awkward moments too.

    My memories of being a teenager are mostly terrible with untreated depression and anxiety issues dominating them, but in capturing the darker bits too at least the first LiS managed to celebrate the small moments of intensity I do somehow miss as an adult.

    Whatever awkward moments you have to trudge through to get to those moments are well worth it, and while I doubt this new game will match the first, I’m still keen to give it a try.

    • nothing will match the first. they made a game. these days they dont make games they make “inclusive” and “diversity” checkpoints and then build something around that.

      • Am I supposed to read this as ‘the new protagonist isn’t white so it’s going to be bad’? What the hell are the quotation marks around inclusive and diversity supposed to mean? How would an attempt to be inclusive hurt the status of the game as a game?

        Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but whenever I see a ‘games are too political now’ line I am really dissappointed. I’m especially dissappointed to see it come from someone who seemingly liked the first LiS. Everything is, and was, political – the first LiS certainly was too. Nothing has changed aside from the specifics of what is considered acceptable or desireable (which even then haven’t changed all that much since the first LiS).

        • “Everything is, and was, political – the first LiS certainly was too. ”
          No. No its not.
          Nobody but twitter users believe this, no matter how many times its spewed out by people who want it to be so because the people they support put their politics into everything just like they do and then whinge because something happens in a story that goes against their politics.
          Just like sometimes, the protag not being a white male, doesnt mean its a checkbox for“inclusive” and “diversity”.
          Sometimes things do exist in a vaccum of what the author wanted to do.

          LIS2 Still sucks though.

          • LiS was politically a product of its time that absolutely made statements about what its creators wished to see (and continue to see, and didn’t wish to see etc), as is everything anyone makes that has deliberate choice behind it. I think that’s undeniable. Consider the assisted dying argument that remains controversial today – the game explicitly asked you to make an ethical decision in that framework. See also statements about health care, sexual assault, treatment of veterans, teacher / student power dynamics or drug use. The whole game is packed with political and ethical statements and opinions that are hardly subtle. Perhaps you might argue ethics aren’t politics, but politics are essentially applied ethics and every political policy has roots in ethics.

            You don’t need to be so obvious as LiS 2, but not being so obvious doesn’t meant there aren’t political underpinnings to any and likely all of the creative decisions made in the production of any medium. Politics aren’t so simple or reductive as red or blue, socialist or fascist.

            Incedentally I totally agree that a non-white protagonist isn’t just a checkmark for diversity or inclusivity (still think the quotation marks are a bit weird), which was what I thought so off-base about lawlorz’ comment, but the idea that any decision for anyone in any situation, but especially one in a big company working with another studio’s license would be making any decisions in a vaccum is ridiculous. No one ever operates in a vaccum and anyone that claims they do is either a liar (knowingly or otherwise) or they’re just flipping coins and rolling dice (and thus not actually making decisions).

            Everyone, even the staunchest a-political centrist is influenced by the politics they hold, even if they don’t think they do. I legitimately don’t understand why ‘everything is political’ is controversial to anyone. But hey, I guess I’m just a ‘twitter user’ right?

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