The power of communities — Life is Strange

Video game communities have been around forever. It’s a place to share your game experience, make friends and create art, a place where you can feel at home. Even though there’s been a few controversies surrounding certain communities, I’d like to focus on the good ones. The goal was to pick a video game, find a few communities and interview them to see what they’ve accomplished together. A lot of groups works closely together with other groups to create a fantastic experience for fans. Some communities even work with game companies! How cool is that?

I decided to pick a game that’s very near and dear to my heart: Life is Strange. The game’s fanbase is so strong and passionate that it’s hard to miss their existence online. So without further ado, here’s the story of: Blackwell Podcast (Jamie, Joey, Sian & Zach), Life is Strange Fans (Chris & Mai) and Life is Strange World (Sara)! Enjoy!

Blackwell Podcast

@BlackwellPdcast (Twitter) / Homepage / Youtube Channel

Tell us a bit about yourself (or yourselves if you’re multiple people running the community). Who are you and where are you from?

Jamie — I’m Jamie and I’m one of the co-founders of the Blackwell Podcast. I’m in the UK and we’ve been running the podcast for almost 3 years now.

Joey — I’m Joey, I’m on the east coast of the US. I’m 30 years old, and currently studying computer programming; hoping to get into game development when I graduate college. I’m a co-owner along with Jamie, and I’ve been with the podcast since the beginning. I do audio editing for the show, as well as some general planning and liaison work.

Sian — I’m Sian and I live in England. I’ve been with the podcast for just over a year now I believe, but I knew Jamie before then and was a fan of the podcast, but I’ve always been super involved in the Life is Strange community since the beginning and ran a popular LiS blog on Tumblr called Arcadia-Gay until I accidentally deleted it a few months back (RIP) and had to start all over again.

Zach — My name is Zach Farque and I’m from Louisiana in the United States.

Why did you create this fan community to Life is Strange?

Jamie — I came up with the idea of the podcast after playing Episode 4 of Season One. I really wanted to express my opinions on the game after the ending of that episode and I heard Max and Chloe have the “podcast” exchange. I thought to myself that a Life is Strange themed podcast would be fun to do.

Joey — Jamie actually created the show, but I was one of the original 3 co-hosts (himself, myself, and Julia, who left shortly after for school). I was extremely moved by LiS and wanted to talk about it a lot, so it seemed quite serendipitous that Jamie had posted the idea on reddit and I jumped at the opportunity. Since then Jamie and I have developed the show to be larger than we could’ve ever imagined, giving us the opportunity to raise almost $10k in charity over two 24 hour Extra Life streams (2016 and 2017), as well as have numerous guests join us from voice over talent to developers from Dontnod, Square Enix, and Deck Nine. I think the goal for me has to create an inclusive environment that people can enjoy being a part of, and creating a show that people can enjoy listening to that fosters that sentiment. It feels weird to call us “content-creators,” but that’s effectively what we are and as such I just want to keep growing it all. I want people to feel like they can tune in with each episode and feel like they have familiar voices to listen to, and engage with us (even if I can be bad about chatting, anxiety sucks). Hopefully we present new ideas for people to think about in regards to the game, or cover ideas that resonate with people.

Zach — I didn’t create the podcast but I joined just because I loved the game and the people I’ve met because of it. It sounded like fun!

Gif by katiebishop

What stands out with your community?

Jamie — I’d say what really stands out with the BWP community is that we can all relate to each other and we all have each other’s back. Life is Strange has all given us a common interest and courage to talk about stuff featured in the game.

Joey — I think the biggest thing about this community that stands out to me is the passion for the game, and the compassion shown to fellow fans in the community. I also love how people inspire others to create, or find friends, or empower their own lives through the game and through the community. It’s honestly incredible to witness.

Sian — For me, it’s mainly just the undeniable friendship and connection everyone has with each other. Myself and many others have met some of the most important people in their lives thanks to the game and the podcast, and I feel it’s one of the things that makes what we do so special because it’s also what brought everyone on the podcast together.

Zach — I think something that stands out with the LiS community is a strong sense of unity between the fans. The game deals with a lot of tough themes and I think the people who the game speaks to are people that have dealt with this stuff or things like it in their own lives, so everyone has this caring and compassion for each other that I think you don’t get with a lot of other game communities.

