All quiet on the wild western front…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

There’s a dank feeling in the air this morning. I feel it in me bones. I almost need a sweater. God, I sound like a little old lady, huh?

As I’m typing this, I’m uploading the second book in my Great Mother series. BOOM.

…er…only about three months after I planned to get it out. *embarrassed face* Ah well. It got out, didn’t it? Right! And I can’t believe there would be too many people who really took that little blip at the end of the first one seriously.

**If you happen to be one of those people who really were waiting for this book, first…wow…thank you! And second, I’m actually really sorry I didn’t meet my own deadline. If it’s any consolation, the third one is already written and should be out pretty fast.**

While I was waiting for it to come back from final editing, I decided to kill some time by firing up a video game, Red Dead Redemption. Whoo baby, you want to talk about good games? For those reading this who know it *fist bump*. For those who don’t…

Have you ever watched a really good wild west movie or tv show, or read Lonesome Dove and thought, “Man! I wish I could get on a bronc and rustle up some cattle and join a posse to track down a lily-livered scoundrel and hop a train and shoot me some cougars for the pelts and lope around the unsettled country side while tumbleweeds roll across my path?” That’s what this game is. All of that, and so much more.

It’s one of those games where you can choose to strictly follow the story line, or go off on your own for side quests and general roaming. I like those games. They pack a lot of value into game. Yeah, yeah, I know the old argument, so save your breath.

“I can’t. I’m a gamer, Bethie. I think it’s impossible for me to let it go.”

*sigh* Fine. Go ahead and…

“HOW CAN YOU CALL THAT VALUE?? It’s just a cheap ploy to artificially extend the hours of game play with meaningless little side tasks that serve absolutely no purpose or plausible function to the story line. You’re falling for it. You’re willingly taking the bait and being a mindless drone who wants to keep hitting the same button for literally no reward.”

…are you done?

“And how can you even pretend to be okay with the hunting aspect of the game? I mean, seriously, YOU are the reason that the buffalo and mountain lion populations dipped to such dangerously low levels. The amount of bloody, skinned bodies you leave in your wake…for what? Nothing. Not a single thing! You can sell them to buy more ammo to kill more animals…GAMER LOGIC!!”

*tap**tap* Go on. Get it allll out of your system.

“See, what really kills me is that you think that by adding these stupid time wasters, the folks over at Rockstar actually made a long and comprehensive game. They didn’t. They simply added a shit load of mini games to keep you from seeing that they ran out of quality ideas to make the story longer and better.”

I heard you take a breath. Does that mean you’re done?

“Hacks.”

Ah, there we go. Feel better? Now, let me address your concerns.

I know.

A lot of games use these type of mindless tricks to make the game feel longer. In Red Dead, you’ve got hunting challenges, silly survivalist challenges that see a hardened bounty hunter stop to pick flowers (FLOWERS!!), side quests about cannibals, endless bounty hunting jobs for extra cash…. As you do these things, you do rank up, and your abilities do grow. However, I am pretty sure even if I did none of the extra challenges and none of the ranking up, I could beat the game just fine. I get money. I get extra outfits (boy, does Rockstar make you work for those!). I get mindless and ridiculous rewards that really make no measurable difference in the game.

I know this. I get this. And guess what?

I don’t care.

I GET TO HUNT COUGARS!! I get to heya my horse next to a herd of buffalo. I get to lope on down to the river and hope to heroically stop an assault on a poor little lady in a covered wagon along the way. I get to rustle up a band of outlaws, and look kick ass in any hard-earned outfit while doing it. When in my life will that ever actually happen?

I live in NH. The closest thing we have to a tumbleweed is when the maples sneeze on a windy day and the whirligigs create little tornadoes in the streets. I don’t own a horse, and never would…

**clarification: I would if the zombie apocalypse happened and gas was in short supply, but ONLY because a bicycle is ineffective for zombie evasion, especially when I’m panicked because ZOMBIES**

…and even if I did own a horse, I wouldn’t ride it. I would never, ever roam a countryside and shoot animals to skin for sale because…just no. And ME? In a POSSE?? BAHAHAHAHA! Yeah. The bad guys would point and laugh.

I would run around and collect flowers, though. That’s pretty spot on.

My point is that I don’t care if they just put these silly elements in to give you more time with the game. That’s what I like. I LIKE all that side stuff. I like to escape from the not-at-all-wilds of NH and pretend I’m John Marston, former wild west bad ass. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A good video game is like a good book, a good movie, and a good album all rolled into one. A GREAT video game pulls you in and makes you feel like you’re part of the story, part of the adventure. It’s an escape, to me the ultimate form of entertainment. If they want to give me a reason, even a mindless one, to stay in that world a little longer, to lope my horse to the far reaches and explore for a few more hours, I’ll take it! As long as the game is great, I’m in.

