If there is a team that firmly believes in the importance and value of the videogame narrative, that is undoubtedly Dontnod Entertainment. After the exploit of the first Life is Strange, which brought them to the headlines, the French guys have continued to experiment with different narrative solutions: from Vampyr to the next Twin Mirror, the studio continues its mission of virtual "storytellers", refining constantly his pen to propose faceted and intense stories. The second season of Life is Strange still in progress, follows the trail traced in the past, but at the same time it moves away, proposing themes and languages very different from those that characterized the adventures of Max and Chloe.
Sean and Daniel's on the road vicissitudes in today's America represent a training story in digital format, a metaphor on the problems of growth, which goes beyond the boundaries of the trivial distinction between "right" and "wrong" . Jean-Luc Cano and Michel Koch of Dontnod – scriptwriter and art director respectively of the game – describe to our microphones their creative vision, and the objectives they intend to pursue with the five episodes that will compose the narrative arc of Life is Strange 2. From what we have heard, the "road" taken seems definitely the right one.
Living in America
Everyeye.it : Life is Strange 2 has a similar structure and at the same time different from that of its predecessor. By removing the power of travel over time you have shaped a new ecosystem that is perfectly functional to your way of telling. What is your idea of supernatural and what is the true purpose of super powers for you?
Jean Luc Cano : When we started thinking about what Life is Strange 2 would have been, inevitably we have reasoned about what distinguishes the DNA of the series. Our saga is based on the characters, on social problems and, obviously, on supernatural elements. In the first Life is Strange the power to go back in time was connected to the weakness of Max, a protagonist who did not want to grow up.
The faculty to retrace our steps was a reflection of the possible choices she would have made. Also in LIS2 the power is linked to a weakness of Sean, but this time it is not him to possess superhuman abilities: Sean is in fact responsible for taking care of Daniel, to teach him to live. The fact that Daniel is possessed of superhuman qualities, in our intentions, is a metaphor for the problems of education, which embodies the main theme of the second season. Based on the way Sean will educate his brother, Daniel will use his talent in the right or wrong way. It is ultimately the same DNA that belonged to the first Life is Strange although differently declined. Both are part of the same poetics.
Everyeye.it In these new episodes we have come into contact with a new world and new characters, of which it is very easy to fall in love. What relationship do you have with your new protagonists? Was it difficult to separate you from Max and Chloe?
Michel Koch : We deeply love Max and Chloe. And it was not easy to separate us from them, even though we had already said everything. When you start working on such a project, you need to think about a lot of elements. You have to make sure that the player can identify with what you want to transmit as a developer. From the beginning we wanted to give Life is Strange 2 a different structure, and we chose this approach from " road movie ". In the first chapter we had only one area, Arcadia Bay dotted with many places to visit, but in the end they were always the same.
With the new adventure instead we want to surprise the player, and to do so we accompany him by the hand, to let him discover always different places. As you will see in the next episode, you will visit new places and many other characters. As for the new protagonists, we have chosen a younger age group for a precise narrative intent. Daniel is in that phase of growth in which he is still a child, during which the signs of his temperament and his will begin to appear. The task of forging it, and making it become the man who will be great, is up to the player.
Everyeye.it : Life Is Strange is a game with great narrative power. Why did you choose the archetype of the journey " on the road "? Did you draw any inspiration from literature or cinema?
Jean Luc Cano : The story of a story on the road has been useful to convey the sense of development of the protagonists, who learn their own " along the road " from their mistakes and continue on the journey to reach the goal. Let's go back to the topic of education. We are "educated" not only by our family, or by our friends, but also – in one way or another – by the whole society, by the people we meet, by those around us.
Daniel will be forged by Sean, but the latter will in turn be conditioned by the individuals he will come across in the progression.
Michel Koch : From the visual point of view inspired us by an American photographer, Mike Brodie who spent the first years of his career in the company of people who lived "on the road" , a sort of community in which children grew up and were educated. His shots have given us a remarkable creative twist for the creation of the atmosphere of Life is Strange 2 .
Jean Luc Cano : Even the cinema has inspired us so much. Such as the film Into the Wild by Sean Penn.
Everyeye.it : In terms of language, there has been a big change from the past. Friendship is always one of the elements of the story, but now the focus is more oriented towards family responsibilities, duties and respect: which objectives do you want to achieve by addressing similar issues?
Michel Koch : Compared to the past, here there is a greater attention to the family nucleus. Life is Strange 2 revolves around the concept of "rules": it is necessary to face the rules of parents, grandparents and society. In the first episode Sean is removed from what he knows and from his life, to start another one. I can not tell you what the future holds: but Life is Strange 2 is a story of formation and similar topics are part of the path.
Jean Luc Cano : As we grow up we need to make difficult choices. As in the first Life is Strange, there are no really right or wrong decisions: sometimes it is necessary to lie to allow Daniel to become an adult. It is a paradox that we wanted to tell. Go beyond the rules of society, transgress them to achieve a goal.
Everyeye.it : Why did you choose America as your backdrop for your stories? Episode after episode seems to descend deeper and deeper into the heart of American society, touching on contemporary problems. How deep do you want to push yourself? And do you believe that video games should be more "political" or more "critical" in regards to the society of our time?
Michel Koch : The reasons are mainly two. On the one hand, America is a vast place, full of stories to tell. We have grown up in France but have been constantly bombarded by American culture. In a certain way it is a "familiar" environment for many people. It is a place that lives of contradictions, where the struggle between Nature and Civilization begins: in it you can breathe many influences, many stories.
And this brings us to the second point: it is a choice also dictated by reasons of marketing and communication, because obviously setting the game in America has more flavor " mainstream " – if we want to define it – that helps in the diffusion of the product. Finally, to reconnect with the second part of the question, we are convinced that staging political and social problems in our games is extremely important. The videogame is a medium aimed at entertainment, but it is also a means to set up a reflection. Moreover, when you tell a story like ours, full of characters in which to identify yourself, it is also inevitable to stage issues of this kind, which offer a critical analysis of society and the environment in which the protagonists act.