Week 3.

5

Over the next 2 weeks we want you start by thinking about how L. A. Noire represents gender. Does the game represent men and women in stereotypical ways? What about other categories – age and ethnicity for example? Time period? Setting?

 


Overall, L.A. Noire appears to reinforce stereotypes typically associated with 1940/50s U.S. culture. I would argue that L.A. Noire is trying to create a sense of realism in its time period and setting, rather than needlessly stereotyping women as either housewives or femme fatales, for example. The detectives and police officers appear to represent the ‘norm’ (the white heterosexual American male), whilst non-white people or women are stereotyped as the ‘other’, by Edward Said’s definition (see ‘Orientalism’ (1978)). Whilst it is hard to remember specific examples (due to the length of the game), non-white people appear to be stereotyped into either servile roles (Nate Wilkey in ‘The Driver’s Seat’ for example) or negative criminal roles, like the drug smuggling racket in ‘Reefer Madness’, or the drug addicted jazz musicians in ‘The Black Caesar’. Phelps’ love interest, Elsa Lichtmann, provides an interesting example of female stereotyping. Many other women in the game appear to take the role of the typical housewife, seen in many of the investigations. In what is no doubt a reference to 40s and 50s Film Noir, Lichtmann takes the role of the femme fatale. She could not be more of a stereotype in that she has a tainted past, she is a nightclub singer, an adulteress and finally, a drug addict – she is dangerous.

 

After you’ve answered that question, can you also describe HOW a game represents groups of people and places / situations, compared to a novel or a film? Is it the same, or does the fact that you play the game, in character, make any difference – how does it compare to reading a character or narrator’s point of view or watching a film?

 

In my opinion, the representation of groups of people, places and situations is largely similar to film, with more difference found between genres than between the medium in which they are communicated. Furthermore, there are often similarities in the narration in different mediums. For instance, in L.A. Noire there is a fixed point-of-view (other than the last chapter in which you ‘play’ as Jack Kelso) and the narrative follows a fairly linear path; ‘your’ actions have limited consequences, which is similar to film narration. In Chinatown (1974) you adopt Gittes’ point-of-view in a similar way, therefore, your opinion of the representation of groups is possibly effected more by characterisation than whether you are playing a videogame or watching a film.

 

Finally, what can you say about narration in L.A Noire – is there any, and if so, how does it work? What kind of narration is this?

 

There is no voice-over narration in L.A. Noire which before I played the game I had expected, mainly because of the genre – quasi-Film Noir. Instead story information is communicated through dialogue and Phelps’ propensity to talk to himself in crime scenes (which seems an odd choice, stylistically). Also, the non-linear structure of the narrative provides information about the history of the characters, which is seen in the many flashbacks throughout.

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Comments

  1. ticknaylor / Apr 15th, 2012 11:56 Quote

    I think it’s interesting that you feel it is stylistically odd that Phelps talks to himself during crime scenes. I found this feature quite helpful because sometimes it was not clear exactly what purpose an object served, and it also helped to filter out items that weren’t clues. This style of characters talking to themselves can be seen as their thoughts being made audible, and features in a lot of adventure games as device to assist the player.

  2. ADMIN
    James1185 / Apr 15th, 2012 20:33 Quote

    I agree that as a videogame device it makes perfect sense, but in a narrative sense you are effectively presented with a character who spends a large amount of time talking to himself.

  3. ClockworKei / Apr 15th, 2012 21:46 Quote

    I both agree and disagree about the voice-overs, yes they did help to sift through the clues, and perhaps even identify objects, yet I found that the voice-overs took away from my gaming experience; yes, in the same situation, you would have thoughts in your head and, playing as Phelps, these are his thoughts, but I feel that also worked against my attachment to the character as they were HIS thoughts being voiced and not my own. I certainly wouldn’t spend 45 seconds rolling around a cigarette butt before I think to myself ‘this is irrelevant’.
    “In my opinion, the representation of groups of people, places and situations is largely similar to film” this is one point I disagree on, when others are racist/sexist/violent, Cole Phelps remains silent so at least you have an opportunity to imprint your own beliefs into that silence, you can think to yourself “No, all women are not alike” or maybe agree “Yes Rusty, women ARE all alike”, whereas with film, you are almost always given the characters opinions on the major issues and just have to accept and try to adopt those views for the sake of the one and a half to two hours you’ll be watching.

  4. TheBen0ize / Apr 16th, 2012 0:00 Quote

    I believe that L.A Noire does show gender in a stereotypical way; purely because of the time it was set. One example is when is go to the 111 club with Roy Earles; and we see Roy slap the women who was crying. This is very stereotypical because in the 40′s life for men and women was very traditional (men being the head of the house, and women being the house wives). In terms of ethnicity and the way people were treated, L.A Noire depicted this very good as well. An example is when you go to the apartment of the two black males who died of overdose, and Roy refers to them as Negro’s. This is what men black men & women were called around that time as well. So when were talking about how L.A Noire depicted these issues I would say that they did an apt interpretation on how life was in the 1940′s.

  5. Albertwhitehead48 / Apr 23rd, 2012 0:34 Quote

    I think that having Phelps talk to himself gave me a new way to look at his mental stability. Right from the off I felt that there was something not quite right about him, which is shown through the flashbacks to the war. In rather difficult cases it gave me a lifeline before I myself went insane from trying to work out the case!

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