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Video Game / In the 1st Degree

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In the 1st Degree is an interactive courtroom drama adventure computer game released in 1995 by Brøderbund Software in which the player plays the role of Prosecutor Sterling Granger attempting to convict an artist for grand theft and the first-degree murder of his business partner. The player must first examine evidence, then interview witnesses, and finally go to trial to secure a conviction. The program was developed by Peter Adair and Haney Armstrong of Adair and Armstrong.

James Tobin is a struggling artist in San Francisco who owns an art gallery with his business partner, Zachary Barnes. For some time, the gallery is a lucrative business. However, after a new series of Tobin's paintings fail to sell, the gallery struggles financially. Tensions rise further when a burglary occurs at the gallery and Tobin's new series of paintings are stolen. During this time, unrelatedly, Barnes and Tobin's girlfriend, Ruby Garcia, have a one-night stand. One morning a few weeks later, an incident occurs between Tobin and Barnes at the gallery and Tobin shoots Barnes dead.

Tobin claims that he killed Barnes in self-defense following an argument and a struggle. The police do not accept this claim and believe the killing to be an act of premeditation. They believe that the burglary several weeks before Barnes' death was carried out by Tobin himself, that he stole his own paintings to gain the insurance money to save the struggling gallery. Saying that Tobin killed Barnes not only to cover up his crime but also as an act of revenge for Barnes' affair with his girlfriend, the police arrest Tobin and charge him with grand theft and murder in the first degree.

This Video Game contains examples of:

  • Black Dude Dies First: Only one character dies in this game. His name is Zachary Barnes, and he is a black guy shot dead by his white business partner James Tobin. Fortunately, the point of the game is to make sure Tobin goes all the way down for Zack's murder.
  • Double-Blind What-If: Tobin starts out being charged with first-degree murder. The challenge comes from having to prove it while playing as the prosecutor.
  • Happily Married: Despite sleeping with Ruby, Zack still deeply loves his wife, Yvonne.
  • Insurance Fraud: Alongside murder, Tobin is charged with stealing his own paintings to collect the insurance money.
  • Multiple Endings: Depending on how well the player character does, Tobin can either be acquitted or convicted on charges of either second or first-degree murder.
  • The Perry Mason Method: Played with. Certainly, you, the prosecutor, can try to badger the witness into confessing. However, it does not seem to work very much.
  • Villainous Breakdown: If you, the prosecutor, did a very good job playing the game, then Tobin will be called to the stand. You are trying to drive Tobin into this. There is some trial and error involved, but if you do it right, you get to watch Tobin completely lose it in front of everybody right there in the courtroom. When that happens, you know you have got the ending where Tobin is found guilty of first-degree murder.