I’m procrastinating. I should go back to work, but I take a quick peek in my bookmarked folder of nerdage sites. Surely organizing that is a productive use of my time!
I delete the link for 8-bit Theater, as that webcomic is apparently, for reals, done-done. Shamus’s Let’s Play of Lord of the Rings Online just doesn’t have the same umph as his old DM of the Rings but it’s still just entertaining enough to make the cut. Order of the Stick is brilliant as always, and I’ll be sad when the author wraps everything up. And …
“Gun-Horse? What is Penny Arcade making fun of this time?” I’m not as tapped into the gamingsphere as I used to be, so many PA jokes just go right over my head. This is one of those.
I do a quick Google search and it looks like they are referencing a game called Red Dead Redemption. Huh. The game looks REALLY interesting. It has everything I never knew I wanted in a Western game: Horses! Duels! An achievement for exterminating the buffalo!
If it were available on the PC, I’d buy it – but it’s not, so I give a mental shrug.
I don’t even consider the possibility of buying a PS3; my wife is pregnant with our first child, after all. I’ve got more important things to spend money on than a new console. Anyways, Rockstar usually takes about a year to port their games to the PC, and I’m patient enough to wait that long.
I push the stroller as fast as I dare, intent on getting to the children’s area as soon as humanly possible. Casey needs to get some play time in, stat. When it’s raining (and raining and raining), she’s denied the park outside our house as an outlet for her boundless energy. When that happens, well I’m a loving father so I say she's being “emphatic,” instead of some other choice words I could use.
Oregon’s grey months raise my own personal stay-at-home-dad difficulty level a full notch. Luckily my nearby mall has an indoor play area that Casey loves to clomp around on. I push forward, eager to get her out of the stroller and onto the back of a giant plastic turtle. I halt my march when GameStop’s display window catches my eye; RDR Game of the Year Edition? Wow, I had no clue about that expansion. Since Casey’s birth I’ve been completely disconnected from the pop-cultural landscape. Anything below the level of Charlie Sheen’s meltdown just doesn’t penetrate the baby bubble I’m in. But zombies in the Old West? That sounds really cool. Maybe I could ...
Crying. Lots and lots of “emphatic” crying.
I push towards the play area.
I finish watching the original version of True Grit and turn to my father-in-law. “I liked it! Honestly the remake was more enjoyable just because it had a more modern pacing as well as style and sensibility, but both were fun to watch. Probably because each one had pretty much every last Western trope you could want in a movie: horse-chases, poisonous snakes, bounty hunters, outlaws ... huh.”
As I’m talking, my mind starts to tingle. As I mention trope after trope, I’m oddly reminded of a game that I’ve never actually played.
I finish talking with my father-in-law and leave to pop onto Steam (it’s amazing how I’ve been using that service lately). I see if I can buy RDR on the PC and ... no, I cannot. That’s kind of odd. I see if there is any information about an upcoming port on the web. While I can find rumors aplenty, there is nothing definite. I’m getting paid well enough at my new job, but with a second baby due next month I’m not going to buy a console for just one game. I’ll wait.
I leisurely walk around Fry’s and pass a display stand showing off the brand new PS3 model. It’s pricy but it comes with an embiggened memory and a copy of Grand Theft Auto V. Hmm … that game is the principle of this generation’s capabilities, a generation that I’ve mostly missed. I’ve wanted to play Skyrim and Arkham Asylum and Fallout 3 and a bunch of other games for years now, but my PC just can’t handle the power such games require.
My job is going well and, despite the cost of two kids in day care, financially our family is doing pretty well. Maybe it’s time to splurge. Why, if I buy this bundle I could finally play those games and … oh yea! Red Dead Redemption! Man, I’ve been wanting to play that game for years now. I put the PS3 in my cart and push it towards the cashier. I don’t go more than ten feet before I stop.
There is a thing called a “Steam Sale,” and the summer one is literally happening right now. I didn’t buy any of the games I saw on it earlier in the day because my rig couldn’t handle them. BUT what if I upgrade my PC instead of buying a new console?
That would be cheaper. Plus the PS4 is literally going to come out next month. Do I really want to buy a console when it’s about to be obsolete? By getting a high-end graphics card, chances are I’ll be able to play most of the PS4’s early games in addition to all the PS3 games I’ve been wanting to play, except ... .
