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October 18: Red Dead Redemption 2, The Best of Both Worlds SPOILER ALERT!!
I love getting to talk about video games with great storylines and don't really get the chance to often, so I was really excited about this week's lesson. I also feel like I should mention that I don't actually play the games. The point of view triggers my motion sickness, but my boyfriend plays the games while I work on artwork so I love listening to the story line of the games. If the game doesn't have a good story line, Keegan won't play it.
When Red Dead Redemption 2 was released at the end of 2018, we bought it thinking it would be similar to the Uncharted series or God of War: the character is given a mission with little room for exploring in order to move the story along. While both of those games had fantastic stories, Red Dead 2 provided a new aspect of gaming in which there was a plot to move along but there were also side missions, room for exploration, and hidden places and items along the extremely large and impressively artistic map.
The part that interested me the most was the ending of the game. The main character, Arthur, is dying of tuberculosis. He faces a traitor from their gang, in which Arthur loses but a side character, John, escapes with his family. The point is, Arthur gave his life for John and his family. I wasn't even playing the game, but was so emotionally invested in Arthur's character that I cried when he died and was pissed at John because I felt like his character was a dumbass and Arthur deserved to live more than John did. The game isn't over at this point, however. The game continues and the player is now John. There was a lot less investment in John however, as the game reaches its close, I felt more indifferent to John as I "got to know him". I still like Arthur better and begged Keegan to restart the game so Arthur would be alive again.
The point of this story is to demonstrate the power of the narrative in the story. Although there was a plot to follow, the characters interact with others as they walk by them, the player can personalize the character's hair and clothes, the player has to feed the character and cut his hair and even has to make the character rest or else the character's stamina will suffer. The game designers did a great job of investing the user into the character.
I find myself to be more aligned with the narratologist view. I appreciate a video game more when there's a story to be told. But from a ludology standpoint, I think there's an interesting aspect of allowing the user to explore the map the game makers have created. I've never been as emotionally attached to a character as I am to Arthur, but that's probably because the user physically walks in his shoes. The comments Arthur makes when he looks in the mirror, the differences in the way he interacts with other characters, not to mention that the user has control over whether Arthur is dominantly a "good" or "bad" guy definitely creates a deeper connection.
Jesper Juul, a ludologist, makes a claim that "Games and stories are very different things. (Story here understood as a fixed sequence of events.) What makes a game a game is exactly what makes it a non-story. It is a mistake to design games that try to be “story-like” and it is a mistake to analyze games as stories."  I find that idea to be incorrect. The more invested a player is in the game, the better the story has to be. The plot of the games should be analyzed as a story because it offers something that movies can't: alternate endings and a chance to start over and try again.
With so much depending on the player, the story is extremely important. How you reach a certain ending matters and each ending has to be worth getting to. Manfred Jahn defines three things that are key to his Guide to the Theory of Narrative:
- Narrative: anything that tells or presents a story.
- Story: a sequence of events involving characters.
- Narrator: the teller of the narrative. 
Red Dead Redemption 2 has these three things. The game presents a story to be told about a gang from the Wild West. The story revolves around the falling out of the gang and involves a connection with multiple characters, especially Arthur. The narrator is Arthur, as the player sees the world through his eyes and the story unfolds through his interaction with other characters.
I think this game proves that narratology and ludology can exist together in one game. Granted, the game might have to be downloaded on two separate disks due to such a high amount of game data!