The Poker in Red Dead Redemption 2 Online is Great!

I had a nice talk with a friend recently while we were reflecting on the Tea Party days and the direction of today’s youth. By normal visual standards, the socialized instruction in public schools, and PC counterculture has everyone strapped to the body of Moby Dick at the end of that old story. And the drug use that has permeated everything that young people do, by conventional measure things look pretty hopeless. But two things happened over the weekend that I continue to be impressed with and they will certainly have an impact on how our culture is measured.

The first was a visit to Kings Island where the Festhaus was hosting a professional video game tournament. The place was packed to the brim and young people were everywhere and were quite happy competing on stage against each other with popular titles like Fortnite, and other video games that are part of a culture a lot of people over 30 don’t even understand. As I watched the activity I was thinking of a report that friend had said to me about Mason schools going even further into removing competitive events and statues from their public school—the everyone gets a trophy or none of them do type of thinking—and it was obvious that the politics might be moving in that direction. But the video game culture gets it. There are more opportunities for competition there than when I was a kid. Traditional sports are not the only ways to compete in life, or to learn to. Video games are all about capitalism and they are the preferred medium of young people’s entertainment experiences.

For instance, one of my favorite video games not just of last year, but ever is Red Dead Redemption 2. When that game first came out I was so excited about it that I took a week off work to play it, and for me it was a kind of vacation. It’s a western by Rockstar Games and for me it was like going to the West World of the popular HBO series. These video games are so immersive that they begin to simulate reality. They are different than the passive experience of movies so their impact on culture is something we just aren’t measuring yet. But in the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, it sold 24 million copies in just three days which amassed $725 million, and is still climbing. The earnings report for these video game companies are actually higher than many movie and television studios. Take-Two which is involved in Red Dead Redemption reported a Fiscal Year 2019 earnings report confirming so far $2.66 billion. Those are Disney type of numbers so this is not a market of entertainment that is obscure by any measure.

Red Dead Redemption 2 came out in October of 2018 and I played it several times a week through the turn of the year. I spent about a hundred hours playing it on story mode then I played the Beta development mode for the Online portion of the game. I had to capitalize that because their online concept for the game is a thing of itself. It’s quite an extraordinary attempt at hosting a very brutal and capitalist natured arena. In that meeting with the same friend we reflected on the near elimination of dodgeball from our society deeming it politically toxic. Dodgeball for us when we were kids was something that happened every day. Well for the kids of today, its these online arenas. A great video game must at least have online content where players can compete against each other in player versus player situations which are much more intense than dodgeball. The biggest difference is that one is virtual while the other was physical. But the mentality is the same.

I played the Beta for a while but I couldn’t give the game the kind of time it demanded to be good in that mode so I backed off and moved on to other things. Well, this past weekend Rockstar Games finally finished with their Online offering for Red Dead 2 and put it up on their latest update, which meant the official game went live, around six months or so after the original release, which of course keeps people buying copies of the game and keeping it going which is something to say about how video games tell their stories, over much longer periods of time than movies or other forms of entertainment. So I played the game again to see how things were going and was very happy and surprised to learn that the many bars of gold that I had during the Beta phase and all the money I earned carried over into the official release. And also I was very happy to learn that they had opened up the ability to play poker with other live players which is really the purpose of me writing this article. I was immensely pleased with the way the game was set up and I spent most of the weekend playing just that game mode.

I would not call myself a gambler or even a card player the way that people think of such things. I’m not a drinker, a womanizer or any of the things that are associated with the game of playing poker, which in my understanding of history has been advanced by socialists to attempt to demean the games of the Western frontier so that culturally people would be inspired to move away from those activities, so not to celebrate them. But I do love poker. I love watching it. I love playing it. And I love its history as an American game developed in the frontier days of New Orleans and spreading westward with the gunfighter culture. The game and the mind of gunfighting in the American West are synonymous and I love it for that attribute. Playing poker is a fun game that is uniquely very American, and I love it and including it so prominently in the online version of Red Dead Redemption was a technical feat that really impressed me.

Playing poker was part of the original game, the story mode as they call it these days. And I enjoyed it immensely. I am not the kind of guy who likes to gamble money so I’m not a guy who enjoys hanging out in casinos at all. But I do enjoy the function of the game and the way its played so just gambling the chips is enough for me. I like the way poker chips feel in my hands and how they are used strategically to win or lose the game. It’s a very fascinating game and I spent many, many hours playing it against NPCs in the story mode. But having an online poker game is a whole separate situation. You have random players always coming and going and everyone has to play their hand and getting all that rolled into a fluid video game experience is difficult. The way that Rockstar set up their poker games in actual saloons in their various towns and cities was visually stunning and functionally very satisfying. I played a lot of poker over the weekend and I didn’t even have to leave my home.

As I played and saw how many people were playing the Online Red Dead Redemption 2 game, from poker to all the PVP combat that is involved it was obvious to me that this is where the world is at. Many kids wouldn’t even learn how to play poker if not for a game like this, or would they learn anything about westerns since they’ve been nearly eradicated from American culture. But in the world of video games, the western is alive and well and millions of young people are participating in that world and enjoying it. And with billions of dollars at stake in this growing industry, I don’t think anything that is politically underway to dismantle the American way of life is going to stick. Capitalism is alive and well, especially in the saloons and towns of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Rich Hoffman
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