Games as a tribute to culture

If all media is autobiographical in some sense, then all games are a product of the culture the designer lives and breathes. However, certain games goes beyond their own present time, and instead looks to cultures past.
When a designer strives to pay tribute to a specific author or time-period, do they stay unbiased? Or will the present environment around the designer always sneak it’s way in?

L.A. Noire (Team Bondi, 2011) is a detective-themed game about solving crimes in a 1940s Los Angeles. The game has recreated the setting beautifully: The fashion, the cityscape, the small details of the language. The player even gets to drive old fashioned cars true to the time period.
However, one of the visual design decisions include featuring the voice actors within the game as character-models the player sees and interacts with.
Thus – after seeing an actor appear in the 1940s, as well as in a modern movie – isn’t the illusion somewhat broken?


Main character of L.A. Noire (Team Bondi, 2011), Cole Phelps, on the left, and his corresponding voice actor, Aaron Staton, on the right.


The turn-based dungeon-crawler, Darkest Dungeon (Red Hook Studios, 2016), is a tribute to gothic fiction. Drawing heavy inspiration from both H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker, the game is a beautiful illusion of late 18-hundreds storytelling. And yet, looking closer at the characters presented in the games, there is no doubt of the strong inspiration, taken from other current games.


Left: The Highwayman, from Darkest Dungeon (Red Hook Studios, 2016). Right: A Defias Thug from World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2004).


The game’s design director, Tyler Sigman, even directly states that Darkest Dungeon has drawn heavy inspiration from modern tv and films. (Lahti, 2016)

In conclusion, even when games go out of their way to pay tribute to a time and culture of the past, they are still in many ways simply a byproduct of our current society.
The real question is if this is for the best anyway.
Since media is a cultural stamp of the people living in the current society, this seems natural.




Lahti, Evan (2016) ‘How Darkest Dungeon got inspiration from Band of Brothers and Aliens’, PC gamer.


Images: (2011) Who’s Who in L.A. Noire.
Available at:  (Downloaded: 15 November 2017)

Virtual Gamer Info (2015) Darkest Dungeon Highwayman.
Available At: (Downloaded: 15 November 2017)

Thedarkhaze (n.d.) Defias Smuggler.
Available at: (Downloaded: 15 November 2017)



Blizzard Entertainment (2004) World of Warcraft [Video game] Blizzard Entertainment.

Red Hook Studios (2016) Darkest Dungeon [Video game] Red Hook Studios.

Team Bondi (2011) L.A. Noire [Video game] Rockstar Games.

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