The Wire as a Video Game?

The Wire Video GameMedia scholar Jason Mittel of the blog Just TV, has published a draft of what seem to become an excellent essay about the Wire and how it is narratively constructed. A good read for anyone interested in understanding some of the underlying appeal of the show.

After discussing whether or not to assess the wire as a televised novel, he goes on to compare the wire with the narrative structure of a video game. This actually made me think – is this something you would like to see?

Excerpt: Ultimately the characters in The Wire, while quite human and multi-dimensional, are as narrowly defined in their possibilities as typical videogame avatars. They each do what they do because that is the way the game is played—Bubbles can’t get clean, McNulty can’t follow orders, Avon can’t stop fighting for his corners, Sobotka can’t let go of the glory days of the shipyard. The characters with agency to change, like Stringer Bell, D’Angelo Barksdale, or Bunny Colvin, find the systems too resistant, the “boss levels” too difficult, to overcome the status quo.

Ultimately it is through its focus on procedure, at the levels of action, play, and code, that The Wire generates its verisimilitude, creating a ludic engagement with the SimCity of 21st century Baltimore.

Me myself would love to be able to take on the role of a Baltimore cop or hoodie and be part of evolving the story; solving crimes, having a drinking session with Bunk and McNulty or running packages.

What do you think? Would you play good cop, bad cop, king pin or perhaps junkie? Would it even be possible to transfer the dynamics of the show to the video game medium?



Filed under Bubbles, Bunny Colvin, D'angelo Barksdale, Jimmy McNulty, Stringer Bell, Television, The Wire, Video Games

10 responses to “The Wire as a Video Game?

  1. Castor23

    Damn, that would be tight! Could be GTA style, and you choose to play as a gangsta or a cop… Would be a difficult concept to develope, but I reckon it’d be well worth the cost for a major games company… The Wire has a great underground following.
    I think a ‘The Wire’ game would be the only reason I’d buy a PS3, lol…

  2. EsDot

    This series definitely has potential to become a great video game. There are so many possibilities they can run with.

    For example, the game can be played in seasons and each season unlocks more options. It will start off with season one and you will choose a side between the police and the Barksdale Organization. Missions would be set up to where you would control the different characters on each side. Then in season two more options open up as you can play with the guys from the docks, barksdale’s crew, or the police. Then it goes on and on to the final season.

    I’d love to play it as a video game. Dumping phones and etc. lol.

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  5. Avon

    Only if the name of the game is

    The Wire: The Game…
    The Game is the Game. “You’re in the Game”

  6. jason060481

    my god yea make the dam game, def gta style, not corny as u did the sopranos, that was such a disappointment

  7. Dennis

    it would only make sense to be able to play as either omar or maybe michael. omar would be there from the beginning and would allow the game to feature some big bosses from the storyline (avon, wee-bey, brother mouzanne, marlo, etc) but people would object to having to play as a homo

    michael also makes sense given that his storyline is essentially left open at the end of the series but no one wants to play as a little shitkid.

    bodie would be an ideal candidate if he weren’t killed at the end of season 4.

    probably the most realistic way to make a video game would be to base it around bubbles. he woulc be technically clean so the main objective would be to stay that way and to find ways to make money. pushing a cart of bootleg dvds, avoiding beatdowns from dopefiends, working at the soup kitchen and occaisionaly helping McNutty identify a criminal would be the bulk of the gameplay.

  8. Finbar

    I think a canon, David Simon/ Ed Burns sanctioned Wire video game would be a mistake; besides being unlikely. No doubt it’d be a blast to play, it would just artistically undermine what The Wire is.


