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 installment in the series, True Colors, 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?

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In gameplay footage shown during today’s Square Enix Presents, we saw True Colors 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 realizes, 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.

DISCUSSION

kamaireturns
Ka Mai uses a burner 'cause he hates social media

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.

I think it’s important to remember that while those feelings seem melodramatic and silly in retrospect, they’re no less real the the anxieties or feelings you have today. Our scale of experience never really changes. We just jam more experiences into it. On one end is the worst thing that ever happened to you. On the other end is the best. When a worse thing than the worst thing happens, it doesn’t extend the scale in that direction. It just pushes the previous worst thing further toward the middle. Same with the “best thing” end of the scale.  What seemed terrible or amazing when you were young has been pushed toward the center by later experience.

What’s important to remember, though, is that the previous “worst thing” was still the worst thing when it happened, and so the feelings that came with it when it was the worst thing that ever happened to you are completely valid. Of course you felt terrible. It was the worst thing that ever happened to you. The fact that something worse happened to you later doesn’t invalidate the feelings you had then.  They’re just as real, and just as justified.