Is It Time For A Major Black-And-White Video Game?

Our video games are in colour. Even our noir video games set in 1940s Los Angeles. They don't have to be, right? This is a trailer for Rockstar Games' L.A. Noire, with one change. We made it black and white.

Sure, this is a crude transfer. I took Rockstar Games and Team Bondi's official L.A. Noire trailer....

... and sapped the colour.

I did this, because, well, it seemed like it might be the right thing to do. After I ran impressions of the noir thriller last week on Kotaku, people asked me if the game was in black and white, if it could be played in that mode.

One Kotaku reader named t0ddd had asked:

I haven't read much about the game and only understand the very basic premise and keep the title in mind—which makes me wonder, why isn't it in black and white? That would truly be bold

I had asked the Rockstar people, too, last week, whether there would be a black and white option for their game. It came up during small talk as they played the game in front of me. Their answer was inconclusive, and it was hard to tell if the spring 2011 game lacks the option or if it's just not been decided upon yet.

We've had black-and-white games before - the bloody Sin City-style MadWorld, for example - but nothing major. Nothing that seems like it could feel so right. Is it time?


    Why would the game be in black and white? I am sure the world wasn't saturated of colour in the 40's.

      I kind of like the idea. I mean when rockstar tried to do something with the camera filter with the Lost and Damned GTA DLC, people immediately turned it off.

      I also take your point that the 'real world' was not saturated of colour back then, but then again, for the right game with the right setting, I actually think it could work...

      Film Noir is classically black & white. While there have been a number of Noir films in colour, it's traditionally associated with the black & white films of the 40s and 50s.

    For it to really work, you would need to design it for black and white, the way a director of a black and white film would. The lighting and contrast choices give much much more impact than simply desaturating down to black and white.

    I think it would rock if someone made a true black and white game, it would also give the option to have the tiniest uses of colour to twist your emotions when required.

    Though even if you just upped the contrast a bit on the black and white clip above, I think I do prefer it to the colour one.

    Personally i think this game would be fantastic in B&W.

    Unfortunately with the mindset of people these days it just wouldn't work.

    The difference with Madworld is that it had bright reds to contrast and was also cel shaded B+W, which i would consider completely different from doing this game in a propper B+W.

    Heck, i'm 25 and i still enjoy movies that were made WELL before my time. Anything with the rat pack, John Wayne, The Marx Brothers... the list goes on and on. Just because they are old doesn't mean they aren't fantastic. Heck, when i'm watching them i don't even find myself thinking "man, i wish this was in color". it's part of the experience...

    Exceptions to the examples are movies that are meant to be colorful, like the Wizard of Oz.

    But this game isn't meant to be colourful.. It's Noir.. It's classic, gritty crime/murder mystery..

    At the very least an option to switch it on and off, even mid game, would be a nice feature.

    In the distant past I had a point n click detective PC game simply called "Noir", I don't remember much about it except that it was all in B&W. Probably still have the box floating around somewhere.

    Limbo wasn't a major release, but certainly showed how black and white could be used successfully in a game.

    Noir != black and white, that is a very naive idea.

    Besides that, we already have some major games that are in black and white, and the art direction for this game does not fit the idea, it isn't as simple as removing saturation.

    As someone mentioned above, you probably need to create the game with black and white in mind if you're going to have it, rather than simply have a black and white option. Moreover, keeping in mind that Rockstar have said a lot of this game is finding clues and evidence that's hidden at a crime scene - with no glows, prompts or hints to guide you - could make it a frustrating experience for a lot of players if you limit the colour palette that dramatically.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again...The option to choose, would be nice.

    I like how after you finish Silent Hills you can usually turn of the grainy filter, I think Mass Effect did the same.


    From an artistic standpoint, the game would need to be designed in greyscale from the ground up to allow for appropriate contrast cues. You guys can go ahead and drop the saturation on your screen to 0 if you want it in B&W so badly, though.

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