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Spoilers for plot points in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Ok, met Bronte, got Jack back, went to a party, read a letter from Mary.

First, gameplay note I gotta get out of the way.

That shootout in the graveyard was cool, I’ll give it that. The fog, the tight spaces, the maze, even the red dots disappearing on the minimap. Great stuff! Too bad it had no point in the narrative. It was like some developer came up with it and everyone was all “Cool! But…uh…where do we put it?” I guess they needed something other than Dutch strolling in all “Can we have Jack back?” and having Bronte go “Yeah, sure, no biggie.” But still. It seemed tacked on. Cool, though.

Ok, back to themes.

When you said that I might not like how Bronte was portrayed, I was kinda expecting a greasy mustache, a comical accent, sitting at a table eating, kinda like Mr. Piscetti on Curious George (as an aside, in this era of wokeness, how in the exact fuck is that allowed to be on TV? On PBS Kids no less! I digress). While I haven’t gotten to know him all that much, I’m not offended…yet. It certainly isn’t as bad as the portrayal of Strauss. That said, it’s early in his story arc.

I kinda get why they need to have him, though. This game, as we have said numerous times, is about the end of a classic way of life. Certainly, a force that causes way of life changes is immigration and demographic changes. Such things are complex. Some people (like us) welcome them, some people, well, don’t. Given this game is an allegory for the present, it would be quite the oversight if it didn’t go there on immigration. One of the big foreign “scary” bugbears of immigration at the time was, in fact, Italians, so it makes some historical sense (my own family came from Italy not long after the events of this game, in the early 1920s). Strauss seems gratuitous. This makes historical, narrative and allegorical sense. I’m curious to see where it goes.

The party was, once again, pretty great. Another thing on the list of things games should have is the hero singing badly and not knowing the words.

But the reprise of Dutch’s speech was the highlight. Did you listen to his speech? Cuz I have thoughts on that.

I also have a feverish Junior at home, so the thoughts might take a while. But I have thoughts.

Feminina:

I didn’t hear Dutch’s speech! I was mingling, listening to other people, must have missed it. Damn. Good party, though.

And yeah, the graveyard was interesting but seemed a bit superfluous (did you see that ghostly-looking woman who kept running by? I couldn’t figure out what, if anything, she was up to. Maybe she was actually just a ghost).

And no, Bronte isn’t a cartoon caricature. As I said, he has layers.

I’m in line at the RMV. Shivering, can’t write well or form useful thoughts. Send provisions.

Butch:

Shivering? Shit, you’re not getting this fevery thing Junior has, are you?

Ok, remember the “we’re gonna make it! Have faith!” speech Dutch gave early on in the game to much cheering? Well, this was almost word for word the same speech, only he was talking about leaving the country entirely to go to Tahiti and Fiji. Seriously. But it was more the way it was delivered. Unlike the upbeat message he had in the first place, this was hoarse, raspy and desperate. Instead of the daytime, here he was, in the dark, at a fire, saying the same things to drunken, tired, spent people in a desperate “please…please listen…” voice. As he was speaking (I have no idea if this was just coincidence, but it was awesome either way), thunderclouds gathered in the distance and a storm started to roll in.

It was cool. And, really, a metaphor for the way that people who’s way of life is in danger get desperate. People start thinking that if they, or their leaders, just yell a lot louder, get more irrational, things will be ok.

Nice stuff. And the fact it was missable made it that much better. He didn’t call everyone around like last time. He was missable.

Don’t get sick. And, by the way, you don’t drive. Why are you there?

Feminina:

I DON’T drive, much, but I CAN. And I figure I might as well continue to be able to do it legally.

I was only shivering because I was waiting outside in the cold. No worries. And I was only waiting outside because they don’t open until 9:00 but I got there an hour early because that’s when I get into Boston, and obviously people were already in line, so whatever, I joined them. And I was only there because it’s the happy year where my driver’s license expires but I renewed it online last time so this time I have to go in person. And I only have to go back and do it all over again next week because…I forgot…my…freaking…glasses. Siiiiiigh.

Got all my documents! Yes sir! But left the damn glasses on the shelf by the door. And I cannot even squint my way through the eye exam without them anymore. Siiiiiigh.

On the plus side, it’s spring out there! Cold but the sun is shining! There are worse times to wait in line for an hour outside the RMV to absolutely no purpose. Bright side.

And yeah, I do remember that speech now–I was thinking you meant he gave a speech at Bronte’s party.

All right, getting off the train.

Butch:

Wait you need the glasses to take the test? What’s with that? Squint, fail, get the restriction on your license, move on. That’s how I remember it.

Well, on the other bright side, it delays the inevitable where you get to compare the picture of you today to the picture of you ten years ago oh who am I kidding you look exactly the same.

Let’s just say I don’t look exactly the same.

Feminina:

I don’t know, she said I had to be able to pass the test (with glasses if not without). Otherwise, they don’t know my glasses are actually good enough that I can see to drive with them, do they? Maybe it’s a 15-year-old prescription! Maybe I don’t even OWN glasses, for all they know. Actually, she said I had to come back with glasses or with a doctor’s note that said I can pass the test while wearing glasses. So I guess I could get my doctor to say that yes, I could pass the test with glasses, and STILL not actually own any. Hm.

Maybe you have to squint, fail, then look again with glasses so that they can put the restriction on your license? I don’t know, man. I only know I spent one hour of real time standing in line and have nothing to show for it. Not even a concluded quest! Siiiiiiigh.

I need to get an extra pair of glasses that can just stay in my bag at all times so I don’t have to remember to bring them places. I already have my work glasses (on my desk) and my home glasses (on the shelf), but that is clearly not enough. To the internet, home of cheap (in every sense) spectacles (in every sense)!

