Photo credit: RDR2 gameplay on PS4

Two months ago, Rockstar Games announced there would be no more Red Dead Online updates. Those of you who know me, read this blog or follow me on Twitter (@cindyjacks) understand what a loss this is for me. Red Dead Redemption 2 is my favorite alternate reality. And the chance to create my own character in that simpler, albeit much more violent, time…well, I was hooked at once. And now living in Kansas the wild, wild west feels even more relevant. Seriously, look up Cowtown, the replica of old Wichita. It’s totally Blackwater.

Granted, the online version was never quite fully baked. The beta period only offered four story missions and you had to grind like it was your job to level up. Nary a bird flew past me without meeting its death. Hey, they were 10xp each! But there was something about going on , hunting and fishing and embracing the simulation of living off the land. It is my understanding, however, that skinning a deer or rabbit is much more complicated than depicted in the game. Who knew? 😂

Once the game left beta though, there were moments of brilliance. The addition of the trader, bounty hunter, and collector roles. The evolution of the trader to moonshiner, the collector to naturalist. The addition of the Call to Arms saved us from complete boredom and frustration with the lack of updates. The world evolved and allowed me to sink deeper into the fantasy of living in the Wild West…but, you know, without the actual risk of dysentery or tuberculosis. Or being barred from owning property cuz I’m a girl, lol.

It got to the point that  Halloween wasn’t Halloween without the RDO update. Christmas, too. But when the last Christmas “special” coat was nothing more than a black leather coat that looked much like every other black coat in the game, I could see the writing on the wall. The end cometh.

To be honest, I haven’t played the game much since then. I steeled myself for the inevitable demise of RDO. And now that it’s official, I feel as though I’ve lost a group of friends. In a way, I have. Cripps, my beloved Bacchus (he’s my favorite horse), Maggie, the lady with the awesome voice who narrated the cutscenes for the legendary bounties. Even Sean McGuire, who it was lovely to have alive again (oops sorry, mild RDR2 spoiler, my bad).

Granted, Rockstar hasn’t deleted the servers so all those folks are still there for me to visit. I probably will from time to time once the sting of the game’s stagnation wears off. But I’m level 260-something so without new content, there’s not much for me to do other than the same mind-numbing loop of grinding. Perhaps I’ll stalk a 3-star whitetail buck or reel in a massive sturgeon, just for old times sake.

There’s also the Call to Arms to take out the day’s frustration with, but since me and my honeypie have mastered all of them, well, the thrill is gone. RDO has become that lover who doesn’t switch up things in bed. Ya like what they do, but ya wish they’d throw you a curveball every once in a while. Alas, there will be no gimp suits and gagballs lurking in RDO’s closet. Sorry, I took that metaphor too far, lol.

Being the gaming addicts we are, Charles and I have found some substitutes for the gaping hole RDO has left in our co-op playtime. State of Decay 2 has a decent substitute for the Call to Arms. We’ve yet to best Daybreak so that’s on the agenda for this weekend. But having fallen in love with a cowboy and living in a state that is literally part of the Old West mythology, there’s nothing to do but wait for a dev to creat a new Western masterpiece. I suspect it’ll be a very long time before I crush on a game quite so passionately. I suppose time will tell.

My dearest RDO, you will be missed. You filled many a dark day with joy and laughter and headshots. No other game could ever replace you and you’ll be in my heart always. Whenever I sip a little Tennessee whiskey, I’ll pour a some for you in remembrance.

If I’ve entertained you or added some value to your day, that’s wonderful! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter @cindyjacks. If you’d like to support my blog with donations you can do so at ko-fi or cash app $cindyjacksbooks. All donations to my online content are much appreciated, but definitely not required to keep coming back to visit! Game on, my friends!

My Go-To Game

Image credit: Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay on PS4

Some folks say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives me lemons, I choose to make moonshine. Okay, okay. I know you can’t actually make moonshine from lemons. I mean, not lemons exclusively. At least I don’t think so 🤔. I actually don’t know, but I don’t think they have enough sugar content to ferment… Dammit, Cindy. Focus!

