Each week in Play in Process, Richard Clark shares what he’s been playing and why it matters.

Right off the bat, you can tell that LA Noire is going to disappoint a lot of people. The latest game from the people who gave you Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption takes a decidedly more serious-minded approach to the open world. In LA Noire you aren’t encouraged to cause mayhem – in fact, you are prevented from doing so for the most part. Instead, the focus is very much on people rather than destruction. With the aid of a new technology that gives actual life to the faces of those you meet, the people within the game feel very much like just that – people – rather than lifeless automatons programmed to run away when you barrel toward them in your car.

The obvious downside is that the game doesn’t offer the “sky’s the limit” sandbox gameplay that previous Rockstar games are known for. Most likely, your game time will not be characterized by flipping cars, exploding streets and dead pedestrians. You’ll find yourself driving relatively slowly, stopping at traffic lights, and waiting as pedestrians cross the street. And here’s the kicker: whenever mistakes are made, it will seem like a pretty big deal. You’ll knock down a light-pole, and your partner will freak out. Pedestrian’s faces will betray their shock and horror at the situation. You will feel guilty. At least, that’s if you’re anything like me.

And that’s just the driving.


  1. When you talk about feeling guilt from playing a game, I kind of translate that to how developers talk about Radiant A.I. I believe that the developers believe their A.I. is “radiant” and I believe that you probably actually feel guilt for hitting a light pole, but I also believe that I will experience neither of these things in the referred to games.

  2. I agree. It does make you (or me, at least) “act normal”, though there is something really weird about waiting for a virtual traffic light to turn green.

  3. It’s like there’s a whole world of gaming experience that I will never get to have. Kind of like how I won’t get to experience the LSD trips that my dad did when he was 20. *sigh* If only reincarnation were real, I could have a chance.

  4. I felt guilty about a number of things, mostly shattering every window out of squad car when I accidentally launched off of a 30ft cliff (and yes it really was an accident).

    That said, perhaps because I can’t shake having played other open world games, I still cannot stop driving wrecklessly pretty much everywhere even though it hurts my final case scores. I almost never stop at red lights but then again I pretty much always drive with my siren on so that helps from getting T-boned at traffic lights.

    Much worse than the driving is feeling like you convicted the wrong guy–I understand Seth–I know its just a game, but this particular game’s story and characters are so well written, I really felt awful when I realized later that I probably convicted the wrong guy.

  5. The level of immersion in a game is the most important criteria to me. It doesn’t have to be a common thread or something I can immediately identify with (i.e. Bioshock 2’s daughter/my daughter), but there has to be an emotional impact for me to really enjoy it. I like to be the hero, lose a friend in battle, feel the shame, be scared, save the girl, redeem myself.

    For example, I thought the ending(s) to Red Dead Redemption was brilliant. I was a success, father, husband, teacher, success, and an avenger. If I don’t feel those things, what’s the point?

    If you don’t like immersion in games, then I’d imagine you wouldn’t like a game like LA Noire.

    Seth: How do you play/enjoy games differently? Do you play just for challenge?

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