Red Dead Redemption 2 Encourages Patience, Not Haste
A game that takes many years to create — and that is filled with so much fine detail — deserves no less
After a ten-hour gaming session, my eyes were reduced to mere slits, and my mind was filled with fog. I hit an emotional wall. I had narrative fatigue.
How much longer would this go on? I had hardly touched the side quests, and this journey had lasted a lifetime. I was almost ready to give up.
Despite my mental exhaustion, this massive world of mountains, trees, rivers, horses, and gunfights had hooked me. I wanted to know how the story ended. I sought out a friend of mine for encouragement.
A co-worker pushed me to continue the quest the next morning over coffee.
“You’re almost done,” he said. “ Only three more hours left until the end.”
I can manage 3 hours, I thought.
I went home that night with the resolve to finish Arthur’s story. I fell asleep before I had the chance.
The next day I had the whole day to myself.
Time to bang this out real quick, I thought. My Xbox hummed to life, and I was immediately transported back into the world of cowboys living in the wild west. Almost instantly, local bandits confronted me, causing my ears to fill with the sound of reloading pistols as bullets whistled harmlessly overhead. Beyond the gunfights, there was an aura of silence and vastness that pulled me further and further into this fictional world. My reality had begun to dissolve, and this new wild existence became all that I knew.
My hands only parted from the controller to eat and go to the bathroom. I had to witness the inevitable end to Arthur and his gang.
Eleven hours later and with some very sore eyes, I finished the main storyline. Throughout my gaming session, my friend texted me for updates.
“Are you done yet?”
“You said this would be three hours,” I replied.
“Yeah, I probably miscalculated.”
I was not disappointed with Red Dead Redemption 2’s abundance of content.
I put close to 75 hours into Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2), and I hardly scratched the surface of what was possible within that vast world.
We live in a world rooted in speed and efficiency. Every piece of content is pushed into the world as quickly as we can manifest. We’ve lost a level of nuance and lost sight of our attention to detail. We trade in substance for short term pleasure.
Creating anything worth playing takes time. RDR2 understood this fact.
There was an eight-year window between RDR1 and RDR2, and Rockstar Games used every minute of their time wisely.
The sequel reminded me of the importance of investing in a labor of love. The developers covered every detail. Every sound, light, noise, and interaction enhanced my experience, allowing me to leave my known universe temporarily. As the day progressed, my senses clung to each speck of blood, rain on my clothes, and animal noise. The collective experience sunk me deeper and deeper into this single-player game. I have never felt more immersed in a story as I did with RDR2. All of the stimuli in the environment served as a positive feedback loop for this immersion.
This feeling of immersion is what gaming is all about. The ability to entirely transport ourselves to new worlds is the elusive experience we search for when we embark on a quest.
People think single-player games are dead or that they are merely a blip on the radar of our existence, but I say no. The only way to create a truly customized user experience is through a single-player narrative that allows players to tinker with their philosophies.
This ability to explore our morality through single-player, narrative-driven experiences may be the key to our personal development.
I have tried out strategies in these open-world games that I’d never have thought I would.
I can remember being startled when an NPC called out to me while I was hunting. I was not alone. A bandit scared off the deer I was tracking.
I shot his horse in retribution.
This unique ability to explore various means of conflict resolution within the digital world is a truly remarkable experience.
This freedom of choice is what brings gamers back for years.
The open-world genre has created some of the most memorable games of our life-time. GTA, RDR2, and Elder Scrolls are games we consider to be immortal. The unprecedented attention to detail has earned these games the right to live forever. We cannot understate their imperfect perfection.
I had a friend who played Elder Scrolls and always burned down the first city he came to in every playthrough. I learned a lot about him from watching him play.
Still, other players take a more peaceful route.
A different friend of mine used to joke with me, “I get through the opening tutorial, and then I spend the next six hours picking flowers to craft potions or gathering materials to build furniture”. Meeting friends and discussing how they interpreted the game is what I love most about games.
The campfire crafting system in RDR2 reminded me of the Elder Scrolls series.
This genre of open-world games shows me glimpses of the future of gaming. These games are the first version of human simulations. The ability to try out choices and analyze how these choices affect the experience without real-world physical consequences is the ultimate user customization.
If a universe where a fully immersive VR experience looks to be the end game, then open-world games like RDR2 are the Game Boy Color of that experience. The blueprint, if you will.
The lesson here is not just that patience is a virtue. For creators like Rockstar Games, patience — and the willingness to doggedly see through a complex development cycle lasting many years — pays off in terms of such a well-realized experience. And for players, well, there’s something to be said for taking your time and savoring every element dreamed up by those creators.