What I’m talkin’ about is that go-to game. The game that’s like an old friend you never get tired of hanging out with, the one that makes you feel better when you’re blue, the one you play after you’ve finished a new game and have no clue what to play next. For me, it’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and of course it’s online incarnation (hence the moonshine reference that I thoroughly botched, but all good, let’s keep moving).

So today I woke up to discover my rebellious pup, who isn’t adjusting well to the changes in my household, had befouled the hardwood floor right outside my bedroom. Cleaned that up and interviewed for a freelance job I didn’t get. Part of me is kinda relieved about that. Writing copy for a large corporation’s pet project is not my idea of a good time. I didn’t really want the job because I need to care about what I’m writing. And let’s face it, I’m not exactly a corporate, stiff white collar kinda gal. I’m a Hulk t-shirt, leggings and puppy dog slipper socks kinda lady, thank you very much. Still the extra money would’ve been nice and rejection always sucks.

Then I got a phone call from one of my most favorite-est (it is too a word!) people. He sounded tired and stressed, which he has every right to be considering he’s been through the wringer himself the past few weeks. The fatigue and melancholy in his voice made me feel helpless because he’s literally a thousand miles away. All I could do was listen and cheer him on as he spent his day putting out fires. Still, I wished vehemently that I could pull a magic wand out of my a$$ and make it all better.

Oh and my son quit his job today because he’s got a cold and seemed quite offended that neither his supervisor nor the store manager gave a crap that he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go home. To my mind, that’s akin to swatting a fly with a Buick and I told him as much. Unfortunately he’s at that age when foolish decisions are par for the course and I have to let him make his own mistakes. No one tells you how hard this is to do, but guess what? It’s really f@#king hard. And this is why Mommy drinks. Kidding, kidding. Okay, mostly kidding.

The last straw was discovering I’d forgotten to take out the trash out last night. Sigh. I even have a reminder set in my phone so there’s no excuse. I dropped the ball, it’s that simple. Oh, and the downstairs AC unit is still acting up, so there’s that.

On a day like today, I needed to spend a little quality time with my VOMA (virtual object of my affection), Mr. Arthur Morgan. Despite the constant threat of peril, there’s something soothing and simple about the time and space he inhabits. The vast open world gives you the illusion of control as you pick and choose from a generous array of quests that don’t feel repetitive, even though they are. Plus shooting bad guys in the face is a fantastic stress reliever, in my humble opinion. Not to mention, the story is so tragic, it makes me think, yeah, my life’s not that bad after all. Yep, RDR2 is my go-to game for all those reasons and perhaps a few I don’t fully realize.

Once my most favorite-est (still insisting it’s a word) person’s busy day wound down, and he said, “You ready to do this, babe?” I plopped my cattleman’s crease hat on my head, took up the controller and replied, “Yep, let’s ride.” And just like that (imagine me snapping fingers), all was right with the world.

Keeping it 200: Red Dead Online

The goal is a waste of time. I know this. After level 100 on Red Dead Online you gain no more advantage from leveling up further. That’s it, all weapons, horses, clothing items, and abilities are unlocked by then. Okay, yes, every five levels you get a treasure map. Whooptie freaking doo. I’ve got more gold and RDO$ than I know what to do with.

So why can’t I stop playing this f@#king game?

There’s so much about RDO that irritates me. The forever load time. The way my saved outfits magically disappear from time to time. Cripps and his sudden need to pack my camp up while I’m en route. How my character gets stuck walking like John Wayne after certain missions. I picked the flamboyant walk because she’s a cute little ladylike outlaw, dammit. I don’t want her walking around like she’s saddle sore. You get my meaning 😉 Sorry, sorry. That bug really bothers me.

