This evening I had the pleasure of showing my uncle (on my mother’s side) a couple of video games, since he’d shown an interest in what the big deal was and hadn’t really seen a contemporary video game for any length of time, let alone played one. As such, I popped Red Dead Redemption back into the XBox and re-entered that world gladly.
For a while I just demoed the world of the game, tried to explain what it is that you actually do. That’s a surprisingly odd experience, particularly since I’ve finished RDR, leaving no obvious missions to undertake and thus demonstrate that there is actually a great deal of structure in this sort of game. Instead, I ended up explaining about the world itself, the sights and scenes. Got on a horse and rode out of Blackwater to show the landscape, the feeling of riding around freely. And, yes, shooting a few things along the way.
Then I handed over control to my uncle and suggested he ride the horse around a bit. And ride he did! I was actually pretty impressed by how quickly he caught on to the complexities of the game controller and the multiple inputs needed to do much of anything in the game. Think about shooting from horseback, for instance: you have to move your horse with the left stick, aim the gun with the right stick, adjust speed with “A”, draw your gun with the left trigger, and shoot with the right trigger. Woah there, partner… that’s complicated. But there was my uncle, more or less pulling it off.
Over the next few minutes, he rode around the prairies and was attacked by the always fearsome cougar. It killed his horse, but spared him for some reason. He wandered around in a creek, something I’ve never done before and which seemed strangely evocative to me. Then the cougar came back but somehow, somehow, he evaded it again by jumping off a small ledge. More wandering ensued. Then another cougar. This time he saw it coming and took it out with his pistol, all without instruction from me. He even nailed another cougar later on that had just killed a poor woman (one of those instanced “quests” you get). At least he avenged her death.
All in all I was impressed by how quickly my uncle adjusted to the world of the game. And I was also very pleased by how much he liked the world. He definitely “got” that it’s a world at least in part for simply spending time in, enjoying the scenery and the rhythm of horseback riding, taking a few pot-shots at birds and so on. He understood the “worldness” of the place, which is so crucial to coming to terms with many contemporary games. He even expressed a strong opinion that the Wild West of Red Dead Redemption was preferable to the New York of GTA IV. I can’t help but agree with him there, too.
It was nice to see the landscape I’ve spent so much time in through new eyes, and especially nice to see those new eyes (brand new!) apparently enjoying it as much as I (a grizzled veteran!) have.