There is a familiar pattern to media coverage whenever Rockstar publishes a game. There is talk about how the developer has used its newest game to iterate upon and redefine the open world genre. There are almost always articles on how various Hollywood films influenced Rockstar's development process. And there are at least one or two polemics that attack the developer for transgressing established norms about what can and cannot be done in video games. This last type of essay inevitably concludes that video games are bad, and lead to an increase in interpersonal violence as well as the downfall of civilisation.
Looking at places to live in games, it would be easy for the most magnificent, pompous and elegant palaces and castles to dominate any appreciation. But there is plenty of room to appreciate those residences that are tucked away, perhaps underrated, that are not major hubs or destinations and that are only subtle intrusions. Some draw a curious sense of attachment from players, eliciting a sense of pseudo-topophilia - a close relationship with a virtual land or place. The resulting effect is sometimes enough to cause the sentiment: if this place were real, I would live there.
Editor's note: Enjoying Red Dead Redemption 2 this weekend? We thought, upon the release of Rockstar's sequel, it'd be a good time to return to Nathan Ditum's wonderful retrospective of the original, first published in July 2016. Enjoy!
Every Sunday we bring you a feature selected from our archive. This week, to celebrate the imminent release of Grand Theft Auto 5 on PS4 and Xbox One, we bring you Dan Whitehead's paean to an unloved GTA4 character. This article was originally published in November 2011.
Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz's widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial, is a weekly dissection of an issue weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GI.biz newsletter subscribers.
With this latest instalment in Eurogamer's Why I...series of articles, Jeffrey Matulef discusses how he feels about Red Dead Redemption.
Red Dead Redemption is the work of game makers at the peak of their powers and confidence. What defines the experience is not simply how much Rockstar has crammed into the world it has crafted, but also what it has left out.
"Tom, are you free tomorrow night to saddle up with me?"
There's being down and out in the Wild West, and there's being down and out in the Wild West. John Marston, the protagonist around whom Red Dead Redemption's story revolves, may start the game wounded and homeless, but he is still a man with a purpose, a few friends, a handsome face and, most importantly, a narrative trajectory to climb up and out of poverty.
It's starts, appropriately enough, with a Mexican standoff. Six sun-baked outlaws, standing motionlessly in a circle, hands frozen above holsters, while six white-washed gamers perch on the edges of their seats, fingers poised on the triggers of Xbox controllers.
It's a classic Rockstar moment. The nocturnal calm is shattered by the shrieks of a prostitute bursting out of a saloon as a man chases her down and assaults her in the street. I move swiftly to her aid but, still acquainting myself with the controls, succeed only in kicking her in the face as she writhes helplessly on the ground.
Look at a map of North America and you're staring into the last four hundred years of the country's history, the layout of the states revealing hints of a westward expansion that was first fiddly and hard-won, then swift and careless. On the eastern side of the continent, the shapes are strange and irregular, each kink in a border as likely to be the result of a land dispute as it is a river or mountain range that had to be worked around. Look west, however, and someone's ditched the niceties and broken out a ruler, carving the territory up in straight lines as much as possible, dividing the wilderness sight-unseen. As time passed, this unexplored chessboard of empty deserts and dusty canyons became home to a hesitant scattering of frontier-posts and shantytowns, populated by hopeless cases and gun-toting weirdoes. The lost and damned, in other words: a promising landscape for videogames, and a perfect setting for one developer in particular.