Why Aren't There More Westerns?

Why Aren't There More Westerns?

There's nothing like a great, classic western. So why does gaming have so few of them?

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Probably one of the other reasons is simply the fact that westerns in other media have not been popular during much of video game history. We have the cliched idea of a stereotypical western in all our heads but when was the last time a western was major hit besides Django unchained which had Tarantino stamped all over it. While world war two games took from movies like Saving Private Ryan and Sci Fi games liberally took from franchises such as Alien and Star Wars. If we had one or two westerns being major hits I can imagine down the line westerns in video games would start to proliferate. Also trying to depict the classic part of a western, the stand off and quick draw in game mechanics seems to be very hard to pull of.

Grumpy Ginger:
Also trying to depict the classic part of a western, the stand off and quick draw in game mechanics seems to be very hard to pull of.

I felt that Red Dead Redemption and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger both pulled this off pretty well. Gunslinger actually devoted an entire game mode to it.

For what it is worth some games actually incorporate Western (or Western-like) elements in their mechanics and lore.

For example STALKER is heavily based and inspired on the Klondike Gold Rush. It is even stated in game by many of the NPCs. Parallels are constantly drawn. The zone itself is reminiscent of that. Though for some reason few players manage to bring 2 and 2 together :(

ColaWarVeteran:

Grumpy Ginger:
Also trying to depict the classic part of a western, the stand off and quick draw in game mechanics seems to be very hard to pull of.

I felt that Red Dead Redemption and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger both pulled this off pretty well. Gunslinger actually devoted an entire game mode to it.

There's also Red Dead Revolver (first game in the Red Dead series) and GUN, both on the PS2, both with very good quick-draw mechanics.

There's also Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, a real-time tactics game in the style of Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. A very good game on its own, and a great example of a (spaghetti) western done right.

StewShearer:
To be sure, it had some problems and a few uncomfortable moments that RockStar, in retrospect, maybe should have left on the cutting room floor.

I'm trying to remember what moments you're talking about, but I'm drawing a blank. Could you tell me the moments you're thinking off? It's been a few years since I played Red Dead Redemption, but I just can't remember any moments that I thought should've been left out.

In addition to "regular" Westerns, I'd like to see games with a Weird West vibe as well.

For example, the Kung Fu/Sci Fi trappings of the music video for Muse's "Knights of Cydonia". There are lots of other examples, of course, but that probably won't take off until there's more exposure of the Western genre in general.

It's interesting because pirates had a similar problem 10 years back. The last big pirate movie was Cutthroat Island. No one had made a successful pirate money in ages, and Cutthroat Island was meant to change that. After release, it went down as one of the biggest box office bombs in the history of box office bombs. And then a few years later, someone decided to sink a bunch of money into some stupid project called "Pirates of the Caribbean" - who would have thought that would work?

Disney has tried to do a Pirates of the Caribbean number on pi[The Lone Ranger[/i], and that ironically became its own Cutthroat Island. Give it ten years, someone will try to re-launch the cowboy genre in a big way, and might actually pull it off. I've actually really enjoyed some of the more recent westerns; Cowboys and Aliens, Django Unchained, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol, The Good the Bad, The Weird, but none of these have been block busters. Until we see one of those, we won't really get our myriad of derivative game titles, as was the case with Saving Private Ryan.

Gun gets forgotten alot, but I still remember it. Much better than the other launch titles. Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood had the best gunfight mechanic I've ever played. Didn't play Gunslinger, but I'd imagine it was similar.

It's just one of the many genres out there whose popularity has waned over the years. It's the same reason we don't see all that many noirs nowadays, pop culture tastes have shifted to something else. It's only a matter of time before the Superhero bubble bursts and they become sporadic.

Article:
That in mind, Western-themed games might be less prominent simply because they haven't had a huge enough hit for the gaming industry to bother cloning.

Boom.

Westerns weren't in vogue in the 80's with the video game demographic when Video Games came to the forefront. They weren't in vogue in the 90's when those folks started making their own games. They weren't in vogue in the 2000's, and really are only in vogue with HBO-type fans these days who love shows like Deadwood and Justified. And the few western games just didn't catch on well enough. Taken together and you get a lack of Westerns in video games.

Not to mention that for all the sexism, racism and homophobia that gets tossed onto Gamers, there are very few gamers who actually feel enthused about the idea that you might find yourself in a game where there's a sidequest called "Genocide: Kill All The Injuns of the (God I Hope This Isn't Actually The Name Of A Real Native Tribe) Tribe!" because that tribe has been killing people (ie: Whites) on the Frontier.

On a similar note... how many games are there that take place during the US Civil War? Where you're actually playing on one side or the other? I honestly can't think of a single one.

I don't think Red Dead Redemption can be called a western, I say it's more of a WW1 Game due to the time it was set. Of coarse, by that logic The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe is a World War 2 film.