Except Red Dead Redemption. If Rockstar was going to port that, they would have done so already. But that is just one game, after all. I shouldn’t make my decision based on just one game. I put the PS3 back and head on over to the PC section. It’s the smart decision.
I’m finally going to buy a PS3! I’ve hemmed and hawed for years and years but I found one on Craigslist for a price I feel comfortable buying, so I’m going to bite the bullet and just frickin' buy one already! And the best part? It’ll come pre-loaded with Red Dead Redemption! The seller is a 30-minute drive away. I’m super busy with job/house/wife/kids/etc., but I can spare that much time. I can make it work. I can fit into ... traffic jam! Probably the biggest traffic jam I’ve seen in five, maybe ten years! Frickin' A!
My car is at a dead stop. I have all the time in the world to think about how I don’t have time for this.
After an hour and a half I finally arrive at the guy’s house. I try to wipe the frustration from my face and smile as I shake the seller’s hand. My smile turns into a grimace as I watch his PS3’s screen freeze as it loads up Red Dead Redemption. The guy says that this has never happened before! It’s a one-time thing! He can fix it! I continue to smile. Politely.
My smile grows harder and harder to hold as the stranger fiddles and probes. My smile is fully gone when the stranger gives up. I politely excuse myself and leave. Did the seller know the system wouldn’t work fully? Was that why the price was so affordable? Was this just a mistake from the beginning? I shake my head. I don’t know if I’ll try this again.
I watch, with rapt attention, a video of a guy running Red Dead Redemption on a PS3 emulator. Every justification for piracy I’ve ever read has seemed self-serving and disingenuous to me, but perhaps this might still be a way I could finally play RDR!
I don’t want to break the law. I honestly don’t. But I’ve read that emulation in and of itself is not illegal; it’s the piracy of the software that is illegal. So if that’s true, then if I were to legally buy a copy of RDR and emulate a PS3 on my PC to play it, then both legally and morally I would be in the clear!
No, wait. It’s a fake video. Reading through the comments, a PC emulating a PS3 playing RDR isn’t even remotely achievable at this point and won’t be for years and years. At best. Never mind.
I’m smiling. It’s not the rapturous smile of pure joy I see on my kids at Christmas. It’s not the smile of a man who has achieved a lifelong dream. It’s not even the smile that naturally comes to my face when I’m hanging out with a good friend. But as John Marston races through the dusty Mexican highland in search of his latest bounty, as the background music swells, as I hear the neigh of the horses, as I see the sun crouch below a scenic bluff, as the setting, the mood, the ambiance of Red Dead Redemption gives me everything I had hoped it would, my smile is real and genuine. It is a smile of a man who feels perfectly satisfied with his decision to purchase a console to play a single game.
It’s not that I have been thinking about Red Dead Redemption non-stop for the last six years. Rather it was that every time I saw something about the Old West, a small part of my mind thought, “Let’s have the debate about getting a PS3 to play RDR again! I’ll start! Wouldn’t it be cool to play the best game ever made in the Western genre? Wouldn’t it be neat to play RDR?”
And I would agree with that part of my brain, but then decide, for various reasons, not to do it.
But now I am finally, finally playing the game.
And. It. Is. Great!
43.2 hours into the game, and I’m not remotely bored with it. It’s still something I’m eager to claw time out of my busy life to play. I think that’s because RDR managed to distill the mythology of the West in such a way that ...
Huh. That’s odd.
The PS3 shut itself off.
I try to turn it back on.
Don’t panic. I very methodically type the symptoms into Google. I discover with a blank face that my PS3 has contracted a case of “The Yellow Ring of Death.” That it is to say, the machine I finally purchased, after six years of waiting, has died on me when I was three-quarters of the way through Red Dead Redemption.
I do some more research. There is no way to transfer save files from a broken PS3 to a new PS3. I haven’t just lost my PS3, I’ve lost my save file too.
I keep researching. And researching. I read something.
I read it again.
I look at the screen. At the PS3. The screen. The PS3. Screen. PS3.
I know what I have to do.
I just don’t know if I can.