Red Dead Redemption 2

You’re just gonna scroll by without saying howdy?

Oh God, another opinion about the cowboy game.

I know, I know, and I’m (mostly) sorry. But this is my corner of the internet, and if you’ve found your way here, you’re at least partially interested in my thoughts about Red Dead Redemption 2.

Before we start, assume that the end of every single one of these paragraphs ends with “I can’t believe Rockstar did this with all that exploited labor.” Assume that I don’t think you should buy this game at all based on this point. I got this game as a gift, but I honestly would have liked the My Hero Academia game instead if I had been asked (or Soul Caliber 6. Did you hear 2B is coming to that game? Lit).

So anyways you shouldn’t buy RDR2 because of the labor practices, but even putting that aside this game isn’t worth playing. I’ve been sitting and waiting for a game that would dethrone The Witcher 3 in terms of games that I’m not allowed to have a contrary opinion about without being harassed by “the gamerzzz” and buddy…we’ve made it.

We’ve made it because Red Dead Redemption 2 is such a dreadfully unfun experience built by a AAA studio that has managed to manhandle its way into being a high-reviewed game for no reason other than “it’s a Rockstar one.”

I have a lot of things I could say about this game, but I am lazy and also pretty much vowed myself away from pop culture critique because I find it so exhausting and boring and unpleasant and ultimately useless. But RDR2 pulled me out of retirement like a cowboy chasing one last bounty. So I’m going to focus on how the cowboy game feels a pressing need to have you exist in its world but not let you have any fun in it.

Immersion vs. Realism

One time in Red Dead Redemption 2 I got into a brawl outside a bar. We threw fists at each other back and forth, stumbling in the mud. My hat fell off at some point. When the fight ended, I could see the mud on individual parts of my character model, and bruises on my character’s face. I shrugged the fight off and hopped onto my horse, clip-clopping into the wilderness. I could hear the wind whistle through the trees, and in the distance, a gun crackling in a nearby mountain range. I could nearly feel the chill clinging to my character as he rode, the sun setting on the horizon.

These are details that made the game feel immersive. So did seeing snow billow and pack realistically, or watching my character’s beard grow over time. I point these things out because Rockstar seems to miss where immersion ends and realism beings.

Another anecdote to illustrate: I had a bounty I needed to bring in alive. I went to find the man hiding under the crook of a cliff. A scene initiated where I jumped onto the man’s horse and chased after him. It was all very thrilling. By the end of it, I slung the man over his horse, lassoed up, and trotted into the town, where I delivered him to the sheriff.

Satisfied with the night’s events, I walked out of the jail and whistled to my horse.


I whistled a few more times. “Not again!” my cowboy lamented. A popup appeared in the top-left corner of the screen. Your horse is too far away. Get within range before whistling again.

I pulled my map out and realized that my horse was still at the cliff where I had first found the bounty. The only way to get to him would be to steal someone else’s horse to find him, potentially triggering a bounty, or walking. Both were options I wasn’t particularly looking forward to, so I shut the game down in frustration.

This isn’t fun. It doesn’t immerse me. Is it realistic? Sure. But it’s also boring. The term “immersion” has been thrown around so often at this point it barely means anything. Any and every element that exists within a semi-realistic world’s systems leads to it being considered “immersive.” But immersion isn’t supposed to be based entirely on realistic elements.

To compare, a game that came out before RDR2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, does a better job of showcasing immersion without sacrificing gameplay that feels fun. Odyssey feels lived in. Its terrain is majestic and a joy to explore and take screenshots in. But I can also whistle for my horse to spawn behind me, even if he’s on the other side of the planet. I can carry a sword and a trident on my back, even though those are both extremely heavy objects. I can run without bumping into somebody and getting into my 400th fist-fight.

