I just finished Red Dead Redemption and recently finished L.A. Noire from Rockstar Games; if you haven’t played either of those yet and still want to, stop reading now- this whole post is a spoiler. For those of you that are still reading, allow me to say that I enjoyed playing both games. Red Dead Redemption is basically an old west version of Grand Theft Auto; AKA Grand Theft Horse. L.A. Noire plays like a 40s version of GTA where you have a character that follows up on all the shooting and mayhem in which someone else just engaged.

They’re both fun to play, the game mechanics work well, and the stories are well developed and engaging. And if you’re going to spend 40+ hours of your life with a game, the story damn well better be well written. I’m not saying they have a Shenmue or Bioshock level of awe inspiring, jaw dropping story, but more like a Shenmue 2 or Bioshock 2 type of story. Well written, well acted, and interesting, but a bit predictable. Both games, however, left me with a bad taste in my mouth at the end. (Insert your own obligatory gay joke about my previous sentence here.)
In Red Dead Redemption, you’ve played the entire game as an outlaw that is trying to reform his ways and make it back to his wife and family. Once you defeat the man you’ve been hunting for a few months of game time, you return to your ranch and have some missions that serve as a postscript, where you get to see the son you left behind. He is one damn annoying kid, and he’s got an irritating voice. Then, the game presents you with a suicide mission where you die, and the game jumps ahead 3 years to where you now have to play as the kid for any free roaming you want to do out in the desert. I don’t want to have to hear his stupid voice as I wander the wilderness picking up loose ends on my way to getting 100% completion! I want to keep being the badass that I spent 40 hours bonding with.
In L.A. Noire, you play a goody two shoes, who near the end of the game decides to bang and then shack up with a German cabaret singer. Now if you’re going to make my character do this, at least show me some trouble at home with my wife or give me some reason for my being a cheating bastard. How am I supposed to want to still be this guy after I just did something in the virtual world that I wouldn’t ever do in real life? Luckily, you get to start playing as a different character shortly thereafter, who you can identify with moreso than the annoying one you start as. But again, you’ve spent 30+ hours playing as one guy, then the last couple hours you spend as another.
Elsa, the other woman in L.A. Noire.
Why are gamemakers screwing with their players? Don’t have us get emotionally invested in roleplaying a character if you’re not going to let us be that character for the remainder of the game. If you pull a switch, do it early in the game, and make the second character one that we want to be, not an annoying whiny voiced jackass. If you’ve done a good job (like in these examples), then we care about these characters. We’re gamers, we take this stuff seriously; so stop messing with our heads so damn much!