Play is a Hunt, Not a Treasure
While I’ll admit that Red Dead Redemption is beginning to wear a little thin on me at this point, mostly thanks to the endless and repetitive narrative missions, it still manages to be very charming, even after twenty or so hours of play. Many, or perhaps most of the lovely bits of the game relate to its world, rather than to its story.
Lately, I’ve been particularly enjoying the “treasure hunting” mechanic. In the game you discover a treasure map early on and this leads you on a series of hunts in which you have a clue and you need to get to the right location to find the treasure (and the next map). The clues are usually sketches of particular locations in the world, sometimes with written labels, and occasionally more photographic, but always at least somewhat ambiguous.
There are two major wins with these treasure hunts. The first is that, obviously, they have you looking out for something in the landscape, either a place name or a rock formation or something else. This reengages you with the visuals of the world you’re in, which otherwise might have become a bit too par for the course. The other big win is if you already know where the depicted place is. You can race off to the location of the treasure and bask in the warm glow of your excellent knowledge of the virtual world. Both aspects, then, serve to reinforce your engagement with the world, and particularly the spatial nature, of the game.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look for an oddly shaped boulder.