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Video Games as a Legitimate Art Form E-mail
Articles - Opinion & Editorials
Written by Joseph Dionisio   
Friday, 06 July 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
Video Games as a Legitimate Art Form
Beauty in the Details
That's My Story

Video Games as a Legitimate Art Form

The Question

A few months ago my baby sister and I were talking about video games in general. She and our other sister (I am the eldest of three siblings) had just finished L.A. Noire on the PS3, and I had just started the same game on the PC. For a few weeks before I purchased the game on Steam, I watched my sisters play through the game at my parents' house once my young nephews had gone to bed.

Gradually, the conversation between my sister and me gravitated towards L.A. Noire's virtues. Obviously, we liked the game; it wouldn't even be a stretch to say that we both loved it. For one thing, we were both enthralled in how the game looked. It didn't matter which version of the game - PS3 or PC - we were talking about. We both thought it looked great. Then there's all the period-specific music and sound effects. The game had superb voice acting, and it told a great story. Between my sister and me, there was simply no denying it: L.A. Noire is one beautiful game.

So I asked my sister this question: Can video games be considered a legitimate art form?

Beauty in the Details

If you've ever seen or played L.A. Noire, no doubt you'd know precisely why my sister and I were pondering that question. Borrowing very heavily from the “film noir” cinematic genre in visual style and presentation as well as story elements, L.A. Noire captures the player's attention and transports him to a stylized portrayal of post-World War II Los Angeles.

The game's graphics are a visual treat. For one thing, the characters are rendered with an uncanny realism. The characters' facial expressions are lifelike, nuanced; the characters' movements, including the subtleties of body language, have the same quality of verisimilitude. This is no surprise given the fact that they were not animated from scratch as is typical with video games; rather, they were created using a proprietary motion capture technique involving thirty two high definition cameras capturing each actor as he or she performs. Given the game's central gameplay mechanic – the player must be able to interpret non-player characters' facial expressions and body language correctly – it is critical for the rendering of all the characters' faces to be as realistic as possible. If the game fails at rendering facial expressions and body language, the whole thing collapses in a heap and becomes unplayable.


But the rendering of characters isn't the only reason whymy sister and I say L.A. Noire is visually beautiful. The game takes place in the city of Los Angeles in 1947, and its re-creation of the city is stunning. I live in a Los Angeles suburb, and twice a week I travel to downtown L.A. as part of my job duties. While I cannot vouch for the absolute accuracy of L.A. Noire's depiction of the City of Angels from the immediate post-World War II period (I was born nearly three decades later, after all), I am fairly familiar with the real-life city and some of its more famous landmarks referred to in the game. Famous streets such as Temple, Hill, Vermont, Wilshire, Spring, and Main are where they should be; well-known landmarks such as City Hall, the Public Library (my dad used to work there before he retired, in fact), Pershing Square, the La Brea Tar Pits and the L.A. River – spots familiar to anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Los Angeles – all look familiar and faithful to their real-world counterparts. It is a testament to the artistic skills and sensibilities of Team Biondi's animators that they can make a player feel that he or she is indeed walking and driving around the streets of Los Angeles as it was in 1947.


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