All is not well in the digital wild west. Red Dead Online fans note that it’s been nearly a year since Rockstar has meaningfully updated the open-world MMO, which has got people feeling exasperated by content drought. But rather than just complaining about it, the cowboys of Red Dead Online are staging a protest of sorts.
Instead of wearing the usual spurs and 10-gallon hats, players are opting to dress up as clowns. The definition of “clown” is pretty loose here — accepted participation can be your typical red-nosed white-faced variety of jesters, but the organizers also encourage people to think about wider circus roles. A Discord group with thousands of members is treating the whole thing like a fashion contest where participants can also don the attire of strongmen, acrobats, mimes, jugglers, ring masters, knife throwers, and more.
“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,” said Magnar, one of the administrators of the Red Dead Online group, to Polygon over Discord.
Magnar notes that sometimes aggravated players will call Rockstar developers “clowns” for mishandling the update schedule, but the reality is more complicated than that. When folks express dissatisfaction with the state of the game, detractors will often retort asking why they’d continue playing if they’re not having fun. That, to Magnar, makes the players the butt of the joke.
“We’re the clowns for expecting an update or communication, so let’s have fun with that,” he said. That idea soon became such a strong meme that in late June, some RDO fans were painting their faces like clowns in real life:
Fast-forward to July, and the Discord group was able to fill up an entire server with clowns, in an effort to bring some attention to their predicament. The whole thing was put together by player OnlyPVPCat.
From there, the usual shenanigans ensued: the clowns took over locales, like bars or hijacked trains, and proceeded to wreck havoc. The event has since gotten some attention from the wider community, with more players also dropping into games dressed as jokesters. The Discord is now also full of photos of people participating in the “protest,” some as clowns, and others fulfilling the more general circus theme.
“We’ve seen so many times people who are dissatisfied vent their frustrations in really negative ways,” Magnar said. “But with the Red Dead community, a lot of people still love the game, they’re just disappointed with Rockstar taking them for granted, so yes, we do still play, but we’ll vent any frustrations in a more fun, clowny way.”