All of this game play serves my research for my book-length project. I had to restart L.A. Noire because I was distracted by another research project about digital pedagogy. However, I am putting that project on hiatus until September and getting this manuscript finished.
So, the first “desk” or level you are assigned to as Cole Phelps in the vast sandbox game is Patrol and it is exactly what you would expect: Phelps is a patrolman. There is a voice over narrator who uses that classic 40’s noir cynical style and fills you in on the world you are about to enter. He says such chestnuts as
Dealing with corruption is like chasing shadows. You never know if the guy you are talking to is on the pad or whether its your partner or maybe even the Watch Commander. So who do you trust Cole? I made up my mind a long time ago…”
So who in the heck is this “I?” Certainly this means that we are at a distance from the other characters. This narrator will be our guide…but he doesn’t introduce every case. Best not to overuse a device, I guess. You know, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to speak like a cynical noir narrator for a day….
Phelps is a go-getter; he’s a real Jacksonian man-on-the-make. He says he wants to keep the streets clean, but can he keep himself “clean?” The narrator hints that he won’t, so is this the fall of the urban frontiersman? Richard Slotkin claims that the frontiersman didn’t die out but was transformed into the noir detective who keeps the forces of chaos at bey in order to protect civilization (and like the frontiersman, the detective is a liminal figure – not fitting in either world). Phelps certainly does not fit, but there is another frontiersman detective that we meet down the line by the name of Jack Kelso.
The narrator mentions him in the Patrol Desk level of the game but I don’t think we really get to meet him until much later in the game. Will this be a showdown between the Jacksonian-style frontiersman and the Jeffersonian-style frontiersman? The man-on-the-make vs. the civic-minded hero? I think so….yep.