Maxine “Max” Caulfield is from the video game Life is Strange. Life is Strange is a choice-based and story driven adventure game. Max is a senior at the art school Blackwell Academy in Arcadia Bay. She wants to be a photographer and her Polaroid never leaves her side. Max takes a picture of anything that catches her interest. While she is not a popular student, Max is well respected by most of the other students at Blackwell. One student, Victoria, is constantly at odds with Max and always bullies her. One day, after her photography class with her professor Mr. Jefferson, Max witnesses Nathan Prescott, the rich golden child of the school and town, shoot and kill a girl who is later known to be Max’s old friend Chloe Price. After this happens Max is able to rewind time to back before her class ends and thus before the murder. After showing off her “advanced” knowledge to her class about the topic being discussed, Max goes and saves Chloe from death. This starts Max and Chloe’s epic journey to both figure out Max’s odd superpower and investigate the disappearance of Chloe’s friend, Rachel Amber. Max’s ability allows her to rewind recent time in order to alter the events of what had just happened.
Narratology is the study of how narratives are used to convey meaning and what techniques are used to tell a story. The narrative is made up of the story and the plot and as Peter Barry describes them in Beginning Theory “the ‘story’, being the events as they happen, has to begin at the beginning, of course, and then move chronologically, with nothing left out. The ‘plot’, on the other hand, may well begin somewhere in the middle of a chain of events, and may then backtrack, providing us with a ‘flashback’ which fills us in on things that happened earlier” (Barry 215). The story starts with Max preventing the murder of Chloe while the plot actually starts with Rachel Amber’s disappearance. After the first time Max sees Chloe die, Max prevents Chloe’s death by pulling the fire alarm to cause a distraction for her to get away from Nathan. Chloe is/is not murdered by Nathan as a result of her looking into Rachel, something that Max and the player by proxy find out later on in the adventure. Having Max as the narrator allows for the story to be told in real time and as time goes on, the plot starts to unfold for the player. This provides for a fluid and entertaining story where the person playing the game only knows as much as Max knows. Max’s time rewinding power influences the plot of the story because different events happen as a result of which choices are made in the dialogues between Max and the characters of the game. Some of these choices have little impact but some have very severe impacts on the plot of the game providing a very unique experience. This overall theme of the butterfly effect plays a huge role in the game.
The feminist criticism framework looks at how women are portrayed usually compared to men. Max challenges the typical theme of a male superhero with her ability to rewind time. Max uses her rewind to literally save lives (or decide not to). One scene that shows Max saving a life is towards the middle of the game, Kate Marsh, a student at Blackwell that is constantly bullied by Victoria and her friends, attempts to jump off of the roof of the dormitories. Max uses her rewind powers to get up to the roof and talks Kate to come down from the roof instead of jumping. This scene challenges the common male superhero saving lives idea.
Life is Strange provides a unique storytelling narrative by using Max to tell the story and uses the rewind powers to include alternate endings and events. This is heavily influenced by the idea of the butterfly effect. Max challenges the stereotypical male superhero by using her powers to save lives over the course of the game.