I’m not trying to say that the cowboy game needs to be the lesbian spartan game (although I’m not not saying that I’d rather play a lesbian cowgirl). I’m just saying that it’s possible to create an enjoyable game with sim elements to it that doesn’t require me to adhere to the exact limits of the real world. The real world is boring, it’s partly why I’m playing a videogame.

But okay. RDR2 does not entertain your notion of fun! It is a very serious, purposefully sullen and realistic cowboy simulator. Fine. But it’s not the biggest problem with the game. Which leads me to:

The Swampmonster

Lest there be any confusion, the above is what it feels like controlling your character in Red Dead (sidenote, I keep saying ‘character’ because I actually can’t remember the boring white guy’s name that you play as, sorry).

Let me give a few choice quotes from Kotaku’s review of the game:

  • The physical act of playing is rarely pleasurable on its own. It is often tiring and cumbersome
  • Pressing a button in Red Dead 2 rarely results in an immediate or satisfying response. Navigating Arthur (EN: oh! Arthur. That’s his name) through the world is less like controlling a video game character and more like giving directions to an actor.
  • Almost every interaction must be performed through the same gauzy, lustrous cling-wrap.

The game went on to receive extreme praise for its foliage because…well, of course it did.

There is a difference between oppressive gameplay and gameplay that’s simply unfun. The Last of Us is also a story about sad things, and while that game has its own myriad of issues, at least it feels good to actually move around in the world. RDR2 does not feel like that. At all. It is so much more interested in its myriad of systems, but not so much whether you can even interact with those systems with any sense of consistency.

The simple act of running requires you to click the left stick to sprint, or mash/hold the X button. It’s 2018. It baffles me that Rockstar continues to get away with its archaic, PS1 Horror Game control scheme just because you can see the individual footprints in a muddy pathway. This game is a cinematic marvel, but it just doesn’t feel good to play. I tend to not like focusing on these minute, physical mechanics that come with playing a game, preferring to speak on broader and more interesting topics, and how the mechanics of a game can interact to deliver some sort of message to the player. But it’s impossible not to. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a bad videogame, because it can’t keep up with the advances in game design that have existed since the creation of a second analog stick.


In any other industry, a thing that takes 8 years to be made, that requires 100s of hours of overtime and exhausting the human willpower of its team, would be considered an abject project management disaster. The fact that Red Dead Redemption 2 exists in the state that it does, after hearing the stories about how it was made, is a disgrace that the gaming industry will always need to answer for, but never will. Instead, it will (and has) receive a shower of praise because…it’s supposed to? Because game criticism can’t not give a Rockstar game a high score? Because gamers will lose their shit if it isn’t given a high score?

It is games like these, that are made and released and hyped up and reviewed with glowing praise the day before release, without any consideration towards its creation, or even whether the game is good, that makes me want to completely disengage with the conversation that surrounds games as a whole.

And with that, I’m going to play Gravity Rush 2 again, just because.

The Best Writing Tip I’ve Ever Gotten

I just used it again and realized how often I use it so I thought I’d post it here.

I don’t remember where I learned it but the general idea is that if you’re writing something and need to stop, it’s VERY important to be conscious of that stopping point.

In my opinion, the best place to stop is in the middle of a sentence.

Stopping in the middle of your train of thought is super helpful because your first instinct when you come back to your writing is to fill that gap in, so to speak. Jump in like this, and you’ve already made some progress! This is especially helpful for someone like me, who has a hard time starting writing but really gets into it once I find my groove.

Example of where I left off yesterday: 


And here it is the moment I got back to my doc a few minutes ago:


Bam! A nice brisk start that leads to an extended writing session.

Anyways, that’s my tip! Hope it helps someone as much as it’s helped me.

My Street Fighter Academia

One time I wrote fanfiction about the kids from My Hero Academia playing Street Fighter. The real reason I wanted to do this was to test out whether it’d be possible to write a story about people playing fighting games. I think it worked out pretty well, and was actually quite fun to write!

