A look at roleplaying, specifically as it manifests in videogames.
So I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV recently and finally unlocked mounts on my Arcanist and, well. There really is only one mount I could possibly choose…
This is my second go at FFXIV; I played it a little bit wa-aa-aa-ay back when, and remembered enjoying it but not enough to justify a long-term subscription. I jumped back into it recently thanks to the cross-promotional mission in Boyband Car Adventures (a.k.a. Final Fantasy XV) and yes, okay, Square, your promo worked you win. I guess.
FFXIV has the problem all long-running MMOs have in that Everything Is Just So Much, exacerbated by the fact that you can literally be All The Things on one single character. Because I am extremely predictable, I chose an Au Ra and choose the healing pet class as my “main”. Combat in FFXIV is… old-fashioned, and very slow, but… eh. It’s fine. I’ve spent the last two days leveling all my crafting classes to 20ish, and am now cleaning up the lowbie start quests from the combat classes. Then I guess it’s getting those last three levels I need to unlock Summoner…
You see where this is going, right? Red Dead Redemption 2 came out in 2018. And in 2018, you can’t talk about cons without talking about the con that is America. With its conman president, enabled by the con that is conservatism, selling the con that is the American Dream. It’s an old story, one that Red Dead thinks it’s in on. The con of the frontier, the con of settlers, the con of whiteness, the con of exceptionalism. Necessary violence as a path to freedom. The con of freedom.
Defenders might say Red Dead Redemption 2 is about this very American con. It’s not. If it were, it wouldn’t center shitty white men. It wouldn’t use Native characters as props for white plots. It would have actual cogent criticism embedded in its structure rather than all this wasted extravagance. It wouldn’t have dead eye. It wouldn’t be a shooter at all. It would explore alternative mechanics. It would not mourn.
It is here, between its seeming subject and the actual experience of playing it, that we have the heart of Red Dead Redemption 2’s con. We have white american outlaws and traditional gamers, both sick with empire. We have collaborators with the systems that enable their delusions. We have pain at the expense of everyone who is not them. And in this particular moment, that makes RDR2 not only the worst game of the year, not only the worst game of this generation, but an active contributor to the all-consuming falseness eating our world.
Replace the cowboy hats with MAGA hats, and it becomes a little clearer. This is a family not of outlaws but of reactionaries. There’s nothing radical or courageous about them. The entire tone of Red Dead reflects this current conservative moment, the con being perpetuated. Your main man Arthur isn’t even a special case. Sure the world has plenty of dumb loyalists like Bill and charming young dipshits like John, always claiming “I don’t have a choice”. But there are just as many Arthurs out there in red caps as racist fucks like Micah. Not true believers but sad sacks gone sour. With more sulk than bile, longing for a past that never even existed. And these Arthurs, like so many gamers, don’t even care anymore that it’s a lie. They gave up responsibility for the truth a long time ago.
What does it mean to long for a lie? Where does it end? Especially when, at most, what you’re longing for is a feeling. Well, what you remember of a feeling. Hasn’t anyone told you the bad news, sweetheart? It’s not coming back. Not the old west, not your white stories of America, not frontier or freedom. And not Soulcalibur or Far Cry 2 or Rockstar’s heyday either. None of it’s ever coming back. Certainly not your lost feeling. It’s just as your conservative heart fears. Nothing will be made great again. Because past greatness is a con. And there is no again.
tevis thompson on redemption.
This is a long quote from a long essay, but it’s something I think (along with its interlude) should be mandatory reading not just for everyone who plays videogames, but for everyone with any kind of investment in or fanishness over modern, specifically American,1 pop culture…
- Yes, endless flood of Marvel films. I’m looking at you. [↩]
So my parents are cleaning up their house preparing to downsize, which involves going through all the junk I left there when I moved out.
And one of the things they found? My ex’s old OG edition GameBoy,1 that she gave to me so I could play Pokémon; it still has a copy of Pokémon Blue slotted into the back.
To this day, I still give away my old laptops/computers/tablets/phones/consoles/etc. to friends, to pay forward the fact Ex gave me this way back when we were like sixteen and I desperately wanted, yet couldn’t afford, my own…
If a bad person is hurting people in The Division 2, options to resolve the situation include A) shooting the enemy in the head until they die, B) deploying a turret to shoot them in the head until they die, or C) commanding a drone to shoot them in the head until they die. If a dog is in distress, there is no enactable solution. Like many loot games, rewards do not come in the form of emotional closure, but instead an incremental power bump. Gaining mastery over the world tops the list of priorities, and mastery does not include a genuine display of affection for an innocent living being.
On petting the dog.
From the creator of the Can You Pet the Dog? Twitter account, on the strong opinions people have about petting dogs in videogames.
Also, speaking of strong opinions on dog petting: apparently a large number of videogame animators have no idea how to actually pet dogs. Get some additional training for them on that, stat!
So that took me… two weeks? Of grinding and egg hunts. Plus another two days to level all the masteries (I already had the points saved up, thankfully).
Now that I can basically fly around indefinitely1 at will, it’s time to go collect all those other jumping-related mastery points I missed out on the first time around! Whee!
- Not qui-ii-ite, but between the wall launch thing and that mount stamina restore ability—which is finally actually useful—it’s close enough for most maps. [↩]