I established a few weeks ago that now, in these last few weeks of college, my updates may be a little less timely than usual because I’m trying to concentrate on my social life, seeing people I may not see again for quite some time once I grab my diploma and take off for the neverending hot tub party of Hollywood.
I get the idea that my readership (my parents, my roommates, a pubescent French 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and people who accidentally found my blog looking for hair tips) doesn’t have a problem with this, because so far nobody has taken me to task for being up to 12 hours late with this jumble of run on sentences and trademark overanalysis that, for some reason, they keep reading.
I want to come clean, though: This update wasn’t late because I was out having some drunken, life affirming adventure with friends (think Superbad meets Stand By Me) – no, it’s because I was up all night playing video games.
In spite of all the press and money and mainstream legitimacy the video game industry has been accumulating over the past few years, I feel as though admitting you play video games is still sort of a social taboo. It’s like if I came on here and said that I didn’t update last night because I was having sex with dudes in a gay bathhouse: There’s nothing wrong with it, but I think even the gay people I know would be reluctant to, in mixed company, say, “Oh, yeah, I was at a bathhouse last night. Fucking in public. You know how you do.”
I feel like I’m a little off track here.
Even though it’s a multi billion dollar industry, video gaming still seems to be perceived as a bizarre hobby for borderline psychopathic, anti social nerds, which is why I’m even reluctant to write about it on the off chance a girl ever reads my blog. Last year, film critic Roger Ebert publicly stated that video games were not and could never be art, and when the borderline psychopathic, anti social nerds of the Internet rose up to contest that point, he made a statement that was essentially, “I’m sorry I told you all how right I am about this.”
The game I was playing last night was called LA Noire, a James Ellroy-style detective mystery game set in postwar Los Angeles. A main component of the game is reading witnesses’ intricately rendered facial expressions to figure out if they’re lying to you or not, as opposed to shooting peoples’ faces like in most other games.
LA Noire has been getting a lot of press recently as the flagship arthouse game; it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, the cast is stacked with legitimate character actors, and the game is driven by dialogue and story. This has led a lot of critics to refer to it, glowingly, as an ‘interactive movie.’
I dropped $60 on the game, both because I appreciate story and dialogue and because I’ve always wanted to be a detective in the 1940s, and having spent last night playing it I can tell you that I have some issues with the term ‘interactive movie.’
LA Noire is not like an interactive movie; if it is, then it’s clearly one of the most disjointed, poorly paced movies of all time. I think a lot of the video game reviewers who applied the ‘interactive movie’ title confused the presence of good actors, setting, storyline, and dialogue with what movies are actually like.
Movies have meticulously crafted pacing that drives towards a conclusion; there are not 20 minute, wordless driving sequences between plot points, punctuated by fender benders when the lead character tries to run a red light, or hyperviolent action sequences that are unconnected to the plot (provided it’s not a Michael Bay movie, that is).*
* In all fairness, LA Noire does have options to skip driving segments and action sequences in favor of simply concentrating on story, but if you spend $60 on a video game and then opt to take two thirds of the video game out of it, you are a bold sort of spend-happy idiot.
This doesn’t make LA Noire a bad video game – it’s a great video game, actually. It just makes it a crappy movie. I just don’t see why we were comparing it to a movie in the first place.
Why can’t a great video game just be a great video game? Why do video games need to aspire to be more like movies in order to be considered great? I mean, they’re two completely different art forms.
Should my blog aspire to be more like David Copperfield? Should In-N-Out aspire to be more like The French Laundry? Can’t a thing just be good on its own merits, without comparison to something completely different?
LA Noire is also better than a movie in a lot of ways – for example, I’m finding that I’m not as great of a detective as I always pretend to be when I’m bored in class, which in turn has affected the cases I’m working and led to a lot of nagging doubts about whether I arrested the right guy in past cases, which, when you think about it, is something that lots of film noir detectives deal with.
That’s a cool experience. Video games can do that sort of thing. Movies can do cool experiences in other ways. Can’t everybody just play to their strengths and be happy with it?
Truman Capps has never been to a bathhouse. Just, y’know, for the record.