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Clown protests take Read Dead Online by storm

It’s been close to a year since Rockstar meaningfully expanded Red Dead Redemption 2, and players have started populating entire servers with clowns in protest.

All is not well in the digital wild west. It’s been seven months since Red Dead Online’s ‘Moonshiners’ expansion dropped, and players are growing frustrated at the game’s lack of longevity.

Rockstar revealed at the PlayStation 5 expo that it is currently gearing up to bring a whole host of updates to Grand Theft Auto Online, as its best-selling title transitions into the next generation of consoles for the second time. However, the content-drought for its 2018 cowboy MMO looks set to drag on, barring any sudden announcements.

Fans of Rockstar will know that the studio prides itself on raising the bar for immersive world building and player freedom with each release. But equally, they’ll be aware that this ambition comes at a hefty cost, in that each project spends a minimum of seven years in development.

It’s for this reason that Red Dead fans are trading in their spurs and 10-gallon hats for red noses, rouge, and dungarees when joining online servers. Amusingly dubbed ‘The Travelling Circus’, a small movement hatched in parody subreddits and discord channels has spiralled into full blown protests within the game, and online communities of thousands.

As first spotted by PCGamesN, hordes of clowns have begun taking over entire towns, hijacking trains, trashing bars, and in some instances, are going after anyone in lobbies not donning the circus attire. The trend seems to largely stem from the ‘Red Dead Fashion’ subreddit, which had originally hosted monthly dress up contests, but today has become a hub for organising protests against Rockstar’s idleness. The latest content was captioned, ‘Since we’re all clowns for believing we’ll get an update, it’s fitting we dress up as them too!’

Speaking to Polygon, one of the admin’s of the Red Dead Online discord group explained, ‘Rather than let it turn negative or nasty, which in game communities things often can, I thought I’d turn our protests into something a bit more fun or even wholesome in a way’. Personally, that isn’t how I’d describe crowds of drunken puking clowns, but hey ho.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole thing is just gamers having fun wreaking havoc and having a bit of a laugh at their own expense, but protests are growing in sophistication and numbers by the week, and Rockstar is likely to take notice. The discord group is planning to host a major cross-platform event next Monday (July 20th) to reach maximum visibility, and while details are scarce at the mo, it promises to be big.

Gamers are becoming increasingly recognised as active consumers today. If people are unhappy with the direction their favourite franchises are taking, or detect a lack of polish and effort, social media is to go-to place to vent their frustrations. If enough noise is made, developers and publishers are often quick to issue public statements to keep fans onside.

If anything is to come of these Red Dead protests, it would further highlight this change of direction for the industry and would reaffirm everything we’re doing.