(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!