    A fan-fiction sequel with certain key cast members returning for voice overs. To be a faithful love letter to the original series, it would have to, at least, have all this going for it:
    – Researched the shit out of it so if it’s not people who know their stuff working on it, they are at least consulted.
    – Multi-paths with NO MAIN PLOT TREE. So even if it becomes honourary canon in some fans’ hearts, the end of Season 5 can remain the end of the linear story, and we can all forever wonder what actually happens to those characters after THAT, the way it should be.
    – No main character. You do your chapter, begin the next as another character, and you don’t know whether or not you’ll return to that character, and if you do, it could be after you’ve cycled through playing as 7 – 10 more characters in as many scenarios in both minor and major capacities.
    – Multiple choice, problem solving, puzzles. Luck, luck, luck.
    – Monotony. When you play as the corner kid, you play 3 – 6 chapters as him doing the same routine before opportunity knocks, be it positive or negative opportunity. Or screw up and lose that arc. (Freeing time in your branch for another arc.) Same when you play as the detective, it would be as much office politics and schmoozing as you wait for a call, as it would be actually detecting when you get one.
    – Limited choice when you play as the addict(s). The game ought not to trivialize and minimize addiction, but at the same time, not be shy to incorporate the subject. All the different classes of characters would have different limiting choices that define them. I personally believe that this would help kids playing be more empathetic on the subject of addiction.
    – Promotions, demotions, busts, wire taps, politics, reputations, everything. You’d have to play smart to get rewarded, and STILL get rewarded with interesting gameplay if you don’t play smart. Do something bad, still get the chance to rectify it down the road. Do everything right a certain way, and still come up against inevitable compromises and wasted effort.
    – Subtle rewards for the player for trying different things each go through in that different minor characters and arcs are and aren’t introduced, do and don’t become more significant. As in the show, the placement of such things would appear random, but there’d always be a purpose; it wouldn’t be as arbitrary as, “She went left here, so don’t introduce that minor character.”
    – Action and violence would be an aspect of the game, but only an aspect. 91% of it would be reading dialogue and making decisions. The Wire reinvented TV. If The Wire, The Video Game weren’t to reinvent video games, fuck off.
    – Above all else, an independent message that at once supports the philosophical messages and subtexts of the show, but is still very much unique to the game. ‘Cause otherwise, artistically, it’s just jerking off.
    – Clean language feature in the options menu for the kids, parents, or just people who don’t like to hear it and who’d otherwise miss out.
    – “Game Over” is all you ever get when your story branch ends. No “You win” no “You lose.” It’s up to the player to interpret how well (s)he did. Certain story branches are short, others are long, a few are REALLY long. The challenge would be for players to get stories and endings that most closely match up with their world views. And players would, of course, compete to get the longest, shortest, and least common endings. All the work this game would require of programmers and writers, it wouldn’t be much more to ask for some real story gems to be embedded deep, so it’d be really hard to figure out how to bring them about.

    The game would introduce another institution or two into the main story arcs; say hospitals or courts.
    And new characters of course. It being culled from the talents of many fans as opposed to the people who originally worked on the show, the whole immigration season could actually happen in game form, and be written with a measure of integrity. (I.E. By people who speak Spanish.)

    (Spoiler, reference to show itself.)
    Play as a journalist, and you can choose to go the honest route, or you can choose to bullshit your way through and add a lot of combustibles to the melting pot. And anything in between.
    (End spoiler)
    Play as a cop, go clean, or go corrupt and/or brutal. Or, again, in between.
    Play as a corner boy, follow the rules of the street the way through, or be a snitch, or figure out another way to play the game/ play the game without getting killed/arrested.
    As in the the three previous examples, as you colour outside of the lines, the more you risk that particular character’s credibility, the less seriously the character is taken, both by the characters within the game and the omniscient, voiceless narrator. But every single character in the game runs the same risk if you just play it by the book too.

    The game would pick up on whose path you’re advancing the most and give you less and less opportunity to influence whatever you’ve sabotaged yourself. The game would reward the real Freamon’s and Pryzbelewski’s out there willing to commit the patience and effort to building things piece by piece. Real detectives would actually have an advantage playing the game.

    Boy I’d love to work on that game if it were to be made.

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