What’s Up With Your Wagon Wheels, Red Dead Redemption?

I’ve noticed that the wagon wheels in Red Dead Redemption have that counter-spin effect on the spokes when in motion. Why?

That effect is rare in real life – the human eye seldom perceives spokes in natural light (sunlight) as moving backwards. It is, rather, a side effect of frame rate. A video camera captures so many frames a second, yada yada yada, wheels on film appear to be rotating backwards.

Why has this filmic convention been imposed on Red Dead Redemption?  Certainly, there are a number of tropes borrowed from westerns in the game…in fact that pretty much IS the game, but there’s no lens flare, no grit or film-grain on the screen.  There’s nothing else to indicate a movie camera presence.  Yes, blood gets on the “lens” when you skin an animal, but that’s not quite the same.

We’re aware that there’s a lens through which we view the world.  This isn’t a first person game, there’s no conceit about us looking through Marsden’s eyes, so giving substance to that imaginary lens doesn’t seem all that alien.  After all, it has presence – just press L1 (or the Left Bumper, depending on your system) and the weapon selection overlay pops up, a two dimensional presence that exists on, or just in front of, the lens.

But the frame-rate issue that creates the impression of spokes rotating backwards has nothing to do with the video game lens.  Video games (for the most part) don’t run at a fixed frame-rate, the frame-rate is determined by code, processing power, number of objects on-screen, etc., and it changes constantly.

It seems like the majority of developers and players, when talking about what makes games special or how games are growing into a legitimate artistic medium, value the ways games a different from movies.  Personally, I think games should be looking to literature to inspire their growth and development, rather than movies (read Don Quixote, that book prefigures the exact struggle video games are undergoing in their infancy), but that’s a post for another day.

So why are the spokes on the wagon wheels spinning backwards?  Why is cinema allowed to invade this world?  Because people expect spokes to move backwards on screen?  Video games can be so much more than movies, and it’s time to start changing expectations.  Let the wagon wheels spin how they’re rendered.


Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “What’s Up With Your Wagon Wheels, Red Dead Redemption?”

  1. HowardtheDeck Says:

    Great post. I have started a website for children of the 80s, and we are looking for contributors. You wouldn’t have to write any more than you already do- here is what I have worked out with another WordPress blog writer who has a comic books blog: he said that I can copy and paste his posts into our site, credit him as the author, and include a large link back to his blog. This increases his blog traffic, diversifies his readership and exposure to new eyes, and enhances my site’s offering. You would be able to check the site daily and see that you are being credited for any posts of yours we use. I’m looking for a video games contributor, the stuff you’ve written about games is exactly what we are looking for.

    If you are interested and want to check out the site it is http://underscoopfire.com/

    I look forward to hearing from you, your contributions would enhance the site greatly.


    • Will Kaufman Says:

      Not sure if you received my e-mail, Howard. Well, might as well make the whole thing transparent to my readers. All three of them. Hi, mom!
      Here, then, is the text of my response:
      “Hey Howard,
      Will of the Willarium here. I checked out your site, and I dig it! I’m honored you like my blog, and I’d be happy to let you re-post any of the things I’ve put up, or will put up. The whole author-credit, link-back deal is perfect. So long as that keeps up, you’ve got open license to anything I’ve posted to the Willarium. In fact, this’ll probably motivate me to write more video game posts. Let me know if anything changes.
      Also, if there’s any particular thing you’re looking for content on, let me know. I’d happily write on any subjects within gaming you think your readership might be interested in, even if you decide not to re-post what I come up with.
      Lastly, the comment you left with this e-mail address is currently public, let me know if you want me to take it down (you know, privacy, whatever…).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: