Life is Strange, Dontnod's episodic, time-traveling teen drama, is one of the breakout hits of 2015. It was nominated dozens of times in dozens of categories; scored many Game of the Year awards from outlets and game industry institutes alike; it even won Facebook and Peabody's inagural digital media award.
But Life is Strange also received its share of criticism, of which there seems to be one that's stuck with one of the game's writers, Christian Divine: its use of the word "hella."
Hella has become a sort of in-joke for Life is Strange players at this point, thanks to frequent use by the game's blue-haired troublemaker, Chloe Price. The phrase was baked into the game early. During his GDC Europe panel, "Life is Strange: The Blue Age of Storytelling," Divine showed off parts of the writing test he sent Dontnod Entertainment — a tangle of Twine dialogue that sees Chloe using the phrase casually.
Divine later circled back to the phrase again to comment on its use (or non-use) with some amusement.
"I'm very familiar with the Pacific Northwest," he said. "I go up to Oregon, Portland, and Seattle all the time. I'm there all the time, and as a Northern California boy, the word hella is probably one of the most indigenous expressions you'll hear. It's been around forever and ever, and around 2013 I noticed that young people around me were saying it again. It was so funny, like wow, people are saying hella again. I haven't heard that in awhile."
Life is Strange takes place in a fictional town in Oregon. When Divine began work on the game, he considered the word "perfect for Chloe."
"What you're trying to do when you're writing characters from a certain region," he said, "you can do some research or if you know, you can put that information in there and develop and give a kind of realism to the characters."
"Little did I know that 'nobody says hella.' I had no idea. I found the response interesting, because I was seeing comments saying, 'well, yeah nobody says hella.' And it's from somebody in London."
"I certainly don't think teenagers talk in one way."
Divine added that he would never tell people in other regions what slang they did or didn't use, because he simply couldn't know.
"I could research, I could find out, but I can't honestly say that I would know how somebody talks elsewhere in the world," he said. "I certainly don't think teenagers talk in one way. I know they don't."
The writer concluded that whether or not people like the way the dialogue is written, it's still different. It's true to the nature of Life is Strange.
"I felt very satisfied a year later when somehow Merriam Webster's dictionary added [hella as a] word," he said. "Even though nobody says it. But they do now. I love the fact that around the world, people are saying hella because of Life is Strange. That's the best revenge possible. There's nothing better than that."