You missed a few, with a couple being absolute gems:
Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist (a must play for any gamer)
Alone in the Dark 3 (ditto)
Dust: A Tale of the Wired West
Gold Rush
Al Emmo
The Westerner

Gun is actually one of my favorite games. The combat especially was pretty great. It was a much cheesier take on the Western with the ridiculous weapons.
Speaking of under-visited periods of history, I want more gladiator games. The only one I can remember is Shadow of Rome which was stupid fun and I don't understand why since that's a great setting.

I think the problem with Western games is they only really come in one flavor. If you want to be Clint Eastwood that's great, but if you want to be Roy Rogers you're shafted.

I think a Red Dead and GTA crossover game would be great. Something set in the 1920s, with old fashioned cars for on road and horses for open country sides. You could have John Marston's son as a protagionist. Maybe have the GTA 5 mechanic and have some ancestor of Tommy Vercetti or Chris Johnson as the other.

I remember when I first started up Fallout: New Vegas and found myself in a very western town. I thought the game would have a complete western vibe to it with cowboys and goldrush themes for the relatively untouched Vegas area. I was sad the rest of the game went into more a of a gambling and U.S. vs Romans theme.

Anything western, including weird west or sci-fi with heavy west flavor could have a lot of potential.

Westerns are sadly kind of a harsh genre to do. Many people already have touched upon some of the key reasons you are not going to see a lot of good western games.

It is a bit of a sour spot for some people. WWII, WWI, modern warfare games... there may be a lot of mud to sling around against any of the participants but it is easier to create a narrative. Medieval games, that was over a thousand years ago and except for a few extremists or ardent history fans, we do not really do not see people still broiling over the formation of the Holy Roman Empire or the break up of it during the 30 years war.

There are still people who are still angry over what happened during the American western expansion though. The US did some pretty disgusting things in the eyes of some people.

Should they still be angry after a century? Maybe, maybe not. Not my place to say.

But it would be like playing a game where you are playing as British Colonial soldiers during the Anglo-Zulu and Boer Wars of the late 1800's. Doable, would allow for the body counts that players expect in video games but MIGHT cause a bit of a stir with some people when the read it.

So if you are doing a western game these days in our overly sensitive, do not offend anyone anywhere ever atmosphere... you are left with, lets see, can't offend the native americans or portray them in any stereotypical way, which will be difficult since most games are developed overseas and farmed out to lowest bidder writers, artists, and programmers, we can't offend the mexicans... they were a substantial presence in this modern time and they make up a significant and potential loud group of protesters these days.

So that leaves, a game where your lone hero shoots only bandits, corrupt business men (might be a sour spot there), and corrupt military officers. Yeah, you can do that but after awhile, it is hard to differentiate one dry dusty boom town from the next one in such a rather stark and boring landscape or yet another dusty cave at the end of a box canyon that the villains have been chased into.

The west lacks certain things that really are visually interesting. WWI, you have the dark and inhuman terror that is the trenches of the western front. WWII, you have anything from the iconic Normandy beaches to fighter duels in the skies, fleets of warships, vast plains, verdant forests, mountains, and any vista in between to tell pretty much any story you want in any climate you want... including castles. Fantasy or medieval historical, well... see WWII without the tanks and planes.

The west just does not have those. Take away anything potentially offensive and you are left with not too much to really work with unless you want to focus on a survival aspect. Sure, we could go and try to give a heavy drama or story based game about revenge or what ever character motivation but lets be honest here...

Most game writers are terrible. They tend not to be able to write a compelling story if you held a gun to their family's head or for a million dollars. So a heavy drama based western (or most games in general) will probably end up poorly written, cliche as hell, and ultimately dull.

This is all assuming that we are going to see yet another John Wayne/Clint Eastwood/spaghetti western style setting but the era could be interesting if it would just be moved out of the stereotypical dust filled western boom town...

but then we would be leaving the whole 'six shooter/lawless land where only the lone hero with a tin star brings justice to a broken area' aspect behind. Which is sadly kind of the focus of a typical 'western' setting.

It is bad mythology and honestly should be ignored for it's own good.

Yikes: I recall Hollywood trying to make the Western cool again in 1985. Silverado. Huge cast. It did meh box office: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=silverado.htm

For comparison, Back to the Future 1985: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=backtothefuture.htm

Johnny Novgorod:

ColaWarVeteran:

Grumpy Ginger:
Also trying to depict the classic part of a western, the stand off and quick draw in game mechanics seems to be very hard to pull of.

I felt that Red Dead Redemption and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger both pulled this off pretty well. Gunslinger actually devoted an entire game mode to it.

There's also Red Dead Revolver (first game in the Red Dead series) and GUN, both on the PS2, both with very good quick-draw mechanics.

