L.A. Noire: Mimicry or Agon?

Posted: February 5, 2013 by mbchesler in Uncategorized


“L.A. Noire” is a genre game that takes place in Los Angeles during the late 1940s. I picked this game because I liked the noire and the idea of being a detective. On the first level, before actions seemed more consequential, I tested what I could do and where I could go. At first, the scenery and plot are the most notable and attractive. It reminds me most of “Chinatown”—a famous noire film that took place in L.A. As I explored and continued through a few levels, I was analyzing the game as mimicry. For example, as I was called to investigate a scene of a hit and run, I was able to take down the address down and look it up on Google maps, and actually navigate myself one two virtual remodels of Los Angeles. I took a detour to city hall before I went to the murder.

detour to city hall

detour to city hall

I believe that the definition of ‘mimicry’ provided in Salen and Zimmermans’ “Classification of Games” fits “L.A. Noire”, however, to suspend reality and invest the temporary acceptance of a new reality as another person, other styles of games are interspersed into it. “L.A. Noire” floats in between mimicry and agon. Even though the characters of the game are very recognizable, such as Michael Gladis from Mad Men, and the videogame could be fully explain as mimicry, agon becomes essential to the genre.

Guy from Madmen

Guy from Madmen

The film genre of noire needs evil characters with guns or a crime organization. It makes Phelps, as an extension of the player, want to rid Los Angeles of crime and corruption, instead of joyride through Los Angeles. L.A. Noire seems denounce feeling and the psych that is associated with ilinx games, and, instead of making other actors impossible to kill, the game makes the player feel ashamed of killing another and gives a message every time you do so. I see that as a way for designers to keep the realistic feeling for a mimicry game, while bolster the ‘good-guy’ feeling, which allows the player to get a sense of embodying the character. For me, I found the design of L.A. Noire interesting for utilizing aspects of Agon to bolster the nature of the genre and the level of embodiment of the player, while replicating a virtual city of Los Angeles during the late 1940s. Once I started to think about it, like many categorization system, Salen and Zimmermans’ classifications were not wrong, but might be more useful seeing each type as more a continuum in which each category is a node. Either way, it was very enjoyable to play a videogame through different insightful lens.

  1. suzannescott says:

    Focusing on how the game sits at the intersection of these two categories of games that Roger Caillois describes, mimicry and agon, is a good structuring device for this first post. Though, first and foremost, you need to be properly attributing these terms (you cite Salen and Zimmerman here), and offering some brief definition of them before applying them. The google map comparison is really interesting, in part because mimicry implies the creation and acceptance of an imaginary universe, and here the pleasure seemingly lies in both the game’s “realism” (both in terms of facial recognition, and in terms of its spatial planning/mapping of Los Angeles), and its ties to fictional noir representations of Los Angeles (e.g. Chinatown). Your discussion of agon and ilinx are less thorough, and I would have liked to see you deepen your analysis on those points, and generally expand on how these function as a continuum rather than discrete nodes.

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