'Red Dead Redemption 2' Is Defined By Its Rough Edges


It’s been a week since Red Dead Redemption 2 released. In lieu of a normal review, the editorial team has decided to share their thoughts with each other and you in the form of a letter series. For previous letter series from Waypoint, click here .

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/mbyqe3/red-dead-redemption-2-is-defined-by-its-rough-edges


I’ll be super honest. I’ve kept my absorbtion of Red Dead Redemption 2 coverage to a minimum. Rockstar’s games don’t grab my interest and the air that has surrounded this game makes me doubtful that much good can came out of discussion (beyond helping to re-broach labour in games as an issue in a more forward-facing direction). That’s leaving aside my personal doubts about centring discussion on a a product like Red Dead – why should I add my fuel to its fire?

With that said, I think bringing back the letter series for this is a worthwhile venture. I think the way that Walker talks about labour is really helpful, particularly in finding a way to discuss it in its own context, giving it a kind of benefit-of-the-doubt without that becoming an erasure of that doubt.

Not everyone will read to the bottom (I think you should – especially if you might be thinking “why is an article about this game on Waypoint?”), so I’ll excerpt this as my tease and justification for why you likely should.

When we ignore or undersell the flaws in a work like RDR2 (which is not unique in the reported conditions of its production, but which is a flashpoint for games culture to work through our understanding of labor rights), we help in the hawking of a neoliberal myth about artists: that all great creation requires the volunteer destruction of the self. The truth is the opposite. In its best, least alienated form, creative work is rejuvenating and fulfilling, connecting us to each other and to the deeper parts of ourselves.

All of which is to say that when we ignore the ways in which RDR2 stumbles as a work, it gives ammunition to those who want to argue that “perfection takes sacrifice,” or some other bromide that fails to understand that “sacrifices” in the labor market aren’t evaporated into the air, but deposited into someone else’s bank account.

You’ve got a tough act to follow, Klepek…

(P.S. That BBC Radio 4 link/explainer on alienation? Choice.)


I’m glad that in the third sentence of this review Austin opens with his intent to view this as a cultural object. When the first reviews were coming out, all I could think about was how every review was doing exactly as Austin said: starting from the writing, combat, or lighting. None were about processing the work and the feeling of the work in its own time on the terms and conditions that Rockstar made for it. I made the below tweet as my way of expressing that frustration: a distracted boyfriend looking at going over the game by looking at its wonderfully executed parts, with a disgusted partner of the challenge presented by having to confront the surrounding implications of the work.

And for tackling that conflict and those difficult feelings, thank you Austin. I really appreciated this letter.