The Wastelands of Brotherhood (Videogames and Poetry)

Screenshot from Life is Strange 2 Episode 3: Wastelands. 2019. Accessed via Wikia

If you’re interested in the art of poetry, you might think of it as a type of ‘high art’. Blake, Hugo, Pushkin, Goethe, Petrtarch… It’s easy to make a long list of important-sounding names. You can stare at a monument and petrify yourself in fear, thinking you will never be as great. But that’s not how poetry happens. Rather, it is a phenomenon that can happen in the highest of highs, lowest of lows and everywhere in between.

My favourite pastime happens to be one of the ‘low-brow’ arts — videogames. It has its own problems as a medium, at the very least in terms of accessability, but it has produced a great amount of narratives filled to the brim of poetic expression, interesting stories and touching performances. I’d like to tell you about the lattermost in a game called Life is Strange 2, spoiler-free.

The two boys you saw on the header image are Sean and Daniel Diaz. They go on a journey from their home in Seattle, WA, all the way down to Mexico. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy journey. Their relationship faces many challenges, but mostly of body, of faith and of belonging. Sean and Daniel can rely only on each other, and often they have to.

Map of Sean and Daniel's journey

The route on the map is easily 4000 kilometers. That’s about the journey from Edinburgh, Scotland to Instanbul, Turkey, but much less populated. A lot of forests and deserts.

How many people can say ‘my relationship with my brother spans over 4000 km‘? Or their relationship with anyone, really? That’s the kind of question the game has made me ask. It made me care for Sean and Daniel’s struggles and desire for a better life. It made me grief with them, for themselves, and their past; and it also taught me to grief for myself.

I have not had a brother like Sean and Daniel have. Very few probably have – but there are also many simple moments they share. They rave about the latest cartoon, they dance to loud music, they go hiking together. And this, I think, is the distilled essence of ‘poetry’ in the game (as opposed to the grand narrative of ‘prose’). Moments you enjoy without thinking about what’s come before or after. Moments where you do silly things because you’re together. Moments that make memories.

And I don’t have memories like that. I just have a melancholy hill that I look over:

Floor Sixty-One

Up on floor sixty-one
I have all I need…
In the biggest bedroom
Of danger I’m freed

Up on floor sixty-one
I grew up alone…
My brother's in the attic,
Where the sun never shone…

Here, on floor sixty-one
Where we always stayed
We always knew to bicker
But we never played…
Yeah, we never played

Here, on floor sixty-one
All the time is lost…
We’ll never grow together,
Never melt the frost
We’ll never melt the frost…

Here on floor sixty one
I have to let it die…
The never-ending moments
Are eating me inside…

I’ll find a brother, see?
I’ll find a bro for me…

Fiction (in any form) has a funny way of telling you something about yourself without being about you. I discovered emotions and ideas that were quietly brewing, but I’d never tapped into them. I think you should take the time and do so yourself. Read that book. Play that game. Watch that movie. Consume the fiction that draws you in. Let it influence you, let it tell you what it wants to.

This isn’t my favourite piece in terms of how it’s written. I find it very flat (which is normal because it was written to the tune of the song I linked before). But it got the words out, somehow. I might not be happy about it, but I’m glad it came out. Just like most of my thoughts in this post.

I’ve heard therapy works by mechanisms of reflection. If this is true, Life is Strange 2 made me step into a house of mirrors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: