Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Red Dead Redemption Is Not the Game of the Year

(I have a wicked paper cut on my left forefinger that required a band aid, so my typing is off. Please ignore all typos.)

There, I said it. I know, I know. Red Dead Redemption is the Mona Lisa of video games, and if you don't get it, it's because you're a soulless philistine who doesn't understand art. In fact, I may have just said that I am impenetrably stupid and don't understand and love video games.

Seriously, that's the hype about Red Dead Redemption in the gaming world. I may as well hire my own firing squad by saying that I don't like the game. I do not like Red Dead Redemption. I tried so hard to like it, though. I paid good money for that game. (Well, I traded stuff in, mostly, but still, money was involved at some point.) I played RDR for a total of 15 hours. Some games only have 10 hours of play in them, but I spent 15 hours just figuring out that I did not like RDR.

Here's the thing. Gamers, at least gamers that play games like RDR, are adults. Most xbox gamers are adults*. And we've all absorbed the stigma that video games are for kids, that video games are the trailer trash (or bogan, for my NZ readers) of entertainment. Movies are the fine wine of entertainment, TV is the cheap beer, and video games are like huffing glue.

Nobody likes to think of themselves as the sort of person who huffs glue instead of engaging in truly worthy pursuits, especially not for 30 or more hours a week**, so gamers end up defending video games as art. I don't bother, because I don't really care what nongamers think of something they've never done, and because I know games are art. You don't see anyone defending Monet's works, do you?

However, most gamers aren't me, hence the hoopla around RDR. "It's art! It's beautiful! It's historical! There's no aliens or BFGs here, this is real Americana!" It's crap. It's boring, draggy, buggy crap. Yes, the scenery is lovely. Yes, the audio is inspiring. Yes, John's facial hair probably consumed some poor programmer's life for months and the results are totally worth it, but it's still crap.

Keep in mind, I love these types of games, where you can roam about at will, interacting with characters and creatures, discovering a beautiful new world. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion contained dozens of books explaining the world, books on history, magic, mythology, etc. I read them all. They added nothing to the game itself, but I loved each and every one. Fallout 3 had approximately 200 locations to discover, many no more than lonely shacks or holes in the ground. I found each and every one of them. Dragon Age had dozens of characters with interesting stories to tell, completely unrelated to the game. I talked to every character I could entice to conversation, sometimes more than once.

What I'm trying to say is, I love the pointless and obscure in video games. Some person somewhere wrote those books, created those shacks and voiced those characters, and I celebrate their efforts.

I just couldn't celebrate Red Dead Redemption. There was no magic there, no life, no love. I have felt that way about other Rock Star games, as well. I feel, perhaps, that the creators of Oblivion and Fallout and Dragon Age loved their creations beyond reason, while Rock Star just puts out a product. There's no soul. It sells well, but no one at Rock Star thinks to put a melancholy note from a fictional person dying of radiation poisoning after the apocalypse in a shack at the top of a mountain perhaps half a dozen gamers will bother to find.

Or maybe I just don't get it. Maybe the emperor is wearing a fine new set of clothes and I'm just the idiot who can't see them.

*The kinect may change this, but for right now, the Wii is for casual and child gamers, and the xbox is for hardcore and adult gamers. (Playstation is for propping up the economy of Japan.) Someone will bring up Viva Pinata, but anyone who actually played that game knows that it takes more tactical skills than invading Russia.

**Not having kids is awesome!


  1. PF,

    You've hit several of my hot button issues.

    I'm a gamer and not really a casual one. I usually spend 3 or 4 hours on a weekend afternoon playing. Sometimes if I have a day with nothing to do I'll blow a whole day, but that's rare and I'll squeeze some gaming in on weeknights when I have free time. I have been told by a few of my non-gamer peers that I was too old to have that particular hobby or that it was a waste of time both of which irritate me to no end. I could point to one of their hobbies that I don't think is all that much fun and say the same thing, but I don't because I realize different people like different things.

    I also hate that the Wii is slanted towards kids and casual gamers, because I generally go with Nintendo's console. I love the Metroid series and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE anything Mario related. Playing Mario just makes me smile and makes me feel like I'm 9 years old again. If I am only going to have one video game console you're gonna bet I'm gonna get the one that has Mario, so I'm always stuck with Nintendo consoles.

    However I want to play Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect, Dead Space and several other more adult oriented titles, plus Castlevania: Lord of Shadows because I've loved that series since I started playing games when I was 8. So I guess I'm gonna have to cough up money for an X-box or be content playing the more family friendly Wii titles. I wish there was just one console. The way things are now is like having to have 3 different DVD players, one for Warner Brothers movies, one for Sony movies, and one for 20th Century Fox.

    .....hoping I can use my tax refund to get an X-box... for the time being, I have the new Metroid and the new Donkey Kong to keep me busy.

  2. Yeah, I do feel like I miss out on some of the Mario/Link related fun due to the balkanization of video games. The competition is good, in a way. The kinect looks ready to revolutionize gaming, and if it weren't for the Wii proving the force of the casual gaming market, I don't think MS would have bothered developing it.

    But, the competition means that you have to pick your horse and ride it, because otherwise you have to spend a fortune to have more than one console.

  3. I just got Red Dead, but I have yet had a chance to play it. I think you are right in assessment of Rock Star compared to Bioware and Bethesda.

  4. Beamstalk: I squeed. I literally squealed with joy when it was announced during the VGAs. Oblivion was the game that got me into gaming, so the Elder Scrolls series has a very special place in my heart.

  5. The first Elder Scrolls game I played was Daggerfall, and it has shaped how I play games. It just confirmed my life as a gamer.

  6. That was Oblivion for me. I was so charmed by it, I would beg my husband to play more so I could watch. Then I would tell him where to go and to read books and to talk to certain people. Eventually, he handed me a controller and told me to play my own game.

    Thus a gamer was born.

  7. I know body issues are among your soapboxes, so I thought you might be interested in this. And by "I thought you might be interested," I do mean, "Please for the love of God, rip this asshole to shreds."


  8. THANK YOU for posting this! I love your blog!!

    Common Cents


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at foreverinhell.blogspot.com.