In Praise of the Greet Button

As you've probably gathered from previous posts, I've been playing a fair bit of Red Dead Redemption lately.  Similarly, as you may have gathered if you follow me on twitter, one of the features in the game that I find most rewarding is the greet button.

The rather brave decision to include a button on the controller dedicated (even partially) to something so seemingly superfluous must have been a tough sell to producers on the game.  While surely it would not take too terribly many man hours to implement the feature, and the few lines necessary were undoubtedly a drop in the budget bucket for recording sessions, the part that I imagine was difficult was convincing the producers that the impact of the feature would be anything more than negligible.

My experience with the game, though, has been made much more memorable by the services of that red B button on my 360 controller.  As I walk through town (cowboys don't run, even if it is faster), passersby will occasionally float a greeting at me.  This is no different from most other open world games, of course, with the possible exception of me walking rather than running.  In some of these games, my character will even respond to these floats (notably, I have a strong memory of CJ from GTA: San Andreas responding to civilian chatter, usually with something a bit insulting).

The simple inclusion of a button to control whether or not I respond ultimately drives what was initially a decent audio feature into a great tool for both immersion and even role playing for the player.  As I am playing with John Marston being an honorable fellow, I've been diligently using the greet button to maintain his polite character in the public's eye.  I do this despite the fact that greetings seem to have no tie into the honor and reputation system at all (missed opportunity?).   From a power gaming perspective, there is absolutely zero reason to bother with the greeting.  Yet, as I pass by a woman standing outside the general store, tip my hat, and say "Ma'am", I feel more like a cowboy than at just about any other time during the game.   Since I had to press the button to do that, it was an active choice by the player, so it makes me feel like a cowboy, not a person controlling a cowboy.   The difference is noticeable, and appreciated.

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