Space Out To Get You

Just a brief commentary on L.A. Noire extending from yesterday’s observations about the game’s extreme “non-reaction” to stepping outside the strict bounds of missions.

As I said, when you’re outside the agreed upon path through the game, it’s like it puts up a weird kind of passive resistance. As if it’s saying, “fine, you can walk around the city all you want, but I’ll be damned if it’s going to be interesting for you.” As such, any “subversive play” along the lines of trying to drive where you shouldn’t drive, aim at pedestrians in your car, or simply walk around to take in the scenery, is impressively deflated.

In fact, when I was madly driving around trying to break outside the mold (to entertain my parents) the game’s resistance felt more like a oppressive force, an agent, than anything else. As I screeched around yet another corner to find the way blocked by the edge of the game, or smashed into a boundary fence that should have been breakable, I felt a mounting panic associated with the idea that the game was watching and foiling all my attempts. Like something out of The Matrix or Inception, perhaps – the notion that a larger entity literally controls the world you’re in.

Clearly this would be a pretty awesome principle for a game to operate on. Not the postmodern sense of a game acknowledging its game status (as in the Fission Mailed sequence in Metal Gear Solid 2, for instance), but in the sense of multi-layered sense of the spatial environment. The idea that you exist in a created environment under the control of another entity, and the idea that you might want to escape from this environment, perhaps into “reality” or perhaps just into another created environment.

The sensation of being oppressed by space rather than an agent seems super cool, and it seems clear that video games, as the pinnacle of creating interesting spaces, should be in a position to do exactly this. My mind briefly flicks to Alan Wake, but it doesn’t go there so much in the sense of space as in the sense of animating objects and “spookifying” space. Anyway, seems like a golden opportunity and I bet they don’t manage it in the inevitable game of Inception.

That is all.

28 June 2011
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