Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Great characters and dialogue - in a video game???

I'm not a big gamer, but I have one at home. My son Abel thinks of games as the primary medium of his generation. I'm pretty sure he's right. Based on numbers alone, gaming has been generating more money than movies since 2005 and more than music since 2007. It's gaining while the others are losing. Then again, books still make more money!

But set that all aside for now. Book lovers think of games as mindless violent wastes of time. That's changing. Case in point: L.A. Noire by Rockstar Games (the company who made the controversially-violent Grand Theft Auto series). L.A. Noire is still a violent game for the uninitiated, but for the most part it sets violence aside in favor of plot, characters, sets, acting and dialogue. This sounds more like a book or movie, right? Well, the game plays like a book or movie. It's set in post-WW2 Los Angeles, and follows the struggles of a clean cop trying to solve murders in a violent city. The set is based on historic photos and maps. The characters are created through a motion capture technology (think Beowulf or Gollum) that does an impressive job even with facial features. And the dialogue, more often than not, is simply damn good writing. Let me say that another way: The writing in this video game is often great. Better than many movies and books.

So far the game is not an overwhelming success, but it points to the future possibilities of gaming and how the medium might begin to woo the more cinematic and (gulp) even more literary among us.

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