Watch this short film about breaking the limits of Red Dead Redemption 2’s landscape, and feel joy

I remember reading about The Grannies a while back. They’re a group of game devs based in Melbourne who formed a gang (the titular Grannies) of older people in Rockstars rootin’, tootin’ cowboy RPG Red Dead Redemption 2 – specifically Red Dead Online. In the pursuit of fun, The Grannies, using a glitch known to a lot of the community, broke through the invisible walls in the game’s wild west and into another, wilder west – a landscape nobody was really meant to see.

Marie Foulston, a curator who specialises in installations focused on video games, made a short documentary film about them and what they saw in 2019. Now V Buckenham (who has made many things, but may be known to most as the creator of Cheap Bots Done Quick!) to present The Grannies to watch for free online, in an immersive website experience that itslef looks like a glitching out landscape.

It’s fifteen minutes well spent. The Grannies featured in the film are Goldie Bartlett, Andrew Brophy, Ian MacLarty, and Kalonica Quigley, though I believe when they play Red Dead Online The Grannies gang includes other friends too. The way they talk about their experience is dreamy, almost reverential (one even describes it as “a spiritual experience”), and when you see the footage and screenshots used in the film you can see why. Outside the map The Grannies found more boundaries, where a landscape of low res gravel stops suddenly and everything beyond it becomes a blurry dessert. They found rocks they called “the pyramids” – big, jagged triangular things sticking out of the ground. Floating trees and rocks. They crab walk into the sky, and swim in 2D water.

The website presentation is a nice way to view it outside of an installation specifically for it, too. You scroll down through a landscape until you sort of fall through it, so it feels like you’ve gone a little bit out of bounds yourself. There are two angled, virtual screes that show complimentary things, so you have to focus on it. It’s a moment of quiet. I found it very calming.

It’s a meditation on play, I suppose. On authoring your own kind of play within something someone else has made. Would it be as fun if Rockstar had meant people to find it? Probably not. And sadly, as the film tells us, on the 10th of September 2019, a patch meant that nobody could get outside the boundaries of the map anymore. You can watch it here.

For disclosure’s sake, Buckenham and Foulston are both pals of Alice0 in The Wild Rumpus. I think I met each of them exactly once about a decade ago.

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