Kotaku Writer Lamenting at “Red Dead Redemption 2” NPC’s for Lack of Realism

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

Over the past few days, there has been much hype within the gaming media sphere around the release of “Red Dead Redemption 2,” the sequel to the popular adventure game taking place in the wild American West of the latter 18th century.  Rockstar Games open-world western places the player in a fantasy of the nostalgic freedom that the old American West once promised and that many Americans today romanticize.  However; one writer at Kotaku has a particular grievance with the games realism regarding its non-player characters (NPC’s) or characters not controlled by human players.  The writer, Heather Alexandra, initially praises the game for its committment to quality in its character-to-character interactions but then explains that, as one continues through the game, interactions with the NPC’s start to feel stale and unreal.

“On the surface, NPCs aspire to the same level of detail, acting out what seem to be full lives.  An angry saloon-goer tosses someone through the window for sleeping with his wife; a clumsy rider stops to calm their horse only to get kicked in the head.  These moments try to suggest the world is full of people going about their lives, but when contrasted with the rest of the game’s level of detail, they are woefully artificial.  The seams start to show, and it’s obvious that Red Dead Redemption 2’s people only exist in relation to me and are defined solely by what I can do to them (Heather Alexandra, Kotaku, 2018).”

Did you catch that?

“The seams start to show, and it’s obvious that Red Dead Redemption 2’s ‘people’ [the NPC’s] only exist in relation to me and are defined solely by what I can do to them (Ibid.).”

That’s because they are not real people, simply animations created for the benefit of the gamer.

If we want to give Miss Alexandra the benefit of the doubt, we could argue in her favor that she is criticizing the failure of current artificial intelligence standards to recreate a realistic human-to-human interaction but shouldn’t that be needless to say?  I think we’re some time away before a computer can fool a human into thinking that its in fact not a computer, artificial intelligence isn’t quite that advanced at this point in history.

Video games are ultimately for the purpose of entertainment, everything created within the game for the gamer to enjoy at his/her leisure.  The difference between a video game and a movie lies largely in the interaction between the user and the source.  Video games  allow the user to act in a way that they would not really act with other humans.  Movies are strictly one-way with the user watching other humans play out a scene.  The reason why there is more emphasis placed on human actors than animations is because there is more of an impetus for the actor to portray the specific character properly and accurately.  (I don’t mean to demean voice actors here.)

What am I trying to convey here?  Video game critics should not be focusing in on realism when regarding a human’s interactions with animations.  There are obvious limits on computer-generated characters and a sense of perspective is important to maintain.

In short, NPC’S ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE.

Free speech is the foundation for civility.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

There is a rising ideology in America today, fostered by the political spectrum’s left-wing, that is antithetical to the values that Western Civilization has held dear for centuries.  This ideology is commonly referred to as “Progressivism,” although it is anything but progressive.  It seems to have been born out of a desire to give minority populations a stronger voice in political discourse but it is taken to such an extreme that it idolizes victimization and demonizes any position of privilege.  Some proponents of this ideology have driven it to an extent of advocating for dismantling Western political and judicial institutions on the basis that Western Civilization is founded on exploitations and subversions of alternative cultures.  Never mind that individuals in the West today enjoy a relatively peaceful society as well as longer lifespans and substantial freedom (Freedom House and Economic Intelligence Unit) compared to the rest of the world, many contemporary leftists focus on the negative aspects of Western civilization like institutionalized slavery and its subsequent repercussions, extreme poverty as a byproduct of excessive capitalism, the tendency of unregulated capitalism to move toward monopolies and corporate oligarchies, etc.  These new leftists either fail to recognize or simply ignore the benefits that Western civilization has brought its people like mass production of clothing, development of modern medical practices and medicinal remedies, personal empowerment through entrepreneurship, rising standards of living for all economic classes, etc.  The new leftists see the world through an extremely narrow and simplistic scope of oppressors and the oppressed with no middle ground.

Western civilization is not perfect, of course; no human society is perfect because humans are not perfect.  Human history has no shortage of prejudiced individuals and violent actions.  However; any honest scholar of human history will recognize that some of the worst atrocities have been committed in the pursuit of an utopian ideal.  A pragmatic and humanistic leader will help to govern his society based on how humans are, not how we ought to be.

Contemporary leftists are indeed pushing an idealistic and utopian agenda, one that seems eerily reminiscent of the old Marxist rhetoric which culminated in the Russian Revolution.  These new “cultural Marxists” seem be driven by a desire for a utopia in which prejudice is non-existent and they are more evident on college campuses.  The problem with this utopian ideology, as well-intentioned as it may be, is that it creates an “in-group” mentality among its proponents, which ironically fosters exclusiveness in pursuit of inclusiveness; in pursuit of an all-inclusive society, these neo-Communists fight to silence any rhetoric that may be labelled as hateful.  Never mind freedom of speech/expression for individuals, whatever speech that can be labelled as “hate speech” will not be tolerated by the neo-Communists.  This pro-censorship stance is antithetical to liberalism and an open marketplace of ideas.

Recent examples of these neo-Communists revealed themselves during Milo Yiannopolous‘ tour through American colleges, his “Dangerous Faggot Tour.”  During this multi-stop travelling experience,  Yiannopolous spoke publicly at privately scheduled events on the campuses of various colleges and universities.  Yiannopolous being a provocateur, often saying incendiary and inflammatory things, was met with much resistance in the form of protests.  Although, these protesters did not attempt to debate Yiannopolous intellectually and respectfully, they instead made a show of their opposition to him in attempts to disrupt and shut down his events.  Interruption, disruption, and (ultimately) censorship are the tactics of the neo-Communists because they seem to think that their ideology is above criticism and anyone who dares to question them must be a racist or a sexist or a homophobe and therefore do not deserve to be engaged with intellectually.  This “in-group” mentality is dangerous because it inculcates the people inside this ideology from any reasonable debate; the ideologues foster their beliefs inside an echo chamber and they become self-righteous.  Yiannopolous may say some insensitive things but he still has the political right to free speech and expression.  Debate is the appropriate response to controversy, not censorship.

Conservatives such as Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, and Lauren Southern have now taken up the mantle for free speech, but free speech as a political issue should be a basic unifying principle in any civilized society.  The ability to argue with each other without resorting to violent reactions, even if no consensus is reached, is what separates us from more barabaric societies.