Transforming the Narrative: Hypertextuality and Player as Co-Creator in Life is Strange

Yılmaz S.

Ege University International Anglophone Studies Graduate Symposium (ASGRAD): "Transformation", İzmir, Turkey, 22 - 23 October 2018

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: İzmir
  • Country: Turkey


Literary theory and criticism have traditionally focused on the written text; however, this approach began to change with the invention of computers, which introduced a new narrative space and resulted in the production of hypertext fiction and video games. Some video games lend themselves to literary criticism easily because of the literary nature of their narrativity, and Life is Strange (LiS) can be regarded as a fitting example of such games. LiS is an interactive, intertextual and hypertextual narrative that takes place in a fictional town called Arcadia Bay. It allows the player/reader to influence the flow of events and what happens to the characters, change the plot, and decide how the game will end. The ability of the main character, Maxine Caulfield, to manipulate time not only works as a technical device to make the players see alternative realities in the narrative and decide between them, but also becomes a metaphor of hypertextuality as the player can travel between different possibilities that exist in a non-linear narrative space. The player’s position with regards to the gaming experience can be read in parallel with the readers’ position while reading a novel or a short story; however, the digital nature of the game produces different interactions between the author and the reader that cannot be found in printed texts, as the player (through Max) continually (re-/de-)constructs the narrative with her actions of reading and playing. As such, LiS can be considered as a literary work that has a fluid narrative which takes shape with the choices of the player, and immerses the player into the fictional world/text of the game through first-person gaming, which results in the disruption of the boundary between the player/reader (as co-creator of fiction) and character (as the subject of fiction). Hence, in LiS, the narrative can be transformed both metafictionally and within the fiction itself.