There's also Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive, a real-time tactics game in the style of Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines. A very good game on its own, and a great example of a (spaghetti) western done right.

Maybe I'm just a butter fingers but I never liked red deads quick draw mechanic. Though that may be more due to the way tutorial worked in the game with a quick pop up in corner, fine when hiding behind a rock in a shootout not so much when there was no room for error.

Freakazoid:
Gun is actually one of my favorite games. The combat especially was pretty great. It was a much cheesier take on the Western with the ridiculous weapons.
Speaking of under-visited periods of history, I want more gladiator games. The only one I can remember is Shadow of Rome which was stupid fun and I don't understand why since that's a great setting.

Try Spartan Total Warrior and Gladius. They are a bit more mythical, but still pretty grounded in the ancient setting I think.

CandideWolf:

Freakazoid:
Gun is actually one of my favorite games. The combat especially was pretty great. It was a much cheesier take on the Western with the ridiculous weapons.
Speaking of under-visited periods of history, I want more gladiator games. The only one I can remember is Shadow of Rome which was stupid fun and I don't understand why since that's a great setting.

Try Spartan Total Warrior and Gladius. They are a bit more mythical, but still pretty grounded in the ancient setting I think.

It's just that there's been a while since a decent one came out. Shadow of Rome was a PS2 game as are both of your options. I guess Ryse is the closest thing to the basic idea and as far as I know it's pretty terrible. I enjoyed how ridiculous Shadow of Rome was. It's the only game I've played where I can cut off a man's arm and then beat him with it.

Rather than repeat myself, here's what I had to say on this issue back from my comment on the Outlaws review: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/6.873797-Outlaws-Where-Are-You-Marshal#21943368

Westerns have pretty much packed up and moved to space, these days.

Red Dead Redemption is has an ESRB rating of M. Exactly what moments does it contain that would make adults so comfortable they should have been removed from the game?

Grumpy Ginger:
Probably one of the other reasons is simply the fact that westerns in other media have not been popular during much of video game history. We have the cliched idea of a stereotypical western in all our heads but when was the last time a western was major hit besides Django unchained which had Tarantino stamped all over it. While world war two games took from movies like Saving Private Ryan and Sci Fi games liberally took from franchises such as Alien and Star Wars. If we had one or two westerns being major hits I can imagine down the line westerns in video games would start to proliferate. Also trying to depict the classic part of a western, the stand off and quick draw in game mechanics seems to be very hard to pull of.

While the remake of 3.10 from Yuma did pretty good box office and the Coen brother's True Grit was exceptional I think you need to go back to 1992 when the Western was redefined yet again for a major impact on cinema.

The article mentioned the reason right up front. The reason for the lack of westerns IS Lucasarts' Outlaws. The BEST western game has already been made. With such little possibility available to make something better, why not move on to a different backdrop for a game where making the best is at least possible?

Not really of course, but Outlaws IS awesome. Still I'm thinking the better game might come from taking a traditional western out of its traditional setting. Like Whedon's Firefly did. A "space frontier western" sounds like it could be an awesome game. It makes for great tv, like Firefly, Trigun, El Cazador De La Bruja, and so on. Or take a western, but don't put it in its traditional video game genre, the shooter. Like Telltale did with taking the Walking Dead and making a zombie game a traditional point and click adventure game, make a western a Telltale style adventure game. Or make it a survival horror type game (basically my most hoped for game of all time, a fallout 3 engine style rpg based upon Pinnacle's Deadlands.)

As good a very traditional western as something like Red Dead Redemption was, I think a better way to go is to mix up style. Perhaps a cyberpunk/new west game. Kind of a "Shadowrun as written by Joe R. Lansdale" sort of feel.

It wouldn't have to compete with Outlaws, which means it COULD be the best.

Red Dead Redemption has what I think of as the quintessential moment in all Western games, when you first arrive in Mexico and Far Away by Jose Gonzales starts playing. I happened to end up in Mexico just as the sun began to set, and riding along the dusty mountain trails toward the first town, the red tinged sky gradually darkening as mournful guitar filled my ears, it was the only moment in video gaming I can remember that I wasn't spurring myself on to the next section as fast as possible.

The entirety of the game I spent most of my time watching the little meter in the lower left corner, either using the minimap or seeing how much harder I could ride my horse to get where I needed to go a little faster, but this one moment, this perfect combination of song, setting and sun, got me to slow down, completely organically. Where I would normally be frustrated by a game forcing me to not go at full speed, I found myself just riding, feeling the whole of John Marston's character, his struggle. It might have been my favorite moment in all of gaming, because the Old West has always been my favorite setting and, while I have played quite a few games that made me feel like the rootinest tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west, RDR made me feel something closer to what I really want out of the genre; a desperate man in a desperate situation, knowing that whatever lay around the mountain might kill him dead as easy as anything else and continuing anyway out of sheer grit and determination.

 

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