An Open Letter About The RDR2 Discussions Happening Here

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Posted by clintlandon (158 posts) -

This isn't to try and convince people to not be bothered by Dan and Jeff's comments about Red Dead 2. I get being bugged when two people you normally respect besmirch something you passionately enjoy. But I hope a couple people might see this and get some perspective they might not inherently have on what the conversation they're having means to someone like me.

Here's a few random points about myself to give some context. I'm high functioning autistic, so I get obsessed about esoteric subjects. The first GTA game I played was the GTA2 on Dreamcast, which then got me to play the original and the England spin-off on PSOne.

I don't like modern Rockstar games. I loved 3, Vice City, and the first act of RDR1. I bounced off of GTA4 for very similar reasons Dan fell off RDR2. I enjoyed it until I didn't anymore. I wanted to see the conclusion of the story, but the game stopped being fun and seemed to actively fight against me trying to complete the game with any sort of expedience. I figured it was an outlier, and was incredibly excited for Red Dead Redemption.

With a love of Westerns, Red Dead Revolver (my copy is literally 12 feet away from me right now), and MOST of Rockstar's open world games, I was stoked for Redemption. And while I loved the first act, the second hit me like a ton of bricks. I started asking, "What am I hoping to achieve here in Mexico? How will the story progress here?" and as I continued, the answers the game gave me were not promising. It made me start questioning the Rockstar formula of the time, which I boiled down to, "Hello Protagonist. I might have something that will lead you closer to the goal established in the first five minutes. But you have to do something for me first. You did it! But now I have another thing. Now I have another thing. Thanks for doing all that for me. I can't really help but maybe this unconnected person can." Now repeat that 14 times and you have most Rockstar games of that time. I know they've gotten better about avoiding this narrative trap more recently. My fundamental issue was pacing. The game stops dead because it needs to be longer. It never makes the game better, only longer.

I don't agree with Jeff on plenty of things, but there's one thing him and I tend to see similarly on: pacing. He doesn't use the term very often, but it's something that seems to irk him in a similar way it does me. There's nothing wrong with slow, tedious sections of a game if they serve a purpose. Nier Automata is a great example for this. It might turn many players off, but the parts you repeat add to your experience more often than they don't so it works on a critical level. Enjoying it is another discussion that's irrelevant for this point. Rockstar is TERRIBLE at pacing. I equate it to Peter Jackson. Lord of the Rings is a unique beast that exists, for many, more as a visual telling of a book than a movie. So people are more willing to put up with a laborious 4 hour cut. That's not so much the case with King Kong or his many of his other post-LOTR movies. Nobody wants to edit him down, but he desperately needs it!

For me, I think there are great games within Rockstar's output, but there's so much chuff piled on that it's more work than enjoyable. But that's me. I find my criticisms of Rockstar to be valid, but that doesn't mean people can't or shouldn't enjoy them. I get I'm in a minority with how I feel. I've tried many times over the years to express these opinions to others, and have always been met with petty counterarguments like, "sounds to me like you don't have the attention span for these games." That one always stuck with me because that's like telling someone with anorexia they eat too much. Regardless, I was met with ridicule and hostility enough that I grew to dread Rockstar games. I desperately wanted to enjoy the lead-up hype, but I knew it wouldn't be for me. I wanted to discuss my grievances, but knew there would be no real conversations to be had around them. And eventually, it feels like no matter how much you contemplate and formulate an understanding of story structure, pacing, and editing, I'm simply wrong because everyone disagrees. Objectivity be damned, nobody wants it to be true so it isn't true.

...And then Dan started saying things that sounded very familiar to me.

His aggravation resonated with me in a big way. After almost a decade, I heard someone on a sizable stage express feelings similar to my own. It was never the same with Jeff, as his problems with RDR come from general peeves outside of the Rockstar style (not liking old guns, hating deliberate controls a la Witcher 3). With Dan, you could replace "carriage" with "bank heist" and he could have been reading my GTA4 diary.

For once, after a decade, a games journalist I followed felt at least similarly to me about a Rockstar game. Amidst everyone else at Giant Bomb (besides Jeff) as well as every outlet I've seen mention anything about RDR2, for once I felt like there wasn't something wrong with me. For once, on this topic, it felt like it wasn't just me seeing something that wasn't there. It didn't prove me right, but at least gave me a moment to feel like my view had some validity.