What does Life is Strange mean to you?

Jamie — Life is Strange has a lot of things related to it, mental health, relationships and innovative storytelling. If we stripped away the location, characters and the main storyline, I personally believe that it’s alright to have flaws, but to respect everyone no matter how insecure they may seem.

Joey — God, so much haha. It’s one of the first, if not only, games I’ve played that has tackled feelings of depression, fear, isolation and alienation, jealousy, all those nasty things in life that can keep us constantly dragged down, and shown it in a mature way while showing how far sympathy and empathy can go. Plus thanks to the game I’ve met my best friends, people who have wholly enriched my life and who I don’t know how I really managed without them before I met them. I could go on, but if you want more listen to our episodes hahaha.

Sian — I’ve talked about it a little bit on the podcast, but with losing my mum and realising I was gay not long before the game started, seeing Chloe and the way she dealt with the anger she felt about losing her dad really helped me realise that what I was feeling was valid, which made it easier to deal with feeling those things.

Zach — LiS I think means a ton to me. After I played the game I met a bunch of amazing people and started to look at things in different ways and it’s had a huge positive outcome on my life.

Gif by MiyKu

What’s the best about the game?

Jamie — Putting into words the best part of Life is Strange is difficult, but I’d have to say that every character has their own flaws. No story has a completely perfect character, and if they did it wouldn’t be a story the audience wouldn’t relate to.

Joey — Whew this is a tough question. Speaking purely from the narrative standpoint, I adore so many of the characters. I think from a more meta standpoint, and what I would probably have to pin as the best part about the game is just how far it goes to show how love can change your life, be that from a friend, significant other, or even just the kindness of a stranger.

Sian — It’s so hard to pin-point just one thing because it’s all really special to me and who I am today. However no matter what, there will always be a really special place in my heart for the characters, particularly Chloe. They just feel so real and one of a kind and it can be really rare to find that in the media sometimes.

Zach — I think the game shines in its story and characters. It tells a story that hasn’t been matched by many games before it. I’m hoping it’s had a big effect on the gaming industry as a whole.

Do you have a favorite memory while working with this community/network? Something that stands out or something awesome that happened?

Jamie — I’d have to say our Extra Life streams are a personal highlight for me. We play Life is Strange for 24 hours and we have guests throughout the day for charity. We have been able to raise a total of $9000 for children’s hospitals with our first two streams. We are always blown away with how intense those streams are with donations, interviews and fun times in general.

Joey — Extra Life definitely stands out. Those have been such a blast, and have just blown me away at what this community can do with how much they’ve donated, and the support we’ve garnered. I have a couple of favorite memories specifically though: our first interview was with Dayeanne Hutton (voice of Kate Marsh) and Jamie and I were bricking it with how nervous we were about it, as we never thought we’d get an interview even with reaching out to folks. We were scrambling to get ourselves composed and prepared for the interview (we failed, hahaha), and while trying to make sure we both had the questions ready we saw our guest account pop-up as online. Jamie and I, simultaneously, just went, “Oh sh*t…” I still laugh thinking about that. Another one was before our first interview with Ashly Burch (voice of Chloe Price), we were being bombarded with “When will you have Ashly on the show?” questions. We had sent a few emails and sort of exhausted what we knew to do to try to get her on the show, and figured it was never going to happen. Jamie also liked to do this thing where he would make email accounts, set the name as Ashly, and then email the podcast email to get my hopes up. He did it so much. Well, March 21st 2016 rolled around and we got a response from the real Ashly at around 10, 11 at night. At first I was just like “Jamie, why are you even up doing this go to bed wtf,” but then I checked and double checked and saw it was actually her. I spammed the heck out of Jamie’s phone until he woke up so I could tell him the news.

Sian — Honestly Extra Life has been one of the most rewarding experiences, it was so much fun and knowing that it all counted towards helping San Jose’s Children’s Hospital was so dope. Another great memory is when Jamie, Joey and I (as well as Chris from Life is Strange Fans) went to Square Enix in London and hung out with Alejandro and Toby was such a great day, they’re both super chill dudes and we’re great to us.