Mass Effect did this, too, and it ended up being one of my favorites.

MASS EFFECT? Did you really just pour lemon juice in that still-fresh wound, Bethie?” *twitchy eye*

Whoa, buddy. Calm down. Deep breath…I’m with you on the ending. I totally get it and agree. But a shit ass ending does not negate the other hundred hours of enjoyment. It’s still in my top five.

The Fallout series was another one with added mindless content. Loved that. Again, though, crap ending. I think the developers get so into the game that they don’t want to see it end. I bet the meetings about how these expansive games wrap up are some of the most heated and contentious discussions in the whole game-making process. I think what happens is that everyone involved is SO involved, has so much personally invested that it’s impossible to find an ending that everyone can agree on. Ah, but there’s a deadline, right? It’s got to end.

In my head, the final decision happens in an epic darts shootout, with every possible ending people came up with in place of the numbers. Because even the non-gamers can YouTube the “ending” to the Fallout series and say, “You just push a button? That’s IT?” There’s no logic, so it absolutely must be a result of a bad dart throw.

Anyway, Red Dead does not have a crap ending. Well, it does, if you consider tears, feels, and emotions “bad”. But, it’s how the story has to play out. It fits. As painful and gut wrenching as it is, you know through the whole game that any other ending would be bullshit. But, like I said, there’s so much side stuff that you could literally just keep playing those things and avoid the ending for as long as you want.

I popped this one back in the console and fired it up because I got into a convo with my boys about best video game memories, and they soundly agreed that my initial play through of Red Dead rated high on the list. Why? Because for some reason, I could not keep a horse alive for the life of me. Cougar attacks, hidden rattlesnakes, horse suicides…

“Horse suicides? Oh yeaaah, Bethie. The game cheats. Riiiight.”

DUDE FOR REAL. Listen to me. One horse, Cocoa (yes they were named. Of course they were. Don’t even tell me you didn’t name your horses when you played this game, liar.) was grazing while I was picking feverfew. The next thing I know, a fine mist of red wafted in front of me and the train whistled. The horse went and stood in front of a train. Another horse jumped to his demise off a cliff. HE JUMPED OFF A CLIFF. Hell, I must have gone through a few dozen horses…and those were just the ones I named. If I was on a horse for less than five minutes or so, I didn’t bother to name it. Cougar attack, call up a new horse, second cougar comes out from behind the rock and suddenly nameless horse #143 joins the great horsey cemetery.

There was the horse I may have accidentally shot with my own gun. Another could not, in fact, get down the side of the arroyo safely. Oops. There was a skinned horse that…well, we won’t go into details on that one. I’m still traumatized. And then there was the epic double-bear attack of ’11. Poor Jingles.

The boys gave me such crap about it that I brazenly made the statement that I could keep a horse alive on the second play through. After blank stares followed by gut-grabbing guffaws, they decided I needed to prove it. Now, you don’t know my boys. You’re reading this and saying, “Okay, sounds like a little bet.”

They made me a set of rules. They know me well enough to make a set of guidelines, saying that I must name every horse I sit on this time, so I can’t weasel out of the death toll by saying a wild horse I grabbed for a hot second didn’t count. One of the rules is that I can’t respawn at my last save just because my horse got killed. They even shut that loophole down! If I get off my horse and it commits suicide, that counts as neglect on my part and that horse must be added to the tally.

So they made this list, and then they made me sign a contract. My word wasn’t enough. They took it to that next level, just to be sure I absolutely could not find a way around.

*sniff* I’m so damn proud. Now THOSE are gamers!

You know, I’m guessing the non-gamers reading this will be horrified. I’m betting some of them will even wonder about my sanity, though to be fair, they should have had doubts about that a long time ago. But you gamers, you get how awesome this is.

My boys are rad, even if I’m totally winning this bet. 14 hours into gameplay and haven’t had a single horse killed yet.

…er…just one, but I died in the same attack, so they said that didn’t count as a “horse death”.

Damn cougars.

I’m going to win this bet. I’m bound and determined. I just hope my horse isn’t in a depressed mood when I hop off to pick flowers.

Thus concludes a gamey Musing for Saturday, July 26, 2014. Shameless self promotion time? Why not. Head over to Smashwords.com and look up The Great Mother series.

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