Night had settled on Heights Alliance, and with it, so did the mood of the heroes-in-training that had taken residence there. After a busy day of unpacking and setting up, the students were exhausted, scattered about in the dorm’s common area. The drowsy feeling was shattered when Kaminari suddenly burst through the door, carrying a small box in his hand.

“I forgot I brought this!” the boy shouted, snapping Deku wide awake.

“Brought what?” the boy asked. Kaminari stuck the box out, displaying it proudly.

“*Street Fighter 5*! It’s a classic, but this is the newest one. You don’t play videogames, Deku?”

“No, not often…” Deku took the box from the boy, turning it over and reading the description.

“Ah, it’s a fighting game?” he asked.

Kirishima joined the conversation, punching the air this way and that. “Yeah! You fight your opponent one on one, and whoever’s stronger wins! It’s the manliest thing there is! Eh, besides hero-work, I guess.”

Deku pulled up his phone and began to do research as the rest of the boys set up the game and booted it up.

“Who do you play?” Kirishima asked Kaminari.

“Laura!” the boy replied. “Same electricity as me!”

“Zangief for me,” Kirishima replied. “He’s the manliest guy in the game!”

Iida, having been watching from afar, stepped over as well.

“All good choices! However, Chun Li is clearly the best character! She exemplifies every aspect of a hero!”

The two boys stared at Iida. Kaminari scratched his head.

“I honestly didn’t even know you played videogames, Iida. You don’t seem the type!”

Iida crossed his arms.

“Recreational activity is just as important as training! Balance is necessary to become a well-rounded person. There’s nothing wrong with videogames now and again!”

On a nearby couch, Deku’s eyes widened.

“There’s so much depth to this game!” he said in awe, scrolling through his phone even faster and taking in all of the info.

“Crush-counters…” he muttered. Kirishima waved to Todoroki and Bakugo.

“Come play you two!” he said. Todoroki shook his head.

“I’m no good with games. I’ve never even played one. It wouldn’t be very fun for you.”

Bakugo was much more direct.


Kaminari smirked.

“Yeah, I guess you probably wouldn’t be very good at them either, would you Bakugo?”

The boy’s nostrils flared as he stomped over to the TV.

“I’ll show you who’s good!” he shouted, crashing to the floor and grabbing a controller next to Kirishima. The two picked their characters. Kirishima made good on his comment, immediately moving to Zangief. Bakugo, however picked —

“Menat?” Kirishima asked, in total disbelief. Bakugo looked ready to shoot fire from his mouth.

“Shut the hell up! She’s the best character in the game and wins all of the time, of course I’d pick her!”

Kirishima shrugged. The game loaded, and the match began. Kirishima took the first round easily, using Zangief’s unconventional grappling moves to beat Bakugo. The boy high-fived Kaminari as the two grinned. Bakugo growled.

“We have one more round! And I haven’t played in months!”

Kirishima whirled on the boy.

“Months?” he asked.

The second round began. Kirishima was able to get a few hits in, but he was soon getting outplayed by Bakugo. The boy used Menat’s orbs to great affect, juggling Zangief until his HP quickly ran out. He won the second round just as easily. Kirishima tossed his controller aside, crossing his arms.

“Dang it Bakugo! Can’t you just be not good at one thing, please?”

Bakugo stood up, cracking his shoulder.


Iida took Bakugo’s place. “Kaminari! Let’s have a round!”

The two started their game, Iida picking Chun Li, Kaminari picking Laura. Iida easily took the boy down, using Chun Li’s swift kicks to finish him off.

“Why did you go easy on me?” Iida demanded. Kaminari put his hands up in defeat.

“I didn’t! I just don’t play very often.”

Kirishima gave a quizzical look from the couch he was stretched out on.

“Isn’t it your game?” he asked. Kaminari waved at the boy to be quiet. Iida turned to Deku.

“Midoriya! Would you like to give it a try?”

Deku’s head shot up from his phone, eyes bloodshot.