Zach — I’ve met a lot of cool people because of the LiS fandom, people that I hope stay in my life forever, but definitely the coolest thing that happened was that I met my wife through the fandom. We’ve been together for nearly two years and married for 5 months. She’s my best friend and I’d do anything for her.

How important do you think it is for a game franchise to have a fan community?

Jamie — Without a community, it’s very hard for the reputation of the game to be withheld throughout the years. The community helps keep the game alive, whether it be through memes, fan art, cosplays or fan-made music.

Joey — the most. Especially for a single player game, personally speaking I would meter my success on how my game brought people together and how close-knit it made people. Plus in having such, you get to see all sorts of amazing fan content get produced on what you’ve created.

Sian — I think when it comes to things like Life is Strange it’s just really important because there’s so many hard hitting and tough themes that lots of people can relate to, so people can meet others they can confide in, and it’s helped a lot of people feel less alone in the world and that’s a really powerful thing.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Does Dontnod, Square Enix or Deck Nine know that your community exists? If so, what do they think of it?

Jamie — They do! Each company have been so supportive of the show and we’ve had different people interact with us personally either through social media, or with the Extra Life Streams mentioned previously.

Joey — Yep! Senpais have noticed us. I hope they love it, but even just the fact that they know we’re out there and have listened to our episodes is an honor.

Sian — Yeah, totally! Obviously we actually got to go to SE, but a load of people from SE, Deck Nine and Dontnod (as well as some VA’s) follow the podcast and the hosts and they’ve also joined us for episodes/interviews and they’re always super interactive and supportive of what we’re doing. It’s actually really cool that they care so much about what the community is doing and creating, it’s one of the reasons we have such a strong community I think.

Would you say there is a particular bond between Life is Strange fans? Do members of your community get together or work on fan projects (cosplay, art, fiction, competitions etc..)

Jamie — I believe so. I’ve seen different collaborations happen such as writers and artists, musicians and even cosplayers working on Cosplay Music Videos within the entire Life is Strange community and it’s amazing to see the game affect a bunch of people like myself.

Joey — Absolutely. I’ve lurked other fandoms but never really been a part of any, but from what I’ve seen this community has one of the closest fandoms. There have been so many collaborations between artists, musicians, cosplayers, et al.

Sian — Absolutely! There’s so many themes in the game that brings lots of people together, particular LGBTQIA+ people, it feels like a little family. I met my best friend through the game, and Zach from the podcast met his now wife from LiS Fans, which is crazy but so cool!

What’s next for you? Any events happening soon?

Jamie — We have episodes discussing “Hell is Empty”, the Farewell episode and an episode on Mental Health coming out within the next few months and the 3 year anniversary sneaking up in August. We also are working on getting more guests on from either Season One or Before The Storm.

Joey — We’re planning for our next Extra Life at the end of the year currently!

Sian — Absolutely! We’re still working on new episodes and thinking about new interviews. Not to mention Extra Life, which we’re planning towards. I’m excited to see what the future brings for us.

Life is Strange Fans

@LISFansDotCom (Twitter) / Homepage

Tell us a bit about yourself (or yourselves if you’re multiple people running the community). Who are you and where are you from?

Chris: My name’s Chris Anderson. I’m the Creator and Admin of and its associated social channels. I’m from Cardiff in Wales.

Mai: My name is Mailén, “Mai” for short. I usually run by the username “MaiQueti”. I’m an artist and game developer based in Argentina, South America.

Why did you create this fan community to Life is Strange?

Chris: As soon as I played the first episode in January 2015, I knew it was something special. I felt the real-world setting and the fact that the game dealt with heavy social issues, meant that it would resonate with a lot of young people, especially those active on social media. I wanted to see what other content was available. Even shortly after the release of the first episode, there was already a lot of Fan Art, Fan Fiction and Cosplay out there. Even memes and recurring jokes had already filtered into the community. The problem I saw was that it was all spread out all over the internet. You had to jump through multiple channels to see all the relevant Life Is Strange content. I wanted a central hub where all Life Is Strange content was in one place: Fan Art, Fan Fiction, Screenshots, Cosplay, Videos, News, etc. It didn’t exist. So, I decided to make it myself! I spent a year learning how to create a Wordpress site with social networking features including the ability to upload content into categorised galleries from the front end. I was also quite certain I wasn’t the only one who the game had a dramatic effect on emotionally speaking, and I was relieved to discover that I was right. My sense that others might feel the same was what prompted me to implement a unique feature of the site called ‘Kate’s Support Club’, where users can talk to on-site ‘counsellors’ regarding various social issues, or vent by posting an anonymous note on a feature called the ‘Thought Wall.’

