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Asperger's expert recommends L.A. Noire as teaching tool

Justin McElroy

Though our expertly crafted guide to L.A. Noire may be invaluable, there's one group who may still be struggling: Those living with Asperger's syndrome. Though the autism-spectrum disorder leaves cognitive and linguistic functions relatively preserved, it leaves some with what's sometimes referred to as mind-blindness, or the inability to divine what's happening in the mind of another human. In the words of researcher and coiner of the phrase Simon Baron-Cohen, those with mind-blindness find they have an inability to "put themselves into someone else's shoes, to imagine their thoughts and feelings."

In L.A. Noire, facial animations are so realistically captured that players can actually tell if their interview subjects are lying. In fact, players have to do precisely that to unearth the clues essential to putting a case together.

As we progressed through the game, we worried that could leave those with mind-blindness unable to play along, especially if the technology is more widely adopted. But where we saw a hurdle, Professor Tony Attwood sees opportunity.

Attwood, the author of The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, conceded to us that those with the disorder may initially have trouble discerning a witness' fibs from the straight dope.

"Certainly, those with Asperger's syndrome have great difficulty in identifying such characteristics as they tend to take people and assume others may be as honest as they are," Attwood said.

But, Attwood continued, the very facets of the game that may challenge AS players may just captivate them as well.

"I think those with Asperger's syndrome would actually find the game quite fascinating as although the player is expected to make a decision on whether someone may be lying, there is the possibility of reviewing and replaying the scene to confirm whether the response was correct or identify the characteristics should a mistake have been made," he said.

In fact, Attwood said he would recommend the game to those with Asperger's as a way to learn more about human interaction. The most effective way might be to play alongside a friend or relative who could, as Attwood put it, "give feedback and guidance on the characteristics to look for to determine whether someone is lying or not."

Though L.A. Noire isn't currently set up well to allow repeat interrogations (you can quit to the main menu, but you'll often lose significant progress) we'll be interested to see if Rockstar alters that some day to help make the most of this unconventional teaching tool.

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