“Are the two teenage girls who star in Life Is Strange falling in love?
Or are they just two teens sharing a chaste flirtation that will never go anywhere? There have only been three episodes of this game so far, and although I’ve been rooting for these two, I can’t tell yet whether their relationship will ever go beyond queer-baiting. Queer-baiting refers to how mainstream media creators might include a homosocial relationship that never goes beyond flirtation and heavy implication. This is an attempt to impress progressive audiences without alienating homophobic people. Playing it safe in this fashion doesn’t really work, though, because it frustrates the heck out of people who crave true representation and are expected to settle for subtext.
Here’s a very mild spoiler for the most recent episode of Life Is Strange: it features a kiss between the two girls, except this kiss is played off as a “joke” between them. Also, Chloe finally admits to having a “crush” on her missing female friend, Rachel Amber, but she remains vague about whether the two of them had a relationship. Even the word “crush,” in context, could be construed as innocuous.
In other words, I have no idea whether I should be crediting this game for including a romance between two women, or shaking my head in frustration. I’ve been doing both in turns, in much the same way that I did for 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot. The relationship between Lara and her best friend Samantha had a lot of subtext, but the game doesn’t end with a kiss—not even a joking one.
In a Kill Screen interview about the game, lead writer Rhianna Pratchett said: “There’s part of me that would’ve loved to make Lara gay. I’m not sure [the game’s developer] Crystal would be ready for it! But we’ve not spoken about it directly, either…”