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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the epilogue of Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

So…uh…..why am I doing this?

Not “why am I blogging.” That I like.

More, “Why am I driving a wagon? Why am I milking a cow? Why am I shoveling cow poop?”

John was all “Wow, far cry from Bronte’s mansion. From a gunslinger to this,” and I was nodding along saying “Yes…amazing….can’t believe it….”

You know me well enough to know that I would absolutely love to find a way to find themes, and, therefore, discussion, in milk and cow poop. But I can’t. I just can’t.

At least writing the open for today’s post is easy.

Feminina:

Yeah…I’m with you, dude.

I mean…OK, here’s my best interpretation of what they’re going for with this. As with so much about the mechanics in this game, I think it’s a means of immersion and identification with the character.

John is TRYING to go straight, he really is, but it’s hard for him–and we get to experience why it’s hard. Because it’s so boring! All this normal, everyday work! We GET how bored he is with this! We wonder “why the hell am I doing this?” and so does he!

And, like him, we kind of leap at the chance to get in a fight or something because damn, at least something is HAPPENING now!

Normal, everyday life is generally not the stuff of games or literature or exciting stories in any medium. It’s weird to us to be playing through these sorts of mundane chores. And I think it’s meant to be weird, it’s meant to feel kind of humdrum and to make us a little impatient after a while, because that’s how John feels about it too. He’s slogging through it, just like we are, but his heart isn’t really in it, just like ours isn’t.

And this is meant to help us understand why it’s so hard for him to get out of a life that, as we’ve just experienced, really wasn’t all that great, what with the bad stew and sleeping in the dirt and getting shot at and constantly running from the law: it was at least some excitement, there were frequent changes of pace, and maybe he just wants some of that back because the alternative is safer but so…very…slow…and unexciting. Not to mention, lacking in the freedom that was so much of the gang’s ideal.

So that’s my guess as to what they’re going for. And I do respect it, I think it kind of works. BUT!–I think there was way more of it than there needed to be to make the point. I didn’t need a whole secondary game of “Marston: the Homesteading Years” to clarify this for me. Especially after I had already achieved a satisfying conclusion to the main game and was just really ready to be DONE.

I mean, there were some interesting moments in this part! There’s character development! A few things happened that we will talk about later! But I swear, I never really got over that sense of “why, WHY am I doing this?”

I should also not overlook the fact that, all my halfhearted respect for the mechanical achievement aside, the larger question, “why am I John Marston at all?” (which is probably more to the point for both of us) remains unanswered.

OK, so they did an all right job, technically, with the game Marston: The Homesteading Years. Still, why did they make us play it at the end of RDR2?

Why was this add-on felt to be a necessary component of an experience we both felt they’d already done a good job of finishing?

Other than “set-up for RDR!” (which as we discussed yesterday, is not a very satisfying answer) I really don’t have a theory about this.

Butch:

Yeah…I’ll stick with my “why?” and raise a “why now?”

This game is over. Over I say!

Indeed, I feel like I’m playing a different game, not an epilogue to a game I’ve “finished” playing.

And I stay pissed because the “ending” was really, really good! FINALLY an ending to a game that is more than just “world saved” that makes any sort of sense, that’s powerful, that WORKS and then this! THIS! NOW!

I AM WITH YOU! I WANT TO BE DONE!

I mean, I’ll still finish it, but Jeez, game. Jeez.

I’ll make a general, but correct, point, not just for games, but for all forms of narrative on earth: Epilogues should not have “part one” and “part two.” Epilogues are supposed to be short little postscripts. When it comes to epilogues and this game, to paraphrase the Princess Bride, “I do not think epilogue means what you think it means.”

Feminina:

We are in agreement! Complete agreement! This is not an epilogue, it is a mini-sequel, for some reason contained within the body of the main game.

Well, the ‘some reason’ is probably because they figured they wouldn’t have been able to sell many copies of Marston: The Homesteading Years as a standalone game, or even DLC, which is really what it feels like. Although…they could have tried it. Maybe made a few extra bucks from people who wanted to play it, and avoided baffling those of us who were ready for the ending to actually be an ending. Why didn’t they just do that?

“We made all this extra content exploring the experience of John Marston in between the two big games. It’s pretty irrelevant to either one of them, in terms of must-have plot points, but we like it so much, let’s just stick it in at the end of the Arthur story and call it an epilogue even though that’s not what epilogue actually means.”

And it’s…kind of almost over? I mean, there’s a lot of John Marston.

Butch:

Yes! DLC! It should have been that. Games explore the lives of secondary characters in DLCs all the time! Morrigan and Lelianna had them, so did Solas, etc. We often get plot points fleshed out that will likely come up again (see Aloy and all that blue shit in Frozen Wilds) but that probably won’t be all that necessary to understand the sequel, etc. I bet they could have sold plenty of this as DLC.

Maybe they originally planned it that way? It sure as hell feels like DLC.

Feminina:

Yeah, it would have made perfect sense as DLC. It makes less sense tacked onto the end of Arthur’s story.

But maybe we’ll figure out some reason for it to be that way as we talk about it. Because we’re good at finding/inventing complex reasons for things.

Butch:

We are. But even I am at a loss for the cow poop thing. It wasn’t even a new mechanic! We shoveled pig poop in the gunslinger quest!

Oh, well.

Feminina:

Well, that goes back to my ‘immersion’ theory. If playing as John Marston at this point made sense at all, then playing boring chores as him makes sense because it helps us understand his seeming inability to just settle down and do boring chores forever.

Abigail talked about how she’s tired of always having to move because he’d shot someone again or whatever. I think contemplating the tedium of shoveling cow poop is meant to make us sympathize with the need to shoot someone, or the inability to just let someone who “needed shooting” (as I seem to recall he put it) go on his way without being shot.

Cow poop needs shoveling, but that doesn’t hold his (or our) attention the same way some dude who needs shooting would.

Butch:

Well, maybe that says something about us? We’d rather be shooting?

I dunno. I’m not going to give it credit. Junior found that last song (where he’s riding) on iTunes and damn, man, it reminded me that this was one of the best endings in game history. The more I think about it, the more I’m like….damn.

AND THEN I GET SO ANGRY CUZ THIS EPILOGUE IS FUCKING IT ALL UP I’M SO MAD.

Ok. Better now.

Feminina:

Us, sure, but also I think a lot of people who play games. Or at least who play more story- and action-oriented games. If we’re into the Sims and Farmville and stuff, where it’s about building and maintaining things, maybe we think milking cows and shoveling cow poop and so forth are exactly what we want from games! Mindless, repetitive chores! Not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s what you’re into.

But probably a lot of people who picked up RDR2 were not specifically looking for that, and so finding it there seems like an intentional pause, a way to maybe force us to think about what we’re doing and why, and also to put us in the character’s mental space of being impatient with boring chores, but having to get through them because the game/his wife wants him to.

So I give it some credit for the mechanics of that, even while I remain puzzled by exactly why it felt this needed to be here at all.

We may never know.

Butch:

Most certainly never know.

Though you know, talking on chores in games, I think, in the end, you did Mr. O a favor by letting him off the hook in terms of finishing it. After all, he was all into customizing camp, right? I have a feeling all that decor wouldn’t have made it to the end, and he’d have been PISSED. You know him.

A blessing, it was.

Feminina:

I’ll go with that.

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