Like I said, I didn't write this to convince people to not be upset about what Dan is saying. But I do think people can lose focus on how UNIVERSALLY praised these games are when they release. Sure, criticisms start bubbling up after several years (I call it the 'Rockstar Cycle' and it pains me with every turn), but right now, this game is talked about lovingly by virtually everyone in the industry. The fact that ONE (technically two) guy didn't like it doesn't change that. Enjoy your game! I legitimately wish I could and didn't see their work the way I do. But at least after sitting in silence for all these years, I have ONE GUY that I can listen to and know he had an experience similar to my own.

Believe me, you're getting the better deal out of this. You get a massive game that you can dig into for hundreds of hours for years to come. I get a 30-something dude grumbling for several minutes every week or two for a couple months.

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#1 Posted by Luchalma (548 posts) -

I don't know how upset some people are actually getting but if my memory of the 8.8 fiasco is accurate it wouldn't surprise me. You could tell right away with RDR2 it was going to turn off a lot of people. Jeff more than anything cares about how a game feels. He don't fuck with animation priority or tank controls or anything like that. The only issue I have is when people talk about this stuff as bad design rather than deliberate design. Red Dead is going for something specific with every aspect of its many systems. And if you ain't down with that, whatever. Nothing wrong with that. But some of the criticism sounds like someone watching a David Lynch film and complaining it's not like Die Hard. But even then it's more an eye roll than any actual hurt feelings.

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#2 Posted by Efesell (4567 posts) -

I would hope not many people are upset if only for the fact that Jeff hating on RDR2 is perhaps the most predictable event to ever occur on this website.

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#3 Posted by lifejuice (69 posts) -

I've tried many times over the years to express these opinions to others, and have always been met with petty counterarguments like, "sounds to me like you don't have the attention span for these games."

Yeah, that argument is strange and I've also seen it a lot. Some people are acting weirdly snobbish about this game. It kinda reminds me of the classic "oh you probably didn't understand it" defense. This ain't some cryptic arthouse flick. It's not hard to see what Rockstar was going for. I just think a few design choices felt bad; hearing Jeff, Dan and Jan echo that makes me feel less alone in that opinion.

I agree with OP. I would way rather have loved RDR2 than be disappointed by it. Nobody wants to not like the game they bought.

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#4 Posted by Memu (454 posts) -

There are ton of questionable design decisions in RDR2 that people can legitimately gripe on. Even as somebody that likes the game I found myself yelling angrily at many times. Just what were they thinking that you don't reach a point where you can fast travel anywhere at any time? I keep having to ride from one side of the map to the other and most of the time nothing interesting happens on the journey. The save/restore system is shit. There are bugs and odd annoying things will sometimes happen. The controls don't always work as expected or desired. Half my life is spent getting my rifles back off my horse. I can completely see where Dan is coming from. But I have more time to devote to a single game than he does as a game professional, so I will just take my time and go with it.

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#5 Edited by Ravey (259 posts) -

I hear you, Clint.

It's hard for me to play a game unless I'm already convinced that I'll get something out of it. And when a game isn't meeting you halfway, it can be very frustrating.

I think pacing is a challenge because large open world games have to be intelligent and conveniently engineered to keep players interested in playing and exploring, and downtime should only really occur when players have something they need to think about. Mixing embedded narrative and exhaustive busywork is something I think games need to be very careful about, because to me that's like giving people the book that makes them fall in love with reading with the pages stuck together; or a movie with long commercials for gameplay that involve you wandering around for long stretches of time, shooting things, and managing resources.

Another thing that's kind of a general problem is the lack of any clear indication when to stop, when to move on, and not worrying about it; which, admittedly, is more of an issue when players aren't properly educated on what's beneficial and what's harmful.

I think it's also important to look to the root of someone's argument first, which a lot of the time is the fact that we're not actually in tune with one another most of the time, and we're generally not very good at communicating what we feel and perceive so as to properly accommodate or console one another (and wouldn't it be nice if games were that respectful and accommodating, too?)

I've already shared some general thoughts here, but what I'd really like to recommend is watching this short comedy routine instead; It's interesting to me how many connections there are between innocent social incompetence and relationships, and the hang-ups and anxieties of gamers (myself included).

@lifejuice said:

I've tried many times over the years to express these opinions to others, and have always been met with petty counterarguments like, "sounds to me like you don't have the attention span for these games."

Yeah, that argument is strange and I've also seen it a lot. Some people are acting weirdly snobbish about this game. It kinda reminds me of the classic "oh you probably didn't understand it" defense. This ain't some cryptic arthouse flick. It's not hard to see what Rockstar was going for. I just think a few design choices felt bad; hearing Jeff, Dan and Jan echo that makes me feel less alone in that opinion.

I agree with OP. I would way rather have loved RDR2 than be disappointed by it. Nobody wants to not like the game they bought.

We're all snobs in one sense or another.

