I am not sure how useful this post will be, but the makers of The Detail intentionally invoke The Wire when they talk about the impetus and inspiration to create their game, so this post will explore where those connections lead.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the scene that makes some of my friends who are police officers love the show…
I think that scenes like this are why I can’t compare TD directly with The Wire – you could pull that intensity off in a game, but keeping the sense of a team of experts working in tandem to recreate a murder scene, complete with humor and sadness and a sense of both the possibilities and limitations of doing solid police work feel like they would be difficult to pull off in any sort of game.
That said, TD’s strengths are its ability to use specific components that games do well to create an interesting narrative (for the first two episodes – because they rushed the thing to a finish at the end after running out of money, I would just like to sort of forget that Episode 3 even happened). Interactive maps, options with character conversations, the simultaneous glaring quality of the color scheme offset by the sharp, distinct lines and contrasts: the borrowings from comic book-style art (particularly when offset by the shaded scenes featuring the police headquarters and warehouse) made me feel like I was reading crime comics again.
That sort of nostalgia is an awkward accomplishment for a crime game created by Finns but set in an American city. The comic book aspects mirror the dominant narrative – everyone is either on the take or out solely to protect themselves (except for the one good cop, of course), and no real police work gets done. As the game-player you are led by the nose through a series of clues, with options not allowing you to make wrong choices because you cannot leave a scene until you get all the answers. There is a screen at the end of each scene that describes your choices, but it simply pops up short snippets of text taken from newspaper stories, mostly to justify the game-makers’ own vaguely racist approaches to the scene.
Of course, picking apart a game like this is easy.