Rockstar's Storytelling Method

Red Dead Redemption 2 is still fresh in my mind and I’ve been dipping back into GTA V recently and as such I notice a similarity in these two games on how Rockstar tells the story, and I’m not sure I’m a fan of it.

In both games, the narrative isn’t very linear and they like to start a lot of different balls rolling, that end with varying levels of payoff. With RDR2, you’ve got threads related to the O’Driscolls, Cornwall, and the Pinkertons that ebb and flow in importance. It seemed to me, the O’ Driscolls were being set up early as the 1st big bad you take down, especially after a failed peace talk. It seems like that’d be the point for the big revenge ride to wipe out the O’Driscolls, but they fall off the map only to reappear in the last act, captured by the law. Cornwall is similar in that regard.

In GTA V, Franklin’s 1st couple missions are related to street gang rivalries that get put on the back burner for all the heisting action, only to show up at the end, so Michael has a target to assassinate.

Rockstar has several threads running in each game they pick up and put down at seemingly random, with little in between to remind us of their relevance. I get the notion of Chekov’s Gun, but they’re Chekov’s Gunning a lot of things. Maybe they are going for a more “following these characters in their daily life” and how real life doesn’t always fit a typical 3 act story. Maybe this is what video game storytelling will be like versus the traditional movie style in the future.
I dunno, I guess my gripe is they seem to have a habit of starting plot threads that sound important in Act 1, only to never mention them again until, like, Act 8, 30 hours later.

Now, I’m not trying to start some shit or seem “cool” for ragging on two popular games. I still immensely enjoy RDR2, and story aside Rockstar created an awe-inspiring authentic cowboy world. Story is what I come to games for though, & I like examining them. I’m curious if anyone else felt this same narrative dissodence or their thoughts on what I consider Rockstar’s storytelling method. Thanks for reading my book report, lol.

Generally I find Rockstar’s storytelling very messy. I think that’s partially due to the fact that their games are an homage to specific cinematic genres and the actual stories are a pastiche of films and media from those genres that Rockstar devs enjoy. Hence why Vice City is a great pastiche of 80s-90s gangster films, rather than a tight cohesive narrative. I do agree that they are probably also attempting to map it onto something that feels a bit like a life lived, but they are also mapping it onto an open world structure where you can piss off and do anything you want for ten hours before returning to the story. So Rockstar leans heavy on genre tropes and genre pastiche possibly because they know the narrative will never feel cohesive given the game structure, so they may as well rely on exaggerated genre references to keep people engaged with a story that is messy and disjointed at best.

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