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A review of Red Dead Redemption 2's player-motivation

This blog sheds light on the various player-types that comprise RDR2 and reasons why individuals enjoy playing RDR2.

When we assess why individual’s play particular games, whether that individual be a casual consumer or invested gamer, there is a lot to consider. Many different aspects of a games design can influence consumer motives and designate the path of game development. Rockstar has proven for a long time, predominantly since the making of Grand Theft Auto (GTA) 3 that, with an innovative gameplay and freedom-of-play user experience, player motivation can direct the creation of a ubiquitous gaming experience. From Grand Theft Auto Vice City to newly released Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2), Rockstar has continued to build upon user experience within the game to motivate more players (or player-types) to play such Rockstar games.

Considering that the gamer demographic is comprised of many different player-types it is especially important to assess Red Dead Redemption 2’s player capabilities. Not all individuals who play RDR2 are in it for simple nonsensical freedom-to-kill capability. Between GTA 5 and RDR2, we can examine the taxonomical affordance differentiation in consideration of Bartle’s 1996 paper, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDS. In Bartle’s Simple Taxonomy, we can observe that GTA 5 largely appeals to explorers and killers exclusively. In GTA, achievement-based occurrences are for monetary reward and game-progression opposed to ranking, experience or reputation. Conversely, RDR2 has many features including bounty hunting, animal hunting and crafting which make the achieving incentive that much more investing. What’s more, is that RDR2’s socializing capability is off the charts compared to many games but more so than any GTA game before. Being able to have a conversation or simply gesture at an NPC in RDR2 can mean the difference between a mundane open world game experience and an exciting one. Without online, GTA can only provide so much fun but such social affordances in RDR2 make the offline experience relatively endless. On top of such player-types in GTA (explorer, killer), RDR2 has also taken these motivational features to a new height. The killing animations, whether a melee item or gun, are greatly immersive and provide intense realism within each kill. Repetitively, of course, the axe-item and knife kills are relatively consistent animations but for the most part each kill isn’t or doesn’t feel, the same. For explorers, Rockstar has always been good at implementing adventurous and mysterious feats within their games. More so, gamers have always been able to go off on an adventure and be stunned by some of the scenery that these games present. What separates RDR2 specifically, is the interactivity and action-capability provided in multiple scenarios within the games setting. Largely, users have the ability to engage in multiple player-types per experience with RDR2 which has made it an extremely enticing game. That is, whenever a player loads up RDR2 they can either interact with some NPCs or other elements of the virtual world, they can act within the world by changing it with their gameplay and of course, they can fully immerse themselves in the killer player-type. The flexibility of player experience guided by player-type has largely motivated more individuals into playing RDR2.   

Furthermore, assessing the variability of player motivation, we can examine the multiplicity of reason’s why individuals would play RDR2 in particular consideration of The Art of Computer Game Design. The immersion within the game is brought on by its activity, graphics and profound animated realism which provides gamers with a great sense of escapism, ‘nose-thumbing’ and appreciation. With a great sense of story and dialogue both online and offline within RDR2, there is a great feel of acknowledgment, creativity and cooperation which both rewards the player experientially and socially. The multitude of variability within the gameplay and its design puts RDR2 in more than just a shooter genre. That is what is most cool about this Rockstar game, it really isn’t designed to just be a shooter. Its interactivity makes it quite an adventurous game and its story and physics really immerse the user in a simulative experience where strategy and tactics play a crucial role. Another vital element of RDR2’s immersive gameplay is its use of diegetic and non-diegetic content. Characters can have differentiated defining diegetic features such as stamina, health or riding while content such as ammo count and items are non-diegetic features. The diegesis of RDR2 more so maintains consistency within the Rockstar universe and provides a more user-friendly and realistic feel to the game. The variability within RDR2 makes the game appeal to many different player-types and consist within more than one genre, making it a motivational game for various users.

The developmental design of RDR2 lives up to motivational theories on why player-types prefer that type. In consideration of the psychological theory of self-determination and cognitive representation of perceived rewards, RDR2 has motivationally-enticed our neural pathways. That is, RDR2 provides users with intrinsically-deterministic capabilities such as interacting with a virtual object or killing an NPC, while also maintaining the grasp of risk and reward. Neurologically, we are stimulated by anticipation whether that be the instant gratification of a kill or the adventurous journey of a mission, it is all based on neurological reinforcement. It is especially relative to RDR2 because the multiplicity of player-types provides many users with an opportunity to receive their particular reward, their individual reinforcement.

Moreover, RDR2 is greatly intuitive and upholds a formal conceptual model. Some aspects of navigation and point-of-view can be annoying at times but relatively, the design is precedentially professional. Such elements described throughout this post highlight the immersive nature and sense-of-presence that RDR2 elicits. The instantaneous user-reinforcement and virtual-world realism and activity make RDR2 a motivational game for various users. The game features adventurous and tactile missions, freedom-to-roam shooting scenarios and user-NPC/user-world enhanced interactivity. From a gaming-motivational perspective, RDR2 appeals to many different player types through it’s immersive and interactive nature. It is important to note, however, that while RDR2 does pertain to a lot of player-types, it still lacks in some motivational aspects. Motivational improvements for RDR2 could include elements such as; a ‘clean’ versus ‘explicit’ gameplay to make the game more “child-friendly”, the incorporation of some more puzzle-based objectives that entice players who enjoy solving puzzles and more of a “proving oneself” element in the offline feature that makes your characters reputation more elemental to the game. Conclusively, RDR2 is a variably-motivational game for many individuals seeking a formal and immersive gaming experience.

 

Bibliography

Bartle, R. (1990). Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDS. MUSE Ltd, Colchester, Essex, UK.

Crawford, C. (1984). The Art of Computer Game Design. McGraw-Hill/Osborne Media.

Naro, G. (2018). Diegesis and designing for immersion. Gamasutra.

Schofield, D. (2018). Motivation [PowerPoint Slide]. State University at Oswego, New York. 

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