There are countless other bugs and glitches, not to mention the always half-baked updates. So I ask again: why can’t I stop playing this f@#king game? Not just continue to play it, but grind on it so often that I’m almost level 200?

To put this in perspective, once you hit level 100, it takes about 10,000 XP to rank up. And that increases little by little so that at this point it’s around 11,000 XP to level up.

For the sake of simple math let’s stick with 10,000. That means I’ve earned almost 1,000,000 XP. And to put that into perspective, the average bounty yields around 300, naturalist and moonshiner missions, maybe 500. The motherlode is the trader goods delivery which takes forever to build up to, but it rewards players with 2000 XP. Yes, there are other ways to get a little extra XP here and there, but when you consider chalking up 1,000,000 in a few months time, that’s a lot of wasted days and wasted nights. It’s okay, I’m woman enough to admit it.

So, if the game irks me and it’s grindy as all hell once you get to a certain level, what attracts me to it over and over again? It’s kinda like that lover that’s no good for you but who’s too much fun not to answer the phone when he calls.

But what’s so fun about it? I don’t know. Really I don’t! There’s just something about shooting a bandit in the face after you’ve tackled him. There’s a thrill to the ever increasing difficulty of the Legendary Bounties. And yes, I’m that player who’ll start Harriet’s naturalist missions but instead of sedating the Legendary animal, I kill it, skin it, and give the pelt to Cripps. But c’mon it makes the trader role so much easier. And then there’s the almost slots like discovery of collectibles throughout the world. Most of the time it’s just going to be a measly playing card, but once in a while you hit the jackpot and get jewelry or a rare flower.

Okay, so I do love unleashing my inner bada$$ in RDO. And it could be said that IRL, I’m a bit repressed. I follow rules. I’m nice even perhaps when I shouldn’t be. So maybe RDO gives me an outlet for all that inappropriate behavior I’ve got locked inside me. Better to release it in virtual reality than real reality.

I also think my affection for RDO comes from my love of the story mode. Red Dead Redemption 2 moved me in a way I can’t quite explain. I wanted so much to save Arthur, but we all know how that turns out. Perhaps continuing to inhabit his world is a way to stay connected to a character I grew to love.

What ever it is, I’m level 196 and I know I won’t stop until I reach 200. And then, really, who am I kidding, I’ll keep playing because I love the game. Maybe it’s just that simple.

What Do You Mean I Don’t Have Explosive Ammo? Red Dead Replay

Gameplay from Red Dead Online

Someone I care about very much told me he’d never played Red Dead Redemption 2, story mode…at least not all the way through. Well, that’s just not acceptable. Friends don’t let friends NOT play RDR2 story mode!

After much gentle persuasion (like nagging him incessantly), he finally acquiesced and installed the game. Actually, I found out later this was a very kind and ingenious plot to distract me from Father’s Day since my dad’s passing is still pretty fresh. What an awesome friend! IKR? And loving this game as much as I do, I was happy to start my 3rd replay and have a twelve hour parallel gaming sesh.

Aside from being absolutely in love with the tragic hero , Arthur Morgan, I also spend a lot of time of Red Dead Online. Yes, the portrait of the Old West painted by the game can be dark, disturbing, and at times kinda gross–par for the course for Rockstar– but I still love roleplaying in it.

While I’m not an outrageous rank online, like 396 or something crazy like that, I’m a respectable 188, which means I’ve got all the good guns, best horses, fully upgraded passive abilities, and all the cool perks like explosive ammo. I’ve become accustomed to playing at a certain level. I’ve also gotten lazy and sloppy.

I face-tank most online missions because I can. I’ve got more minty big game and thyme big game than I know what to do with. Plus I heal when I’m in Dead Eye. Cover shmover, I say. Yes, a good old-fashioned headshot will still take me out, but most of the NPCs aren’t skilled marksmen or markswomen…um, markspeople?

