The game is afoot!

I hardly play computer games now. I check every so often to see what new releases are coming but nothing really grabs me. GTA V has been announced which is a definite release day purchase, but that is likely to be two to three years in development. Still, it gives me time to read and write.

Originally posted 25.04.11

In under a month now, on 20May, L.A. Noire will be released. No, it’s not a new crime thriller, well, it is in a way, it’s a detective computer game.

I have looked forward to games being released before but none have I desired so much for so long. Ever since I found out about this game three years ago, I have followed its slow development to fruition like a kid looking forward to Christmas.

The reason is the same reason why I write detective crime fiction, read detective crime fiction, and watch detective crime film. I enjoy solving the puzzles.

The problem with previous computer games is that I want a story as well.

The first detective type games on computer were text games, very close to an interactive book. You were given a description of your surroundings then given a text prompt to enter what you wanted to do. The problem with them was recognizing the variance in language, the difference between ‘get’, ‘grab’, ‘pick up, ‘lift’ etc. meaning you could spend ages just trying to do basic things.

The second problem, and in my case a major one, was that you could get stuck. When reading a novel you are a bystander voyeuristically following the action. The protagonist does all that needs to be done; you are just along for the ride. In a computer game, if you need to find a key before you go to the next part, you need to find a key, you. If you can’t, the story stops. This plagued games from the text based adventures to the fancier point ’n’ click games of Sierra and Lucas Arts.

The solution to this problem came not within the games themselves, but in the advent of the Internet. Now if you are stuck you can just google your game name and walkthrough and find out what you need to do to get to the next chapter.

Even so, proper adventure games have been a dying breed as todays gamers seem to prefer FPS’s (first person shooters), driving games or anything with an instant fix. The patience for a long carefully plotted adventure is not in their genes. Heavy Rain last year was a refreshing change in the status quo, an interesting story with twists, engaging characters and multiple endings.

I feel the detective game is suffering in the same way as the detective novel. Readers aren’t patient enough, they want each chapter to be a drug fuelled car chase with guns, sex and aliens. With luck, L.A. Noire’s success may spark something of a cross media revival.

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