Red Dead Redemption and the New Medium of Entertainment

Max Feigelson, ‘22

There are only a handful of mainstream media that we use to entertain ourselves. We either turn on Netflix, TV, or Youtube to get the majority of our shows and movies. However, basement-dwellers all around the world have known of the shunned upon and disregarded (scorned?) world of video games. The world tells them to get off the screen, or that their games are too “violent.” What most moms and doctors alike don’t know is that these sweaty geeks are consuming the next biggest medium of interactive entertainment. In the past few years, Esports has risen from the laughing-stock of the media, to a worldwide phenomenon with the creation of games like Counter-Strike, Dota, PUBG and Fortnite. These are the strategic and addictive multiplayer games that spawn stories like, “China bans video games”, or “how to see the early signs of video game addiction.” These games are fun, and they spawn interactivity between friends, but they are not the point of my writing this article. I’m writing about an entirely different genre of gaming, the single player experience. Whether you are fighting to find a lost treasure in the Uncharted series, or enjoying the vastness of wide open plains with Shadow of the Colossus, single player games are as diverse and artistic as movies are. Some games acquire the player-base of thrill seeking gun shooting teenagers, while others revel in the ins-and outs of a immersive and touching story. Just as movies tell a story using a creative vision or a new outlook on a true scenario, video games do the same with the added element of interactivity. The best example of a game combining all of these elements from the past year is Red Dead Redemption 2.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the successor to the already wildly popular Red Dead Redemption made in 2010. The main difference in games lies in the console on which the game is played. RDR was played on the Xbox 360 and PS3 while RDR2 is played on the newer Xbox One and the PS4. The difference in console is what transforms the game from a fun piece of fantasy, to a real world immersive experience. A review of RDR2 by the Washington Post said that the game, “made him [the reviewer] feel glad to be alive.” That is not an understatement. After having long conversations with virtual gang members, learning the ins and outs of hunting an animal in a serene landscape, and over 60 hours of story, I craved to see the sunrise over the small town of Valentine once more. I was surprised at how much the game had shaped my view of the west when I first took a ride through the bustling and crowded city of St Denis. The first time the player enters the city, they are greeted with a gray and slow cutscene panning from the beautiful prairies to the smog of the city. Even though I have never lived in the outback or the west, I could feel the hatred of the main character (Arthur) for urban crowds as he accidentally bumped into people on a busy street. This was the direct opposite of being free in the country and making camp, hunting, crafting, robbing and taking pictures with a 19th century camera that could never do the beautiful waterfalls any justice. Never have I been so attached to a video game animal as I was to my trusty horse (that I named Marty, ‘cause why not). After spending almost three days in real-life time in the masterfully put together countryside, it was a new experience to be revolted by the city that looks so similar to the one I live in and love. This is not a complaint, this is just a raw reaction to the intensive immersion that keeps the player think about the game even after you pause the game to get a drink.

Beyond being a beautiful game to look at, the story too is movie quality. It follows the journey that the fictional Van Der Linde gang takes after a botched bank robbery through thick and thin of relations between gang members. You take control of the character of the now-beloved Arthur Morgan, a thrill-seeking outlaw whose life is dedicated to his mentor and leader in Dutch Van Der Linde. Unlike what most people would think of a video game-adaptation of a western, Red Dead 2 goes in a direction comparable to that of, a complex work of literature, with the added element of visuals and a free-roam game on top. Rockstar chose to make Arthur undergo serious and consequential character developments that force him to consider his decisions with more gravity. Without spoilers for new players, Arthur and you (the one behind the controller), will see the virtual world in a new light after a certain event makes you consider how you affect other characters.

The story written by Rockstar is mature, touching, and thrilling, and set to a beautiful western soundtrack that I play while I do my homework. (and mind you, I hate country music). It could be argued that the structure of some missions is a bit too linear, but, overall, Red Dead 2 shows where gaming is going. Even though Red Dead did not win game of the year, (it lost to the equally stunning game: God of War that I’m completing as I write this article), it was said at the game awards that, “gaming is the new entertainment medium” in almost every acceptance speech. I can’t wait to see where that medium will go in 2019.