“I still need to figure out the tier list…” he replied, zombie-like. Iida frowned at the boy in concern, before moving on.

“What about you, Bakugo? Care to try a round?”

Bakugo scoffed, grabbing the controller that Kaminari had just put down.

“Hopefully you put up a bigger fight than that hard-head,” the boy said, grinning.

The two boys settled in for their fight. It was a sight to behold, and by the end of the second round, the whole class was standing behind the boys watching. It was a close match. Iida had Bakugo on the ropes, before eventually stunning his character. The group erupted with excitement, ready to see how Iida would follow up.

But he didn’t.

“Iida, use your special move!” Todoroki shouted, now surprisingly invested in the game.

“It is dishonerable to attack someone when they are already stunned beyond movement!” Iida shouted back. Bakugo took advantage of the momentary confusion and countered with his own special, knocking Chun Li out. The class clapped as the match ended.

“That’s right! I’m the best!” Bakugo said, stamping his foot on the ground. Aizawa showed up from the hallway to tell the group to settle down, before retreating back to his room. Iida pulled Deku over.

“Come on, Midoriya! Just one match!”

Bakugo turned his gaze on the boy, causing a chill to run down Deku’s spine.

“So? You gonna play or what?” Bakugo asked. Deku gulped.

“I mean…I’ve never even played before…”

Ochako, having watched the match with the rest of the class, grabbed Deku’s hand.

“Come on Deku! You can do it!”

Deku stared at the girl for a moment. He blushed, before clenching his fists.

“A-alright! I’ll play!”

The class erupted into cheers as the two boys took their places. Bakugo picked Menat yet again. Deku scrolled over, before tapping on Akuma. The man’s red, lion mane hair and seemingly permanent scowl appeared onscreen, causing the entire class gasped in response.



“Akuma, huh?”

“That doesn’t seem like your type at all, Deku!” Ochako said, hand over her mouth in surprise. But Deku barely acknowledged her. He brain was moving at a million miles a minute.

“The Akuma versus Menat match-up isn’t great, but Akuma is top-tier and Bakugo’s never played me before…I can use the armor parry on any orbs he sends out, and since he plays so aggressively, when he sends the orb out…”

The match started. Deku’s play was cautious as he tapped the controller back and forth, letting Akuma almost dance across the stage while Bakugo tried to get a hit in. Deku barely attacked as Bakugo whittled down his hit points, and before long, the boy had won the round. The class groaned in protest.

“Midoriya, what are you doing?” Kirishima groaned. “Get in there and fight him!”

Iida, however, gave a knowing smile.

“The match isn’t over yet,” he said.

The second round began. Bakugo began to apply pressure with his orbs as he did previously. This time, however, it seemed Deku was ready. He carefully maneuvered around the attacks, before hitting Bakugo with a super.

“Isn’t it a little early to do that?” Kaminari asked Iida as the group cheered. Iida pointed a finger into the air as he explained.

“Normally, yes! But this is Deku’s first time ever playing a fighting game. He knows that he does not have the advantage of experience. So he is foregoing traditional traditional strategy in the hopes that it will throw Bakugo off. And by the looks of things, it seems to be working!”

Bakugo got Menat back up after she was knocked down and tried to hit Deku with a quick jab, but Akuma was already in the air, using a kick to knock Menat down again. The boy continued to mix up his moves, before he finally won the round.

The class was stunned for a second, before every student was shouting in excitement.

“He could still win it!” Kaminari said, pumping his fist.

“Go, Midoriya!” Iida shouted.

The third match began. Deku was a shaking mess. Bakugo, however, was tilted in anger, forgoing any strategy he had previously and bum-rushing Akuma with Menat. Unfortunately for him, Deku’s button-mashing was a bit more controlled, and Akuma’s ability to dish out stronger damage with his random attacks overtook Menat. Deku won the last round even easier than the first.

