game noir

Game Noir

Michael Mosel, a student at Marburg University, CC-licenced his paper Film noir Computerspiele—marketing gag oder reales ‘noir gaming’? [“Film noir computer games—marketing ruse or real ‘noir gaming’?” | .pdf | 907KB] and published it online, as his brother notified us at PlasticThinking.

MOSEL, MICHAEL. 2006. Film noir Computerspiele—marketing gag oder reales ‘noir gaming’? Thesis for the seminary Film Noir by Burkhard Röwekamp, Institut für Medienwissenschaft, Fachbereich 09: Germanistik und Kunstwissenschaften, Philipps-Universität Marburg.

After giving a nice introduction into the subject of “film noir”, the paper deals with the games Max Payne and
Grim Fandango. Until now I only was able to do a cursory read across the 54 pages, but the thing looks decidedly good. For those interested in the subject, but who are not able to read German, allow me to point you to Galen Davis’ (2002) honors essay “Game noir” which also deals with “Max Payne” and “Grim Fandango”:

DAVIS, GALEN. 2002. Game noir: The construction of virtual subjectivity in computer gaming. An Honors Essay for the Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, Stanford: Stanford University.

For registered and logged in members the whole thesis is available for download [.pdf | 3.85MB] at Gamasutra. Here’s the abstract:

This essay will demonstrate the transposability of noir storytelling into the gaming medium. The first task is to identify the major characteristics of that noir storytelling and demonstrate its existence in the two games I have selected. Next it is necessary to elucidate the features of the gaming experience and distinguish those that are specific to the medium and not particularly germane to cinema. Finally, with these features in mind we will see what game noir truly is, and how it both conforms to and extends beyond the compositional elements and the goals of film noir.

Noir confronts ontological conceptions of modern man in interrogating urban alienation, changing standards of morality, and growing nostalgia for a lost American sacredness. The computer game, on the surface a trivial form of visceral entertainment, has captured the American population in its ability to tell stories. And in so doing the computer game has become a medium with aesthetic importance as it begins to reflect cultural values and re-form (and reform) them for aesthetic evaluation. As suggested above, interactivity and immersion are two properties that on the surface, and in other media, are mutually exclusive. Game noir allows the player to both immerse him or herself as well as interact with the gameworld, making the experience of the content and its contemplation simultaneous. That is, the construction of the illusion (or the suspension of disbelief) is concurrent with a full engagement with the medium as a medium. The fact that game noir’s content holds both epistemological and ontological concerns – and is embodied in a medium whose narrative basis is conflict resolution – holds aesthetic possibilities upon which I hope the reader will reflect.
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