Mai: I actually didn’t create it. When the official channels shared the website back in 2016, I joined as a regular member and I loved it. The website, the community, the people… I’ve never been that invested into any fandom before. I’ve had contact with other fanbases in the past but never thought I would feel committed enough to be an active part of any, until Life is Strange and Life is Strange Fans showed up. So, once I joined, I started helping out just because I wanted to see the community grow and bring people together. Eventually, that lead to me becoming a Moderator and Co-Administrator at a later date.

What stands out with your community?

Chris: I think what stands out about our community is the fact that instead of being a page or a hub of an existing social network, the site itself is its own social network. But Life Is Strange Fans has grown to become more than just the site. We have quite large followings on our Twitter and Facebook channels too and we’re always sharing new content daily, some of it created by ourselves, whether it’s new art pieces by Mai or posters/short videos by me. One of the biggest defining features of our community is our competitions. They’re never small. We go all out. Prizes range from official merchandise like the Life Is Strange clothing line from Insert Coin Clothing, to prints signed by Dontnod, Deck Nine or the voice actors to custom-made prizes like a replica of Max’s yellow Polaroid camera. These contests tend to be entered by some of the more creative members of the community as they have to submit Fan Art, Cosplay or Fan Fiction, usually based around a specific theme; sometimes it might be a seasonal theme like Christmas. But we also have a program called The Life Is Strange Fans Wall of Fame. This is where we feature 12 fans per month who can submit any kind of Life Is Strange Content and we sometimes handpick entrants too. Those 12 featured fans are then entered into a prize draw to win that month’s prize. There’s a much higher chance of winning something this way because it’s not as competitive.

Mai: I think that our community in particular has a sense of friendship and family beyond the usual rules. I personally met a lot of people that later became close friends. I’ve seen a lot of people in our community create these bonds too through the game, and connect with people all around the world because of it. Also, the way others care about everyone else’s situation, regardless of the time they have known each other. There is always someone willing to help out and that is something quite rare to me.

What does Life is Strange mean to you?

Mai: Now that’s a difficult question. Some people believe Max and Chloe “are” Life is Strange… I think the concept runs way deeper than the original cast. I think it’s more of a “feeling” than anything. Closeness; the way it makes you feel and think about those feelings.

What I love about the game itself is how relatable and grounded it is, how you can see yourself in the themes or in the characters. In the story, somehow, we are all reflected to an extent. So I think it’s the feeling of belonging; that you’re not alone and that everyone has something going on that you may not know. It’s quite hard to explain, but simply put, I believe it’s that: “connection”; with yourself and the people around you.

Chris: I agree with Mai that Life Is Strange is a feeling; a ‘sense’ of something rather than a definitive set of rules. The very phrase ‘life is strange’ lends itself to a wide spectrum of possible stories, in any location around the world. That said, I think there are some key ingredients that help to nail that ‘feeling’ we mentioned. An indie soundtrack, the golden hour aesthetic, and an emphasis on strong social issues can all still be used while focusing on new, original characters with different challenges. On a personal level, it means a lot to me. It has literally transformed my life over the past couple of years. Managing the site, the community, and arranging the contests, including creating assets for them, is almost like a full-time job. To many fans, coming to the site, or to our Discord chat, or even engaging via our social channels, it feels like home to them. Being one of the people in charge of that home is not only a privilege but also a big responsibility.

What’s the best about the game?

Mai: I think the best is the chemistry between the characters and the story, how they are written in such a way they stop being characters. They become you, your friends, your family, the people you know. I think the best Life is Strange has is that; the way they made you connect with what is happening to a level I haven’t experienced before, or at least not on such a deep level.

