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Horses, Heists, and Guns... Oh My!

An examination of the player motivations that are present within Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2.

Michael Carroll, Blogger

December 14, 2018

7 Min Read

What does it take to draw and keep someone’s interest in a game? This topic is asked in countless companies as they begin development on their latest and greatest games, but what does it really take to meet the needs of gamers. With so many options in games present today it takes more than an interesting theme to both attract and keep a player base. In a game such as Red Dead Redemption 2, the idea of playing as a cowboy in the wild west may get players to initially pick up the game but in order to keep their interest the game must indulge their intrinsic gaming needs. This is the challenge for all developers as many gamers have different types of needs that they want met. Richard Bartle classified these player motivations into four distinct categories: Achievers, Explorers, Killers, and Socializers. According to Bartle and Bart Stewart, achievers are those players who look to accomplish some goal, whether that’s a 100% completion rate or finding that rare item within the game, explorers are the players who look to investigate the entirety of the virtual world, killers are players whose main objective is to eliminate an opponent, whether that’s another player or a non-player character (NPC), and finally socializers are those players who take enjoyment in simply interacting with others in the virtual world. By looking at these different player types, game developers are able to pick the areas in which they want to focus in order to appeal to that subsection of gamers.

Many games look to achieve a balance that can appeal to a large audience, but none do this as well as Rockstar’s wild west adventure Red Dead Redemption 2. It would be easy for a game such as Red Dead Redemption 2 to rest its laurels on just being an old west cowboy shoot ’em up game, where the depth of the world and story would be no more than dueling outside the saloon. Instead Rockstar went in another direction and made Red Dead Redemption 2 unique in that it has such a living, breathing, and massive open world, which allows gamers who fit into any player type to find hours of enjoyment in single player alone, this is not even including the multiplayer mode which adds many new challenges and hours of gameplay.

For those gamers who are nestled within Bartle’s achiever category, Red Dead Redemption 2 offers unique and challenging experiences. The most basic of these challenges is that full completion rate of 100%, which in a game and world as large as Red Dead Redemption 2, will take many hours of gameplay to accomplish. Outside of the traditional completion rate is the challenge of finding and hunting rare, or as described within the game, legendary animals, which provides the player with unique trinkets that offer powerful bonuses. Players can spend hours looking for and hunting these creatures in an attempt to give themselves a distinct advantage for the rest of the game. Along with hunting rare animals, you are also able to craft exclusive gear to outfit your cowboy on his adventure by obtaining perfect animal skins, which each animal has a distinct challenge to obtain. Players could spend just as much time attempting to obtain all of these rewards as they do completing the story.

With Red Dead Redemption 2 allowing players the opportunity to go where and do what they please in this robust world, it is easy to get lost in your surroundings only to find that a couple hours have passed since you last visited civilization. This is where the game becomes the explorer’s paradise. From the snowy mountains in the north west to the swamps in the south east, Red Dead Redemption 2’s world has all different types of terrains to explore, and that’s before you even need to visit a city. Out in the world, players can experience all kinds of different random events that will only persuade the user to explore even more. If the player ever gets tired of being out in the wild and decides to head into a town, no matter how small or large, there are many nooks and crannies for them to explore. The largest city within the game, Saint Denis, has many different corridors and alleyways for the user to explore. Even more than that, the game tends to reward the players that explore as they will sometimes be presented quests, which shows the player that not all is as it seems within the city. With all of the exploration and random encounter opportunities comes the opportunity for another player type, the killers.

Killers are afforded plenty of opportunities within Red Dead Redemption 2 to do as they please to other characters in the world. Players are free to interact with NPCs in any way they see fit, with this comes the draw for those in the killer category of Bartle’s grouping. Players are free to beat, rob, or even kill characters they meet throughout the world. Players are afforded the ability to rob any character or even perform a daring heist, which generally leads to some gun fighting. Although the player is given the freedom to do as they please in the world, Rockstar implemented an honor rating system in the game, so a player can see how good or bad they are being. Those within the killer category would generally tend to be on the evil side of the scale, and once they reach a certain rating are treated more harshly by NPCs. This freedom and honor system also extend to the online world of Red Dead Redemption 2, which allows for player versus player interaction, which is not provided in the story mode. Online is where those in the killer category will really get their needs met in Red Dead Redemption 2. The online mode of the game is just as free roaming as the story mode, with the added ability to meet other human players. Players are allowed to attack enemy players and either kill them or ruin their mission. As Bartle states killers like “to cause distress to other players”, which in Red Dead Redemption 2 online, the opportunities are plentiful. While some player types choose to harm enemy players online, others may be inclined to do the opposite and help others.

Those in the socializer player type will find the online world of Red Dead Redemption 2 just as fun as those in any other type. The game allows for you to form groups with friends, or others you meet in the virtual world, and travel the wild west together. Players are able to do missions, go hunting, role play as a cowboy out on the frontier, or just relax with others in the online game. Providing this ability to group up and accomplish things with others will provide the socializers with the type of satisfaction they want in the game. While they might meet killers in the world, there is plenty of opportunity to work with other players. In order to draw socializers to the game this opportunity is very important as they would quickly become frustrated if they are just killed whenever they meet another player.

Companies that are looking for ideas on how to make a game to include the different types of player motivation, they should look no further than Red Dead Redemption 2. The way in which Rockstar thoroughly thought out what aspects of their game could attract which types of players is impressive. It is rare to find a game that is all encompassing in drawing in players from every motivation type. The common factor between all of the motivations is the freedom that is given to the player. The freedom that is provided to each individual player is what makes Red Dead Redemption 2 a great game for any type of gaming motivation. Allowing gamers to be creative and free within a virtual world opens up endless possibilities and lets the gamer create their own adventure to fulfill whatever drives their desire to play a game.

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