The most ostensibly distinct feature of games over other forms of art is the heavy reliance on interactivity. Where the audience of any other artistic work is only symbolically connected to a piece through interpretation or discussion, a game can only progress when the player has their hands on the controller and literally moves the story along. To move the story along, the golden rule is that the protagonist must be somebody that the player would want to be. As a result, most heroes are flawless action stars against a legitimate and unambiguously evil threat (Marcus Fenix of Gears of War), morally neutral until the player makes their decisions for them (Commander Shepard of Mass Effect), or completely silent (Link of The Legend of Zelda). In any case, the purpose is to limit character development or hand developmental authority to the player. But L.A. Noire shows that a more sophisticated character arc can be drawn when authorship of a character is taken away from the player and gamers are forced to play as someone that they wouldn’t want to be.
There is a critical moment in L.A. Noire that seems to divide those that enjoyed the game and those that hated it. At the end of the second chapter, when Cole Phelps is promoted from traffic to homicide, Roy Earle—a sleazy vice detective—takes Phelps out for a congratulatory drink. At this point the player knows that Phelps is a stickler for the rules and that he is an effective and dedicated police officer. His morals are agreeable and his methods are efficient—he is who a player would want to be. But when Earle pushes around and berates a black maitre d’, walks into a drug nest, and assaults a woman, Phelps does nothing.