Chris: It’s the first game I played that felt like the videogame equivalent of an indie movie. Everything from the indie soundtrack to the cinematography and pop culture references, gave it a distinctive flavour that set it apart from most videogame worlds, even others that were also set in the real world. Like Mai, I also think the relatable characters are what makes the game so special. The character of Max Caulfield, while she does have specific traits, is mostly a fairly blank canvas, which we can project our own attributes onto. The fact that the game is very choice-based too, even down to the smaller, more mundane choices, helps to further sell that illusion of inhabiting this character and this world.

Do you have a favorite memory while working with this community/network? Something that stands out or something awesome that happened?

Chris: There have been many amazing memories, including meeting so many other fans of the game from all over the world, and becoming very close friends with some of them. But some of my favourite moments are when we’ve had the opportunity to engage directly with the developers and voice actors behind both Life Is Strange games. For example, when Dayeanne Hutton (voice of Kate Marsh) took part in a Live Q & A on our site, or when Hannah Telle (voice of Max Caulfield) played live music for us during our first Open Mic Night Event last Christmas. I believe these special connections are truly unique to this community, with the people involved in the game giving an unprecedented level of access and availability to fans like us.

Mai: I think there are a lot of those moments. The people specifically working on this community, like the admin or part of the staff and some regulars, became my friends. I even met my closest friend ever thanks to this game and this community. So we had and still have many fun and great moments together. On a less personal note, what also enjoy a lot is seeing the reactions from people when they participate in our contests, win a prize or making art to promote those contests or even for prizes and such has been a ride for me.

How important do you think it is for a game franchise to have a fan community?

Mai: Well, it means everything. As a game developer I know how important it is to build up a fanbase; people that will follow and appreciate your work, regardless of the economic side of it. I think the fan base, which although it can be crazy at times, has the unique task of keeping the flame of the concept alive once the game is done and time has passed. The fans are in a way the reason why these games have the success they have and they are as widespread as they are.The more fans, the more people that connect with the product, the more meaningful it can be, especially considering the type of game we are talking about. What is a game without players, and more so, what is a game without players invested in it?

Chris: I think it’s more vital than ever. Social media is consumed by the second — it’s instant and far-reaching. In order to sustain interest, there’s a need to latch onto the relatability aspect and run with it. It helps if your franchise has strong relatable characters, or real-world references, or deals with serious socials issues, so in Life Is Strange’s case, all of the above. Making the fans of the community feel involved every step of the way — from announcement, through each episodic release, to potential sequels, and all the days in between — is the only surefire way to ensure consistent engagement, gather relevant and timely feedback, and communicate big changes in a way that a single, potentially misinterpreted article cannot.

Does Dontnod, Square Enix or Deck Nine know that your community exists? If so, what do they think of it?

Chris: Yes. Square Enix, Dontnod Entertainment and Deck Nine are all aware of Life Is Strange Fans and I’ve dealt with people from each of those teams directly, including the Life Is Strange Community Manager, Toby Palm, who called the website ‘…the most impressive fan site we’ve ever seen.’ All three companies have also been kind enough to provide us with prizes for our contests, including official merchandise like the Life Is Strange clothing line by Insert Coin Clothing, and signed prints by members of both Dontnod and Deck Nine. In December 2016, our community was also awarded with a ‘Community Heroes’ Award by Square Enix, for which I personally received a signed edition of the Life Is Strange Soundtrack on vinyl, something I will treasure my whole life.

Would you say there is a particular bond between Life is Strange fans? Do members of your community get together or work on fan projects (cosplay, art, fiction, competitions etc…)

Mai: I think this game particularly has inspired a lot of people to actually do something creative about it. I’ve seen people suddenly pick up a camera and start taking shots, people that has never done cosplay before grab a wig and recreate the characters in an incredible way. There also have been a lot of projects around, cosplay, photography, art… even people making games and visual novels, writing stories, collaborations… it this community has a great creative potential that has been shown with the amount of art that has been around the whole fanbase, our community included. People got together and kept these characters and story alive through art and that’s something i love about this community overall.

Chris: Absolutely. We often joke that in the acronym of our community, LISF, the ‘F stands for Family’. Some of our members have been with us virtually since the beginning in February/March of 2016. We all share common ground in our love for the game of course, but more than that, we have shared personal stories, life’s ups and downs, and we’re at that point where we all have our own in-jokes which have never gotten old. Some bonds have been even stronger than we ever imagined, with 1 marriage and 1 engagement involving people who met through our community. So, for some people, it has been literally life-changing in the best possible way. We have seen some fans collaborate on fan projects too and that’s been really encouraging and inspiring to see.

