Red Dead Immersion
John Marston is crack shot. I am not.
A while back, I got a lot of flak for having auto-headshot turned on in Red Dead Redemption. I tried to defend myself, but unsuccessfully. The others just couldn’t understand my justification for, in their eyes, making the game “too easy”.
Naturally I disagree. My decision to turn on the auto-headshot feature stemmed from Dara O’Briain’s appearance on Gameswipe, a one-off special from Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe days that focused on video games in a way that wasn’t a part of the News’ 24-hour rolling coverage of a mass-murder in Basingstoke. In Dara’s guest appearance, he talks about his inability to finish Gears of War because of a mini-boss fight about a third of the way into the game. Essentially, his point was that no other storytelling medium denies you access to the rest of the story due to your performance in previous chapters. Books don’t unlock chapters based on how many words you’ve read so far, much like films don’t assess how much you’ve been looking at the screen to determine if you should get to watch the rest.
Since games are an interactive storytelling medium, surely there must be some onus on the player, some challenge in order to make the player feel like they have earned the right to hear the rest of the story. That’s the whole point of it being interactive, it’s the sum total of our methods of artistic expression and the next logical step on a journey that will presumably end in humanity living it’s dying days in an artificial reality.
The whole point of video games is that we can play them. We have films, books and music for when we want to watch, read or listen to something, but with video games we can live these stories and feel more a part of those universes than anywhere else.
When the ability to play gets in the way of the ability to experience the story, then something needs to be done. Story should be king. Without the story, what are you playing? Even racing games incorporate some level of universe building in order to get you invested in the races: from the bizarre car-dominated dystopia of Paradise City; to the brutal, muddy, bordering-on-implausible racing festival of Motorstorm.
When I started playing Red Dead Redemption, my progress was slow and painful. I wasn’t having fun. It felt like a chore whenever I had a large number of enemies to kill and I was just wasting countless bullets trying to take them down. I stopped playing for a while, my motivation to find out the rest of John Marston’s story dwindling into almost nothing. I only picked it back up when the Undead Nightmare DLC came out. There I discovered the auto-headshot feature in the options menu and I gladly turned it on.
Not only did my gusto return, the story started to make a little more sense to me. No longer was John Marston, masterful and renowned marksman and hunter, fumbling around with his gun and missing his target 75% of the time. No, John Marston was a badass, and for a while, so was I.
I am not a crack shot. John Marston is. Why would you want it any other way?