A new trailer for Life Is Strange: True Colors shown at Square Enix’s E3 2021 presentation today spotlighted main character Alex’s psychic abilities of empathy. But for developer Deck Nine, Alex’s ability to fully feel and understand the emotions of others is heavily grounded in reality, despite being enhanced by the supernatural.
Deck Nine explains their definition of empathy, and the connections between Alex’s supernatural powers and real, challenging expressions of human emotion.
Speaking to IGN ahead of the reveal, narrative director Jon Zimmerman says that the team — which previously worked on Life is Strange: Before the Storm — already saw the idea of empathy as a core component of the series. True Colors just allowed them to make that even more explicit as a plot device.
“As a writing team coming off of Before the Storm, we had been very fixated and fascinated with the question of how games serve as an engine for engendering empathy in players by placing them in the shoes of their protagonist — by having them see the world through someone else’s eyes,” Zimmerman says. “From the fan feedback that we got from an incredibly wide range of people talking about what it was like for them to be Chloe, to inhabit that point of view.”
Deck Nine then followed that rabbit hole further, landing on the idea of a main character that was an empath, embodying the volatility and difficulty of feeling the feelings of others while also having an unprecedented opportunity for intimacy and connection with those in their life. As shown in the trailer today, not only does Alex have insight into the true feelings of those around her, but she appears to be able to take those feelings on. That means, depending on the player’s choices, Alex could relieve the anger or sadness of others at the cost of having to manage it herself.
Those big empathy moments, says producer Rebeccah Bassell, are comparable to a big musical number in a musical production. “It’s a moment where it’s a suspension of reality, where something is so great and intense that it has to be shown in this magnificent, fantastical way, because it’s the only way to make sense of it.”
While other Life Is Strange protagonists have had their supernatural powers grounded in real feelings and desire as well, Alex’s ability to connect with emotions perhaps has a more explicit link with the real, human ways in which people experience feelings. Bassell tells me that one of her favorite things about True Colors was that it gave Deck Nine an opportunity to show off the nuances of empathy, and specifically define it as something more profound than just “feeling your feelings.”
The News Highlights
- True Colors Team Sees Games as a ‘Engine for Engendering Empathy’ – E3 2021 Life Is Strange: True Colors Team Sees Games as a ‘Engine for Engendering Empathy’
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