And to get back on topic–it is a very nice parallel, with Dutch’s meant-to-be-rousing speech that, this time, is not going over nearly as well (even with himself, it seems). As you say, the darkness, everyone huddled and miserable and half of them not even listening, Dutch all hoarse and desperate. Originally this speech was about hope and optimism!–now it’s just trying to stave off despair by sheer force of will.

One can’t help but have a bad feeling about the future. I mean, we’ve been assuming since we started the game that they’re all doomed, but here we’re really beginning to see it unraveling in earnest.

Butch:

White hot rage, that. At least you weren’t carrying a tied up dude.

That’s very organized of you. I just have the regular glasses and the sunglasses. That’s usually fine, unless I forget about sunset. That tends to become an issue.

Oh they’re totally doomed. Every way of life is, eventually. I’m not saying that as (necessarily) a bad thing. Progress only comes through change. I certainly prefer today, as fucked up as it is, to the whole Americana ideal. Shit, just twenty years ago we never would have AOC in Congress. Fifty years ago homosexuality was illegal in some places. Fifty two years ago, so was interracial marriage. One can only hope things will get better and that means the demise of some people’s way of life.

Though “the gang is doomed” isn’t really what Dutch is afraid of. Dutch is really afraid that the gang’s lot isn’t going to improve like everyone else’s lot. He isn’t dreaming of the same life. He’s dreaming of Fiji for fuck’s sake. At least, he is now. Maybe that means he knows that they’re doomed in terms of finding freedom on the plains and is grasping at ways not to be totally doomed. It does seem like a rather irrational grasp. Fiji? I mean, c’mon.

Feminina:

Yeah, this tropical getaway seems like a frantic grab at something that sounded good when someone mentioned it in passing one time, and now he’s pinning all his hopes on it because he doesn’t have anything better.

Which is pretty grim, and everyone seems to know it. People are pretty skeptical: “Tahiti? really?” and you get the sense that they’re mostly going along with it because they don’t have anything better either.

Desperate people following a desperate leader, all grasping at straws. Yes, this has all the signs of something that’s bound to turn out great. Ha.

Butch:

It also resonates in the present. Wish it didn’t.

It’s kinda amazing that that was so missable. This game has no problem making it so you don’t catch stuff. I can’t decide if that’s cool or pretentious or both.

Feminina:

Make America Tahiti Again! Everything’s going to be great.

So, so, so great.

We’re doomed, aren’t we? Yes. Yes we are.

Speaking of how every way of life comes to an end.

Re: pretentious or cool…hm. Yeah. A bit of both, maybe. I mean, it’s kind of cool that they don’t care about making sure you get all these points they’re putting in there. “We’re going to throw in a lot of moody, themey, narratively interesting stuff, and if you don’t care about it, or just aren’t paying attention, that’s fine–you can ignore it!”

On the other hand, it feels a bit like making Easter eggs out of story points, and hey, I don’t care about missing Easter eggs but I don’t WANT to miss story points.

On yet a third hand, we also should probably give Rockstar some credit for knowing how to design a game, and consider that it’s possible that moment wasn’t as completely missable as it seemed. Maybe Dutch would have just stood there giving that speech for days until we went close enough to pay attention to it. Maybe he would have eventually tracked us down and said “hey, Arthur, here’s my plan!” and recited it then. Certainly the casualness of some of these interactions is less happenstance than it feels.

On a fourth hand (I guess–I should probably just drop the hands at this point), we know that Arthur can go through life ‘antagonizing’ everyone he meets and presumably then you just play the game as a jerk, so maybe you can also play the game as an oblivious dude who never talks to or pays attention to anyone unless forced into it by a cutscene.

I don’t know. I’m certainly not playing it again to see whether or not I can actually ignore all the conversations.

Butch:

Oh lord, me neither. I barely have the time to play it once.

But right! That’s my issue with it. Yes, realism, but being SO realistic that you screw up your own narrative is just show offy game design, not good game design. I think, anyway.

Well, he did rather randomly come up to Arthur and said, like “Fiji! Tahiti! It’s gonna happen!” and, as this was before the speech, this made me say “Dude, you are DRUNK.” Made more sense with the speech. Sorta.

Feminina:

There is also that option, when people come up to you and start talking about non-mission-but-character stuff, to be all dismissive: circle for “not now.” I never do that, because I’m polite and also interested in what people have to say, but again, if you’re playing it as a guy who doesn’t give a damn about anyone, that certainly fits.

So, again…I guess it’s cool that if you’re a player who’s into playing the guy who doesn’t care, you can ignore all that stuff! And Dutch’ll still tell you “Tahiti is going to be great!”

Butch:

It is an interesting approach to narrative. I suppose on that is unique to games, at that.

Feminina:

“We’ll make sure you know enough to follow the story, but it’s up to you how much you want to flesh it out.”

Hm. Again, if you’re someone who’s really just playing for the combat and the stagecoach robberies, or whatever, this could be great for you. Why should you have to sit through a bunch of dialogue you don’t care about? Maybe it’s another approach to that sort of customization of games that we discussed with, say, the ability to set different difficulty levels for different types of challenges in RotTR.

We’d rather there be story people can skip than no story. WE don’t have to skip it. I think maybe it just makes us nervous because we’re not sure we’ll get everything if it isn’t plopped right in front of us. I know I am!

But…maybe it’s not all bad. Maybe they would have just left out some of this stuff because they didn’t want to risk annoying the combat people, but this way they could put it all in. Maybe risking missing something is just the price story people like us have to pay to have story at all.

Hm.

Butch:

It’s just more proof the “rules” of game narrative are still being written.

And we bloggers are happier for it.

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