What’s next for you? Any events happening soon?

Chris: With Life Is Strange Season 2 announced but yet to be released, we intend to keep the community active for some time yet. In some ways, we help to promote Life Is Strange, for no other reason than to spread our love for the franchise, and so we’re always coming up with unique ways to drive hype and spread the word. We often have a contest running of some kind, and we hope to continue our great relationships with Square Enix, Dontnod, Deck Nine and the voice actors, to secure incredible prizes and involve them in unique events for the fans.

Life is Strange World

@LifeIsStrangeW (Twitter)

Tell us a bit about yourself (or yourselves if you’re multiple people running the community). Who are you and where are you from?

Hello! My name is Sara, I am a student from Spain and the admin of Life is Strange World. It is a pleasure to share some details about our humble and bilingual fan community, I really hope you enjoy reading us!

Why did you create this fan community to Life is Strange?

It was a hot summer, on 23 July 2015, when My friend & co-founder, Aitor and I, decided to create a twitter fan account initially in Spanish. We had already played three episodes and checked social media searching for some kind of community, but there wasn’t any, so we asked ourselves; “how this amazing game doesn’t have a fan account in Spanish yet?” We had the initiative to create one after we fell in love with Dontnod and Square Enix’s game. Our purpose alway has been to support Life is Strange and share our own experience with all of you! In the beginning, we were known as Life is Strange Spain (@LifeIsStrangeES),however our followers are from different countries so after some inner changes and the use of both languages; English and Spanish, we changed our name to Life is Strange World (@LifeIsStrangeW)

What stands out with your community?

Honestly, I think all communities available right now are doing a good job and great effort to keep you up with the latest LiS news, although I would like to highlight the possibility of talking with you in English and Spanish.

What does Life is Strange mean to you?

Life is Strange means a good part of my life; new friends, experiences, feelings, stories… It was the light in a dark period of my lifetime.

What’s the best about the game?

I could name a lot of its nice features, but I just wanted to say: “thank you for creating an adventure which helped many people to realize there are girls/boys like you with insecurity, depression, anxiety…You are not alone, you can overcome anything and love yourself as you are! Do you have a favorite memory while working with this community/network? Something that stands out or something awesome that happened? We arranged a meetup in Spain with Alejandro Arque, game designer of Square Enix. We had the big opportunity to meet him and more amazing fans like us, it was an unforgettable day where we could express our opinions and exchange crazy theories.

Do you have a favorite memory while working with this community/network? Something that stands out or something awesome that happened?

We arranged a meetup in Spain with Alejandro Arque, game designer of Square Enix. We had the big opportunity to meet him and more amazing fans like us, it was an unforgettable day where we could express our opinions and exchange crazy theories.

How important do you think it is for a game franchise to have a fan community?

For every video game company is very important to have a fandom base, people who really love its game and share a good impression of its project in social media and friends. This means, it can significantly help to expand the universe of LiS in this case.

Does Dontnod, Square Enix or Deck Nine know that your community exists? If so, what do they think of it?

Yes, they do! I am very glad to see they give us RT or Fav to our tweets! It is just incredible how they interact with fan communities and care about us!

Would you say there is a particular bond between Life is Strange fans? Do members of your community get together or work on fan projects (cosplay, art, fiction, competitions etc…)

Somehow we all empathized with its characters and story, maybe because we lived a similar experience or just liked it. It still gives me goosebumps to read different comments about how many people love LiS and connect so easily with its universe, share with us their cosplay photos, drawings, theories…I am very thankful for all your support!

What’s next for you? Any events happening soon?

Personally, I am really looking forward to Life is Strange 2. After playing Captain Spirit demo, I am very curious about how Dontnod And Square Enix come back to surprise all of us. We will have more info in August so please, be patient and stay tuned at official Life is Strange accounts.

IGDB wants to thank everyone involved in this interview. To the Life is Strange communities, thanks for talking to us and giving fans somewhere to be and thrive. Keep working hard and stay awesome! We support you!

We’re thinking of turning this into a series so if you want us to talk about / interview other communities, let us know which ones!