The dorm was almost shaking from the class’ cheers, with Kaminari and Kirishima lifting Deku up on their shoulders. Bakugo jumped from the ground and pointed at Deku, cutting the celebration short.

“You might have beat me at this stupid game, but see if you can take me on for real!” he shouted. Deku grimaced.

“It’s just a game, Kacchan…” he started to say. Bakugo crossed his arms.

“Whatever! I’ll practice and beat you, just like in real life!” With that, the boy left for his dorm room. Kirishima chuckled.

“Sheesh! So competitive! Well I’m beat, so I think I’ll head to bed too. Night all.”

Class 1A began to filter to their rooms, a signal that the night was over. Iida clapped Deku on the back.

“Congratulations, Midoriya! The first time you’ve played, and you win against Bakugo! A strong showing!”

Deku put his hand behind his head, staring at the ground in embarassment.

“Ah…it was nothing…”

But that wasn’t true. For at least a moment, Deku was happy — that he won against Bakugo, and that the class had a chance to forget the stress of their training.

Coretta and Kat – Music Choices

When I’m not in the mood to write the main plot of Freelancers, I try to warm myself up with slice-of-life stuff that might not appear in the main story, but keep me on my toes, letting me keep writing and staying in the zone. It is stupid that intent is fickle and my dumb brain is preventing me from finishing this novel sooner than I’d like, but so it goes.

That said, here’s one of those SoL stories, about Coretta and Kat exchanging music taste. It’s my favorite one so far, but I might post others.

Kat swung back on the bed. 

“Give me your phone,” she said.

“Why?” Coretta asked.

“I wanna see what music you’ve got!” 

Coretta thought for a moment, before handing her phone to Kat. Before her girlfriend could grab it, however, she pulled the phone back, pointing a finger to the ceiling.

“Sharing one’s taste in music is an extremely important and personal moment, Kat. Please consider that as you scroll through my 10,000+ tracks.”

“Ten thous – okay, alright, this is clearly very important to you, so I will take it seriously.” 

Coretta gave Kat her phone. The girl began to scroll.

“The Procussions, Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, KOHH, Denzel Curry…damn Cora, you go hard.” 

Coretta shrugged. “It’s a statement. Anti-establishment. Fuck the police and all that. Especially in this town.”

Kat’s thumb left the phone. She looked up at her girlfriend.

“Diana Ross?” she asked. Coretta turned red.

“What about her? It’s Your Move is a bop. I dare you to tell me otherwise.” 

“Fair, fair.”

“Speaking of fair, I wanna see your stuff,” Coretta replied. “Pass me that phone.” 

Kat traded her phone with Coretta, who flew through genres and artists with precision.

“What the hell is a Yunomi?” the girl asked. “Passion Pit, Bo En…you’re hipster trash, Kat.”

“You get those for free!”

Kat scoffed. “Wha – Passion Pit isn’t even that obscure! You just listen to one genre of music. And Diana Ross, apparently.”

“Eh.” Coretta continued. “F**K BOYS GET MONEY,” she read aloud. “I like this one. This is good. I haven’t even listened to it yet but I dig it. Oh hey, Casin. I have the Shake That remix. You know, the one that goes ‘two to the one to the one to the three, I like good  -“

“Okay you definitely do not have to finish that lyric,” Kat replied, this time blushing herself. Coretta grinned at her embarrassment. 

“It’s true though.”

“You are unbelievable…I need to get you into some new stuff. Want me to send you some tracks later?” 

Coretta turned to give her girlfriend her phone back. “On one condition.”


“Only if you give me a kiss.”

Kat jumped on Coretta, snuggling into her shoulder.

“You get those for free!” 

Hope you didn’t get your daily sugar intake for the day because you probably just overdosed, hehe.

Being serious though, I love writing stuff like this. It’s nice to unwind with some fluff now and then. Not that there isn’t any of that in the novel proper, but I do want to try and weave this sort of thing into the story, next to the superpowered, save-the-town stuff. 

