Weeks 1 & 2 Questions

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Forgive the lateness of my post; I joined this project late and there were issues in the ordering of the game.

WEEK 1

1. Please write character descriptions for any TWO interesting characters you have encountered in the game so far.

Cole Phelps: Naturally, the character who you should find most interesting in any work of fiction is the protagonist. This is especially true in a video game because of the interactive role of the audience–nobody would want to “be” someone they do not like.

Early on, you get the feeling that Phelps is your average American trying to live the mid-20th century American Dream. The very first cutscene shows him getting a goodbye kiss from a seemingly dutiful wife as he departs from his home in suburbia. He goes above and beyond the call of duty, which is made evident by the very first mission in the game, “Upon Reflection”, when he insists upon investigating further even when his partner insists on calling it a day. However, with time, you realise that Phelps has his own share of demons and skeletons in his closet, both in his personal life and from his time in the War.

This, I think, is the perfect recipe for a likeable character–he’s so human. He reminds us so much of ourselves; that we all want to come across as saints–and sometimes we are–yet we cannot forget that we are, inevitably, invariably and ultimately, sinners. (How’s that for philosophy, eh?)

Finbarr “Rusty” Galloway: Rusty, in a word, is the antithesis of Phelps. He is Phelps’s partner during the homicide cases. The player is left wondering how someone like Rusty is even in such an important department as Homicide. He is a drunk and a misogynist, in fact, on the very case with him, he makes a joke about ‘needing a drink’ whilst standing over the corpse of a naked woman. But this is an anachronistic view since such qualities were not uncommon at the time. Despite–or because of–this, he remains one of the more memorable characters in the game, since he is the very embodiment of what we believe a good detective shouldn’t be.

2. Please go on to identify other characters from novels, films or plays that these game characters remind you of or share features with.

Undoubtedly, the first film that would pop to mind (for those who have seen it) is L.A. Confidential. They share half of the same name, the same setting (Los Angeles), roughly the same time period and both are of the neo-noir/crime genres. Cole Phelps is much like Confidential‘s Edmund Exley: both are moral, but flawed, (anti-)heroes trying to do right by their oaths amongst a sea of corruption in the LAPD. Indeed, a quick Google Search confirmed my suspicions of the film’s influence on the game. http://bitmob.com/articles/la-noires-debt-to-la-confidential The comparisons and contrasts are spot-on.

Another film that is brought to mind is timeless classic The Usual Suspects, albeit to a lesser degree. This is also neo-noir film and has much in common with both L.A. Noire and L.A. Confidential. Especially in terms of the role of detectives and mystery behind suspects.

As a side-note, L.A. Noire is very similar to the Max Payne games, especially in terms of the themes and characters.

3. Putting on your academic literature student hat now, can you suggest any academic concepts / analytical approaches from your studies that would be useful for putting L.A Noire into any particular categories? Are there any obvious theoretical ways of describing L.A Noire that would link it to other ‘texts’?

I would start as I would with any text, by first examining the context and author.

Of course, a game has multiple authors, so the best substitute would be to examine any precedents in the genre, because games usually set standards (e.g. Grand Theft Auto set the standard for sandbox games, Call of Duty for FPS games, World of Warcraft for MMORPGs, etc.) for themselves in terms of both gameplay and plot. Again, using the Call of Duty example, most FPS games now usually follow the general theme of playing as a Western “good guy”, and trying to stop an Eastern “bad guy” who is hell-bent on destruction (typically nuclear). Likewise, other works of a similar nature, such as those of the detective/crime/mystery genres, should be examined. And when that’s done, parallels can be drawn.

Then, I would look at the historical period in question and how it is represented, which I would then compare to other works that are from the same period. For instance, feminism (or the lack thereof) has been discussed quite a bit by other posters. If looked at in a vacuum, the game may be criticised for being “politically incorrect” and chauvinistic, i.e. the women are the sitting at home whilst the heroic men lock criminals behind bars. But when one looks at this game as a child of the time it represents, we find that it is an accurate rendition of 1940/50s America.

Using these bases as a foundation, the game can then be adequately linked in with other works and thus categorised.

 

WEEK 2

1. How far would you say you try and inhabit the ‘character’ you’re ‘playing’?

Inhabiting a character is what I always try to do with any work of fiction. To approach a character who has his/her own history, personality, ontology and beliefs would be highly presumptuous. Thus, I look at and play Cole Phelps as a war veteran who has seen and done terrible things, and try to play him as such, even though I–thankfully–have not had the same experiences.

2. How far do you try and see the world through their eyes?

As mentioned in the answer to question #1, I think it would be incorrect to not try and see the world through their eyes, simply because it is a very different world to the one that we live in. To look at 1940s America from the POV of a 21st century teenager would be wrong, and you will lose the sense of immersion that only games can give you because the entire time you will be thinking ‘Huh, that doesn’t happen in my world’.

3. Does the character you’re playing shape your behaviour or attitudes towards to other characters you encounter in the game?

Yes, I usually do try to shape myself to the character I’m playing. Of course, it is difficult to ignore my own prejudices, preconceptions and beliefs, but that’s fine as long as I recognise that my character is his/her own person (in a way), and this is not an RPG where a character can be moulded into anything one desires. This is especially true for Phelps in L.A. Noire because almost everything about him, from his backstory to his facial expressions, gives him his own identity. So when I look at the likely suspects of heinous crimes, I, like Phelps, look at them from the point of view of a police officer whose very livelihood is to bring such men to justice. When it comes to my partners, like Rusty, I remember that Phelps has grown up and lived with such people for years. When it comes to the action sequences, I remember that Phelps was once a soldier, and I’m not surprised at the ease of killing for him.

4. Would you say your ‘game identity’ is all you, partly made-up of you and the character you’re ‘playing’ or as much as possible, is it entirely the character you’re ‘playing’?

Unless you’re a person that is completely void of emotion and personal opinion (and I mean that in a nice way), then I don’t think it’s even possible for your identity to be entirely that of the game character’s. If my character expresses an opinion or does something that is completely contrary to my own, then it will be difficult to remain in the ‘character’s shoes’. This is why it’s easy to identify with Cole Phelps, because he’s trying to be the good guy as much as he can, but not so much with GTA IV’s Niko Bellic who actively seeks out more crime to commit (though Rockstar do a great job of making their criminal characters likeable regardless). Thus, the goal should be to try and suspend your own disbelief as much as possible for as long as you are in the game world. For some, this comes easier than others, which is why genres such as sci-fi and fantasy are disliked and seen as ‘far-fetched’ by some people, even though that’s the point.

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