In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
The closest I ever got to being involved with the police was being an Administration Assistant at two different stations. I eventually became disillusioned with the job and the ideals of policing, since a majority of my work involved officers hypocritically complaining about their long hours while asking me to send them more overtime sheets.
It really was a Ďthrill a minuteí.
I joke, Homicide: Life on The Streets, NYPD Blue and to a lesser extent The Bill all lied to me.
Incidentally, I found the truth in videogames long after I discovered it the hard way. Back in 2006, Sierra re-released their Quest franchises as ďlimited editionĒ collections and Police Quest I-IV were one of them. With a name like Police Quest, youíd expect something epic; involving officers in a lawless world on a journey to find justice or something.
Instead, the series dealt with the mundane aspects of policing -filling out forms, talking in impenetrable call-sign jargon, stopping people for traffic misdemeanours, etc.
Itís so realistic that I half-expected the protagonist stop off at the stationís administration offices and harass a pixelated version of me about how the printer stopped working.
Police Quest: In Pursuit of The Death Angel
With an ominous title like that, youíd expect some serious detective thriller in which a world weary Morgan Freeman teams up with an erratic Dennis Franz in search of a serial killer who leaves his victims in crucifixion poses.
It focuses on Officer Sonny Bonds with his daily routine of doling out speeding tickets and taking long lunch breaks; all the while hoping that one day gosh-darn-it he becomes a detective. The eponymous Death Angel (a drug dealer) doesnít even appear until the very end of the game. Instead of a climatic shoot-out, Bonds ends up in a sting operation and while wearing a wire, heís required to make the main antagonist claim how criminally awesome he is.
To be fair, with all the recent talk of videogame developers going for gritty realism, itís easy to forget how slow and frustrating real police work can be. The usual perception is more to do with copying exciting Hollywood movies than taking notes from slow burning dramas like The Wire. Essentially, each law enforcing situation is a puzzle where the assimilation of real world processing and point and click sensibilities make for a unique solution.
Itís a far cry from procedurals in recent titles (like Condemned 2 for instance) in which they are boiled down to multiple choice answers and quick fix forensics. Itís easy to become deeply intrigued about how each situation is resolved and some can be pretty deadly if youíre not paying attention.
Despite lacking an exciting arc, it truly was a milestone for adventure games.
Police Quest II: The Vengence
For some reason, Sierra didnít bother to upgrade the first sequel like with originalís remake, so youíre left with Ďold schoolí blocky graphics and a horrid ye olde text parser system. Itís a game where ďI donít understandĒ becomes your protagonistís motto, as you scream for him to pick up what might be a syringe.
Then again, it might turn out to be a bloody pen.
Only you donít know that because you canít describe what youíre looking at to the game.
Weíve come a long way, baby.
Police Quest III: The Kindred
The third game is usually regarded to be the fan favourite. Itís still fundamentally the same police procedural/point and click hybrid as the last two games, but this time around Sierra beefed up the usually anaemic storyline.
Sonny Bonds is now a detective with a great reputation and a loving wife. One night, sheís attacked and put into a coma, so Bonds deals with the grief by investigating her case. From the off, The Kindred is a dark and adult tale; gone is the occasional optimism that peppered the first two games.
The story stays with you because of the seriesí reliance on the mundane. For every small lead and average shift day, itís punctuated by a trip to the hospital and a lonely drive home. Itís a mature human drama that manages to come across as tender in places where most games would offer you a smorgasbord of cheese.
The Kindred is also probably most famous for the ingenious Ďpentagram puzzleí, where all the attacks are pinned on a map and you draw lines forming a pentagram. Itís a clichť in cop shows and movies, but thereís something satisfying by discovering the bigger picture on your own accord.
Iíd make a ton of sarcastic observations about how The Kindred declines into maverick cop territory, but it truly is one of the greats in adventure gaming.
Daryl F. Gatesí Police Quest: Open Season
When Jim Walls (Police Questís original police consultant) quit the series, some bright spark hired everybodyís favourite ex-Chief of the LA Police Department during the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots Ė Daryl F. Gates.
Open Season was a fully digitised world of gritty crime scenes, full of uncaring jet black humour, intentional shock tactics and a focus on delivering swift brutal justice to South Central suspects. It had Gatesí questionable views all over it.
Instead of Detective Bonds, you take control of Detective John Carey; whoís appearance looks remarkably like Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man. Though while not snorting speed and shouting slogans like ďthe life of a repo man is always intenseĒ, Carey likes nothing better to do than indulge in an unhealthy gun obsession at the shooting range and push around female news reporters.
Daryl would be proud.
Carey is asked to investigate a child homicide that quickly spirals into a spate of serial killings. To cut a long story short, he finally finds the killer and dispenses justice in a way only an early 90ís LA cop would know how...
He burns the guy to death.
Sierra clearly got bored with formula and wanted to break free of the previous realistic restrictions that stopped it spreading its plot wings; Careyís actions are focused solely on his killer, while the plot throws in some random shoot-outs for good measure. Itís not a bad game though; there's still a focus on police work and while itís regarded as the black sheep of the series, I actually found the shift in tone just as exciting. After all, isnít entertainment the point of the videogames?
Open Season would be the last of the true Police Quest games as the focus switched over to the intense SWAT series. While this series would make reference to the earlier adventures, it eventually became its own beast with SWAT 3 onwards.
As for Police Quest, itís a sturdy reminder that videogames can on occasion successfully merge mundane realism with the sense of entertainment and adventure. As written in a previous blog, I believe we missed the time to play up the strengths of the mundane; recent videogames tend to use realist moments that are divorced from the main experience, rather than integrate them into mind-teasing situations.
Then again, Iím probably just as glad that some developer didnít make Law & Order: Business Unit featuring such exciting mini-games as criminal record filing and mail sorting.