Max Payne - the intricacies of visual referencing in computer games Conference Paper uri icon


  • It is already clear and well documented that, nowadays, many children that live in developed countries see more images than most adults have, until now, seen throughout their whole lives (Ferrington, 2004; Jones, 2004; Wegener, 2003) and that these images are extremely diverse in content and support medium. In the contemporary world, computer games are another contributor to this intensive visual and audio production. As such, it is important to be able to contextualize and analyse the relationship they have with previous audio and visual mediums and understand computer games as a multi-modal multi-referential text. The main objective of this work will be to understand the third-person shooter computer game Max Payne, developed by Finnish Remedy Entertainment and originally released in July 2001, in which the player the role of the titular character (the detective Max Payne), in relation to its strong film noiraesthetics, use of graphic novel drawing style in place of animated cut-scenes to narrate the game, use of Hong Kong action cinema genre camera work, and to Norse mythology, particularly the myth of Ragnarök. Furthermore, this computer game allows a second mode of play – the matrix mode – in which the avatar of the title character is substituted by a «Neo-like» avatar, from the film series The Matrix. Presenting such a wide range of visual influences, this computer game is, in fact, an extremely interesting example of the pervasiveness of imagery. Max Paynereceived very positive reviews from critics and was praised not only for its exciting gameplay but also for its use of noirstorytelling devices and innovative aesthetics. Adding to this, as of March 2008, the Max Paynefranchise has sold over 7 million copies and has been ported from the original Windows release to Xbox, PlayStation, Gameboy Advance, and Macintosh. This data attests the game’s acceptance by the public, which reinforces the relevance of a critical reading.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010