Personally I think games, players and people in general (including me) should be more respectful and accommodating. And I think we often celebrate games that are mediocre, bad, and sometimes even criminal. And I put my foot down when it comes to arbitrary design choices and fundamental architectural decisions; it's a deliberate decision to make phones distracting and annoying in GTA 4 and The Sims 4, but it's debatable whether it makes the games any better.

I don't mind limitations in games, but I agree with Clint that they should serve a purpose and that purpose shouldn't necessarily detract from the fun of the game.

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#6 Edited by nutter (2294 posts) -

Disgreement and debate are good. Let folks challenge your beliefs. There’s no harm unless you’re just there to win a fight for some reason...

Either A) they change your mind by exposing you to new perspectives and you grow in some way or B) they fail to change your mind and your stance is further strengthened by passing a test.

Either way, you learn and come out ahead as a living/learning human being.

I’d always rather talk politics, religion, etc. with someone who disagrees with me. Echo chambers are a bore.

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#7 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1405 posts) -

Seriously, people getting so upset over a handful of people not liking this game is ridiculous. I find it especially silly because the person on this site who DID review the game gave it a 5 out of 5!

RDR 2 fans are the Witcher 3 fans of 2018.

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#8 Posted by Captain_Insano (3533 posts) -

Yea it is crazy.

News just in: different people have different views on games. Sometimes people don't like games that you don't like. It's okay for you to still like them. I think GOW is my game of the year. That may or may not match what GB ultimately chooses. I'm enjoying RDR2, but also acknowledge its problems.

Also @bladeofcreation HOW DARE YOU SPEAK ILL of the Witcher 3 (oh wait, I'm being hypocritical - it's okay for you to not love it)

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#9 Posted by doctordonkey (1856 posts) -

Honestly, games like RDR2 don't need praise from a site like Giant Bomb. Rockstar games get praised to the high heavens on a hundred other different outlets. Same thing with CDPR and Witcher 3.

I get it, I used to get upset at the crew when I was younger during GOTY. At some point I realized I disagreed with them more often than not, and it didn't really matter. If you like something, that's all that matters, it doesn't matter who else likes it. Having your own opinions positively re-enforced and validated is something I feel is a very teenager/young adult specific thing. Folks who haven't really found their identity in life yet.

GOTY for Giant Bomb is a very personal and subjective endeavor for the crew. If you want something more objective, it's best to look elsewhere.

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#10 Edited by Humanity (18949 posts) -

I've said this in other parts of the website but it's a matter of tone than anything else here and THAT shouldn't be surprising to anyone.

Saying something sucks and is a bad game is different than saying you didn't enjoy or it didn't speak to you.

Lynyrd Skynyrd is not for me because I'm not into that kind of music is not the same as openly saying I couldn't listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd because they sound like garbage and are a bad band.

That is what most people get irritated about, and why they get defensive about it because you're not just stating your opinion, you are actively attacking the opinion of others that believe differently. This is why Game of the Year brings out such heated emotions from the community because once civil discussion comes to a standstill during the deliberations, the knives come out and suddenly you start hearing much more derogatory terms for games aimed to bring them down and if you like something you don't really enjoy hearing someone drag it through the mud.

The crazies well.. will always be crazies, you can't really do anything about that. Witcher 3 was a situation where it was a decent mix of crazies and people who were rooting for the underdog and the message there got all mixed up. Similarly it's impossible to recommend Undertale to anyone without getting a look or two like, is this one of those people?

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#11 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1405 posts) -

@captain_insano: I love the Witcher games, and have long been singing the praises of those games to my friends, and finishing The Witcher 3 is my big mission for this month.

The [specific set of especially vocal] Witcher 3 fans are the ones I'm referring to here.

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#12 Edited by Deathstriker (1177 posts) -

I like all the guys that work for the site, but everyone should keep in mind that they're just people with opinions. It's not like what they're saying is gospel. I haven't heard what they said, but of course RDR2 has some flaws, but to me that doesn't stop it from probably being the best game of the gen so far - really only GOW is its competition.

When I was younger I'd probably care, but at this point I don't really care about someone's opinion on something I like. After listening to them for years I've known for awhile we have very different taste. No way in hell would I give PUBG GOTY even though I liked the game, Destiny was always pretty lame, most of them seemed pretty meh to TLAU while I loved it, and so on. They're not wrong, it's just different tastes. I'd only say someone was wrong if they're incorrect or being overly hyperbolic.

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#14 Posted by Pisscubes (8 posts) -

Just finished the game today and I certainly had fallen out of love with it by then. I almost didn't finish.