Anyway, starting back at the ground floor with a brand-spanking new Arthur, I learned just how lazy and sloppy I’d gotten. Taking cover suddenly became important again. As did flick-aim for headshots because Arthur’s beginning revolver sucks. And you’ve only got regular ammo. Regular ammo, ugh. I’m not saying I need explosive ammo, but at least express. Throw me a frickin’ bone here, people.

No more portable fast travel with my wilderness camp. Nope. Gotta get back in the groove of tapping X in time with my horse’s galloping if I want to get anywhere without taking all day. And Arthur’s starter horse, well, he’s no big beautiful Breton like my Bacchus.

Yep, I’ve been a spoiled little outlaw and I’d stop challenging myself. At least on Red Dead. So tonight I decided to undertake some 3 and 4 star Legendary Bounties solo. Some went great, some not so much. I think it’s in the times we fail as gamers that we learn the most.

This got me thinking about life in general, as gaming often does (hence the blog). Every experience teaches us something. While we can learn a great deal from success, we learn much more by trying, failing, learning from the failure and attempting to solve the problem a different way. That’s how we grow, learn new skill sets, and become more well-rounded human beings.

So, yeah… challenging myself more as a gamer (still not going the Sekiro route, ain’t nobody got time for that). As for life, don’t usually have to go looking for adversity there. Life has a way of punching you in the gut, perhaps repeatedly, and as you struggle to get back up, sometimes the most beautiful opportunities present themselves. Like a friend who will play your favorite game with you all day because you’re sad.

Getting It 100

A shower. Yes, I 100% need a shower. A shower, a decent meal, about twelve hours of sleep, and a maximum dose of ibuprofen for the cramped up nubs my hands will be tomorrow. I\’m not sure what got in to me, but I pulled off my first monster gaming day. Quite literally twenty-four hours of playing Red Dead Redemption 2 Online. I told myself it was just to get to rank 100. At rank 92 I was just so f@#king close what\’s a little sleep lost to make that last push from 97 and change to the big triple digits?

Truth is I did put the controller down for about an hour, but every time I closed my eyes every worry I got assailed me. It was just one of those nights. All the $h*t I can\’t control had my brain chasing its medulla oblongata so back out to my gaming chair I went. My butt print still indented the cushion and the leather had dropped only a couple degrees from 98.6. My a$$ warm and snug in its next, I picked up the controller and for the rest of the night, morning and afternoon I played under the glorious illusion that what I want and the actions I take have a direct correlation on the results I obtained.
Real life isn\’t like that. Aside from the ubitquitous money troubles, family drama, and general unkind behavior of the world in general, there\’s the undeniable fact that any control you think you have, is fiction. 
You can do everything right and still wind up with nothing to show. You can love someone the best way you know how and they can betray you as if you were their worst enemy. You can exercise, eat right and deny yourself far more often than you give in to the temptation of a bacon double cheeseburger with a large chocolate shake and still drop dead of a heart attack three and a half years earlier than the average life expectancy. If those examples sound specific, that\’s because they are. Just a couple of the delightful specters that haunted me right out of bed last night.
So for twenty-four plus hours, I indulged my every whim, spent RDO$ on frivolous virtual items, retaliated violently when violence was done to my character, and reveled in what some would call massive time suck. And I hit my goal. I reached rank 100 and even then I spent another hour puttering around my camp just to prep myself to re-enter the $h*t show that is reality.
I did finally get that shower, I scarfed down a microwave meal and washed down some Advil with a large glass of water. I\’m trying to put off that twelve hours of sleep until 9pm so I don\’t wake up before the buttcrack of dawn which means I will most definitely be proofing this in the morning before posting.

