Friday, December 12, 2014

Red Dead December

My Dad was born in December and died in December, so this time of the year my thoughts are on him. Unlike me he was a rugged outdoorsman, a master craftsman, and a cowboy in his own right. His generation was much more romantic about the Old West and he liked Westerns a lot. Since we didn't have hunting or fishing in common much, one thing we could enjoy together was a good movie.

What movies have been, games are becoming. I cannot imagine Dad playing a console game, but I just played Red Dead Redemption through to the end, and he was there with me in spirit for sure. I'm very picky with console games, and Westerns are not my favorite.

You have got to play this game.

Red Dead Redemption is rare art. The characters have hundreds of lines of dialogue; the game world is open, sprawling, and beautifully detailed; the story is long and gripping. It's fun but not easy. There is no way you will finish it in less than 15 hours unless you are an experienced gamer and avoid all tangents. For most of the rest of us, it'll take more like 40 hours. That's a long-ass Western, but you get to do pretty much everything one could want to in the genre. It's arguably less epic (in the correct usage of the word) than God of War or Skyrim, and obviously less fantastical, but it gets you inside much more than either of those.

Certain milestones in this game are emotionally intense. When you finally get to Mexico (after much struggle) and the music changes, you will get goosebumps. I don't like chick flicks or or things that make me cry. But by the time you reach the end of the game, the investment you have in the characters will be high, and as with real life, there is a cost. Not to spoil much but transition is a major theme of the game -- not just of the landscape and the country but in one's own life and ultimately from one generation to the next. I'm still reeling from the heaviness of the ending.

Dad's spirit must surely have been laughing with me at the things prostitutes say in this game, or at what happens when you place a captive in front of an oncoming train, or cussing with me when surprised by a cougar attack. When the credits rolled I could not resist applauding, though alone in the house. Then sweetly and sadly I read every name go up the screen, fondly remembering when Dad took me to the debut of Star Wars in 1977. He carefully and thoughtfully watched the names go up, telling me he always read the credits because every person involved, big or small, was vital to the end product. I carry on the tradition.

Don't know what else to say. I'm late to this one but Rockstar Games did a thing about as well as it can be done.

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