Playing Red Dead Redemption, I’m struck by how well Rockstar does atmosphere and landscape, but still can’t seem to master the finer points of storytelling.
I have to wonder why I often feel hollow playing a Rockstar game, at least ever since Vice City. Their games have gotten bigger, their stories more ambitious, and their graphics superfluous, but as much as I’m enticed by the prospect of wandering around a masterfully crafted world, I’m ultimately disappointed by what I’m actually doing in it.
The feeling could be attributed to Rockstar’s game design, which can be described as anywhere from violent busywork, to tedious play dates. I wasn’t enamored with San Andreas massive city size coupled with a lack of anything worthwhile to pursue, nor did Liberty city offer anything more interesting than going bowling with an annoying cousins and even more repulsive dates. Red Dead circumvents this by offering a surfeit of activities, (at least in comparison to previous Rockstar games), but still I find myself lost and lonely in a Rockstar world, unable to truly enjoy myself, but somehow compelled to wander aimlessly around, hoping that this next activity might fire a few pulses in my cheermometer.
At the very least, it’s leading me to try to understand what sort of game design I truly enjoy and feel bolstered by.
– Rockstar characters talk too much, thinking themselves savants of sociopolitical commentary. Alright Rockstar, I get it. You have something to say, but if I truly wanted an education in philosophy, I’d read a book.
– A lot of time in Rockstar games is spent travelling. Is travelling fun? That’s debatable. At least I don’t have to work my way up through a series of junk cars before getting a nice ride.
– I felt the same way about Just Cause 2, a game lauded for the amount of chaotic fun it had. I was wondering if it’s just that I don’t enjoy open world games, and yet I enjoyed Red Faction: Guerilla, Fallout 3, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brutal Legend. I wonder what’s going on there.