For every cool moment where I stumbled upon something really neat out in the world, there were 5 times where the controls fucked things up for me, where the cinematic view shit the bed on me, where the annoyance of not being able to run in camp or having to traverse large boring sections of the map got to be too much, where I accidentally shot my horse or sideswiped a dude in town who then shot me. This is to say nothing of an epilogue that really needed to be cut down. There's a difference between immersive game play and just feeling like I'm doing boring fucking chores so I can get the end of my story.

I am happy for everyone who loves this and indeed, I certainly had fun with the game during many of the parts. But the overall experience is one that came across as a bit broken to me.

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#15 Posted by someoneproud (624 posts) -

@clintlandon: You shouldn't feel as though your opinions are wrong, they're not, but the opinions of those who like the things you don't are equally valid. The sections you see as slow and without purpose for me are just more excuses to spend time in a world I enjoy and if it doesn't move the plot forward I'm okay with that. Plot pacing matter more to some than others and no one's wrong for enjoying something or not.

The ONLY issue I have with some of the discussions on RDR2 on the site is when they are overly dismissive of the opinions of those who enjoy the game. This has little to do with my personal enjoyment of it, there's very little in the game that doesn't add to the experience for me but I can completely understand how it might be a chore for some.

I felt much the same way with the 'Kingdom Heartache' feature. Even though I personally don't like the games at all, the active dismissal and derision of those who do is not something I can get behind. I'm glad you found the validation and support you were looking for but the way it's sometimes been presented has tried to invalidate and deride others.

Thanks for sharing, really, if others had expressed their dissatisfaction with the same respect and restraint I don't think anyone would have gotten defensive about it.

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#16 Posted by gerrid (705 posts) -

it's times like this where I miss Austin. he would so often ask questions to probe what people mean when they complain or evangelise about a game, to draw out exactly what it is that lead to strong declarative statements or opinions.

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#17 Posted by tunaburn (2081 posts) -

i felt the same about witcher 3. i really dont like the game but everyone else seems to love it

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#18 Posted by BoFooQ (1117 posts) -

I like RDR2 but I don;'t think it plays great and I haven't been in any kind of rush to play more of it. I do like it and I think it looks great. I think the controls are complete crazy and nonconsistent, I don't know if there are bugs or I'm hitting the wrong thing or its open world chaos, but I never fell 100% in control. Sure its my fault when I ride into town too fast and my horse tramples someone, but how does that even lead to cops with guns in seconds on me? My biggest issue was I was looking through trappers items and outfits, when I heard him start talking about why I'm acting crazy or something. I had been in menu for several minutes but it ended with him screaming and running away like I attacked him. I have no one idea if he will come back or not, but at this point I decide to just role with everything and act a little more evil, if I pull my gun out by accident and it freaks you out, well now I'm likely to just shoot you and move on. I've died and failed mission cause I didn't do what rock-star wanted so now I just play fast and loose. The idea of open world is really a joke, I spent hours wanting to fish and tried several times to buy fishing equipment but coul;dn't, why? cause I did do mission with kid. Than I tried fishing in lake, but couldn't I had pole bait and was standing on banks, but cause it was someone else's land I guess I couldn't.

The most important comment I'll say about RDR2 is that I'm no longer eager to play. Yes it not a game for short play session so if I have an hour or less I don't even consider it, but I'm not overly excited to keep going. I'm not done but it will likely take me a long time to see the end game. I am also interested in online. I didn't bother with beta, but will diffinitly check it out once fully live. Maybe the idea of playing some random PvP game online will lead me to loading game up more and help get me through it.

I like it, but .......I would play some tetris instead for an hour.

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#19 Posted by stinger061 (480 posts) -

I think people need to remember that everyone has different ways of playing games which can make a huge difference to how you enjoy them. By necessity the GB crew and all games media need to constantly be thinking ahead to the next game they need to play which may mean effectively having to rush a game and potentially enjoy it less if there are aspects which feel like they are slowing the whole thing down.

Rorie mentioned on Twitter recently about enjoying Assassins Creed Odyssey in short play sessions and I completely agree with him which is completely at odds with how most reviews for that came across. I can see how if you were worried about getting through the game it would be incredibly frustrating and feel like a waste of time but if you are just enjoying the journey you might see things differently.

Finally, people really need to learn that someone else not enjoying a game should have literally zero impact on your enjoyment of it and you aren't being personally attacked if you disagree.

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#20 Posted by Shindig (4963 posts) -

Whenever I get bother for my reviews, I slap a reminder in the comments that it's an opinion piece and yours may vary. That's all you can really do. Say it once, don't dig your heels in and move on.