TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: The annual video game conference E3 starts tomorrow in Los Angeles. We were there last year, and I’ll tell you what, it’s a little overwhelming. Huge crowds. Unbelievable noise. Quite the sensory overload.
But there’s a new game that’s cutting through the buzz, “Red Dead Redemption.” It’s set in the Wild Wild West and has just about everything you’ve ever seen in a movie Western crammed into it. Dozens of characters, intricate plots, detailed dialogue and lots of action. A review in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago called it a “tour de force.” That’s what you hear about an actual movie with, I don’t know, Meryl Streep in it maybe — not usually kind of language you hear when games are concerned.
Justin Calvert is a senior editor at GameSpot. Good to have you with us.
Justin Calvert: Thank you, great to be here.
Ryssdal: I want to compare experiences. You have played this game; I have only watched the trailer. But it does seem to me that this is a… I guess the word is more “emotional” than something like “Great Theft Auto,” which is the most recent Rockstar production. Is that your sense after playing this thing?
Calvert: Yeah, I would say so. And just in raw game play terms, it is very similar, the two games have a lot in common. But in terms of the story, the protagonist and everything, he’s a much more sympathetic guy and he’s a lot easier to just kind of relate to.
Ryssdal: Why? Aren’t these games all about shoot ’em up, or is that just my misunderstanding?
Calvert: I mean, in “GTA IV,” I mean, he was a somewhat reluctant troublemaker, if you like. The guy in “Red Dead Redemption,” a guy called John Marston, you learn very early on that he’s had a real troubled past and he used to run with gangs and that kind of thing. But really, he just wants to settle down and be a family man. And it’s actually the government that won’t let him do that because they’re using him to get back at his former gang mates.
Ryssdal: Tugging at the heart strings, one has to imagine to increase sales, though.
Calvert: Yeah, obviously the reviews for this game have all been insanely positive and a big part of that is the fact that the story’s so great and that he is a really great character to play as, because at times, you feel like that kind of “Man With No Name,” Clint Eastwood. And you’re free to do whatever you want.
Ryssdal: Cue “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” music right here, right? Yeah, but is this the new, new thing in video games? We had the single person shooter and the we had the rough-and-tumble of “Grand Theft Auto,” and now it’s video games that make you want to cry?
Calvert: I think stories are definitely a much more important part of games now, and I think one of the things that kind of illustrates that is the fact that the games have gotten a lot easier nowadays.
Ryssdal: Really? You mean, just the button pushing and figuring out who to shoot and all that?
Calvert: Yeah, just game from start to finish now is not so much a test. I mean, they still have like a hard mode or something for guys who really want to push themselves. But really, when the people make these games, they’re not trying to just challenge you. They want you to experience the story that they’ve lovingly created. So, they don’t want you to get stuck halfway through and not see it through.
Ryssdal: You made it all the way through?
Calvert: I did. It took me about 35 hours.
Ryssdal: So is it spoiling things… Thirty-five hours. Oh, and let’s just bear in mind you’re paid for this. This is your job. Would it spoil things if you told people how it ended?
Calvert: Yeah, absolutely. I’d be killed. But you experience some real highs and lows with the character — that’s as much as I will say.
Ryssdal: Emotions come to video games. Justin Calvert, senior editor at GameSpot. Justin, thanks a lot for coming in.
Calvert: Yeah, no problem.
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