Changing the Face of Gaming

Changing the Face of Gaming

Think about some of your favorite video game characters. What attracts you to them? Their dialogue, their motivations, their awesome character models? When Team Bondi and Rockstar release LA Noire for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 later this year, you’ll have another reason to admire video game characters: Their humanity.

Like many of Rockstar’s offerings, LA Noire will be an open-world sandbox game. Players will fall back into the year 1947 and slink through the streets of a gritty film-noir-inspired Los Angeles. Unlike some of Rockstar’s better-known games, however, LA Noire doesn’t base its central gameplay mechanics on gun-shooting and carjacking. Rather, you’ll have to interview suspects and observe every facial movement, no matter how subtle, before you decide whether or not they’re lying.

“We always knew, when we wanted to go down this route and make a detective game, that the key part was getting the witness in the room,” Brendan McNamara, the head of Team Bondi, told Kotaku. “The key part is the interrogation. Can you break them?”

Even if old time film noir movies aren’t your style, Team Bondi’s project carries a lot of exciting implications. Though in-game character models do emote to a certain extent, there’s a kind of uniformity to many of their expressions. Imagine if mild distaste could be clearly differentiated from boiling-hot hate, or if a character could wear an expression of love that could instantly be separated from a flash of lust. If nothing else, a truly human range of expressions on video game characters would be a huge help in improving the stories and dialogue that accompany video games. No longer would developers feel obligated to make the main character stop and declare “I AM ANGRY” following the destruction of their hometown at the claws of a dragon.

More interestingly, this could change the way we, the players, interact with our games. As things stand now, we mow down enemy soldiers without much thought. But what if we had to glance into the terrified eyes of the man or woman at the other end of our guns? How would we react? Critics claim that video games are harmful because they desensitize players to acts of violence, but if we’re suddenly made to meet our opponent on the battlefield–regardless of how harried and chaotic that meeting may be–we’re going to realize that we weren’t desensitized after all. We’re going to have to make the heart-ripping choices that soldiers make every day, though they have to make a real choice between life or death for their own adversaries. We’ll only have to deal with 1’s and 0’s in a virtual world.

Virtual world or not, if this development catches on, we’ll be forced to think a lot harder about the way we play our games. And if your video game is capable of making you think deeply, it’s a darn good title.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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