Effin\’ Flight Simulator

Game(s) played:
Starting Stats:
Rank 76
Goals – upgrade Kuruma, buy homing rocket launcher, get back to over a million in GTA$
Ending Stats:
Rank 82
Deaths – 7…yeesh
Purchases: Kuruma upgrades for suspension, engine, brakes and transmission. homing rocket launcher
Warframe – logged in for daily reward, collected and redeployed extractors. Really need to level up Valkyr Prime and Hildryn!!!! I will stop procrastinating…staring tomorrow.
Total hours played: 12.5
Today\’s gaming sesh (yeah, I said sesh, so what?) started with a surprise day off from the EDJ. Originally I\’d been scheduled to work today, but something told me to double check before I went in. No, this wasn\’t a great feat of prognostication. It\’s because management keeps screwing with everyone\’s hours last minute. I\’d been hoping for the typical hour shaved off my time. Instead, I found my day off switched altogether due to an impending visit from corporate tomorrow.
Totally thrilled, I did what any self-respecting slacker would do, I ate a Pop Tart and went back to sleep until noonish. Once I dragged myself from bed and my meds kicked in, I turned on the PS4 and headed straight for GTAV. The double RP and GTA$ still in effect, I decided I had to do something about my sickly bank total after last night\’s purchase of a weed farm.
I spammed Trash Talk and Repo-Blow Up IV until around three. This all went swimmingly. The death parade didn\’t begin until KM got up and got online. She mentioned A Titan of a Job was also a good one to add to the rotation to prevent farm fatigue. Little did she know I suck ass at flying in GTA.
Okay here\’s the thing: if I wanted to play a realistic flight simulator, I would buy a flight simulator game. And yes, I know GTA\’s flight sim isn\’t super realistic, but it\’s complicated enough to make it frustrating for a barely average gamer such as myself.
Over a year ago I\’d conquered the flight missions in story mode on the XBox One. Okay \’conquered\’ is a bit hyperbolic. Suffered through and adequately managed is more accurate, but I digress. While the controls for the PS4 aren\’t vastly different they are different enough to confuse already decaying muscle memory. Therefore KM suggested I go to LS Flight School.
Awesome! That\’s just what I need.
*Buzzer* Wrong! Guess again. The first and only unlocked tutorial is called Outside Vertical Loop or some such nonsense. But I don\’t need to know how to do tricks. I need to know how to f**cking turn and land! But of course the stubborn bitch in me decided to give the loopity loop bullshit a try. Four deaths later I gave up and just stole a plane from LSIA. I crashed it twice before successfully landing it at LSIA and then later at Sandy Shore Air Field.
Then I realized I\’d lost precious mission-spamming time due to my stubbornness. I got back to business, earned   enough to justify the purchase of a rocket launcher. Then I waited for KM to clear out a public lobby so I could sell good from my nightclub and do prep for the Doomsday Heist. Hey, I\’m never going to GFG so it pays to play with gamers who are f**king good.

Gamer Woman

What happens when a gamer girl grows up?
As much as I hate to admit it, at forty-six I must embrace the title of “grown-up”. Yes, it sucks, but I’ve never been one for self-delusion so here goes:
Hi, my name is Foxx and I’m no longer a gamer girl which means I’m a gamer woman. Oh yuck. That doesn’t sound fun at all. Oh well.
And to be completely honest, I’m just getting back in the gaming groove after a fifteen year hiatus as Mom and Wife. Fortunately, I have a twenty-five year old boyfriend who is helping me navigate this strange new world and a partner to play with who is a badass female gamer. It’s a far cry from the PS2 I used to play on back in the day. And the gaming I could squeeze in as a slave to the needs of others consisted mostly of Wii Sports, Minecraft, and Lego Batman.
I have taken a step in the right direction though. I got a PS4 Slim for my birthday last August and gave my Xbox One to my son. Yes, I know to some this constitutes child abuse but most of his friends have Xboxes too. Why this is, I haven’t a clue.
The games I mostly indulge in on my days off and after the Evil Day Job are Grand Theft Auto V online, Warframe, and Red Dead Redemption 2 online. While I cannot promise you cutting edge info or jaw-dropping game play, I can offer a unique perspective for those of us who grew up with Atari and Nintendo, got a life and now, finally, have some time for ourselves again.