Haruko Mint

Haruko Mint was a one-off character that I made almost a year ago. I made her in Charat, a website that lets you build cute little characters. Here’s her original design:

Back then she didn’t have a name. That came much later. I sort of went along randomly at first, picking traits here and there at random, but I eventually slowed down and spent a whopping two (!!!) hours on her. I love green so that was the motif I went with, and it progressed from there. Eventually, an artist fleshed out more of her details for me, as seen here:

I always envisioned Haruko as a Vocaloid. She even has a partnership with Queen, a pal’s Vocaloid.

Mo Qingxia, released in 2018.

She skateboards, loves the rain and the beach, dismantling capitalism, and smacking TERFs (usually with her skateboard). She’s mortal enemies with Kizunai – she knows what she did – and is best friends with Mo Qingxian too, a Chinese Vocaloid that recently made her debut as well.

She’s a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 fan, and sings fast-paced pop…even though I haven’t figured out a sound for her yet.

Truth be told I’ve built Haruko’s lore as I’ve went along, but it’s all been sort of haphazard. I don’t know if I have any further plans for her, but even though she has her own backstory, she’s come to represent me in some way.

The nice thing about the internet is that you can represent yourself however you want. This isn’t exactly a mind-blowing revelation by any means, but it’s something I’ve come to terms with myself only recently. I get to represent myself however I want, which is nice, because it’s something I struggle with a lot.

I’m straight, but Grey-A. I’m male, but enjoy cute things and aesthetics that would be considered “non-traditional” by society as a whole. I question myself because of these constant “contradictions” – who I get to be versus who I’m meant to be.

But online I get to be…whoever. In that sense, Haruko is my ideal self, an avatar that I get to present that encompasses all of my favorite things. 

I suppose I’m rambling at this point but so it goes. I wanted a place to  put my thoughts down about my girl Minty. If you see her around, that’s me. So you should say hi!

To end, here’s some more art of her.

Freelancers Update – 10/15/2018

I’m actually doing things, which is nice. I made that map, which, while extremely crude, does what it needs to do, i.e. give the town a sense of place with things and their relative distance from one another. Even if the reader forgets, it helps me when describing setting. Here it is:

A map of Clifford.

As you can see, it’s as rough as I described it. I like to think that Coretta drew it herself when she was younger – it would certainly explain “Lake Sadness,” which I’m sure is not what the actual town calls it. It also takes the heat off of my bad handwriting…

Beyond that, I’ve actually started writing the second draft. I’m still “only” on the first draft, but it has expanded…drastically. It’s 2000 words and not even close to where I want it. I’ve actually described setting and have a better idea of where I want to story to begin, which certainly helps. It feels weird to be happy with what I’m writing – like I’m betraying my sensibilities as a writer. But I guess that’s what you get when you actually write a second draft, instead of just going with what you vomited out the first time around.


One other misc. point: I’ve changed Kat’s power. Originally it was flight, hemming closely to her Gravity Rush namesake. But there wasn’t really a reason for her to do it. It was hard to incorporate in any way and barely showed up in the first draft, so I knew it needed to be scrapped. In its place, Kat has the ability to bring the things she draws to life. Not only is this more unique of an ability, it helps to tie into Kat’s personality and background – she’s an artist with a bit of an online following, so it makes sense than just being able to fly.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got at the moment. I’ll hopefully have more to say as I progress through the rest of this second draft, and if I think of anything I want to comment on, I’ll through it in here.


What this blog ostensibly is:

A journal for stray thoughts on games I’m playing, music I’m listening to, books I’m reading, and the progress on the novel I’m writing that’s totally happening, everyone. A grab-bag of sorts. A place where I can write all these things down in a way that wouldn’t work in micro-blog format or that would get lost in the social media sea. A no SEO zone.

What this blog will be:

Rarely updated, probably.