Red Dead Online fans are dressing up as clowns to protest Rockstar

Image: Rockstar via Discord/BadKlown

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.”

You can join the Discord holding the clown contest here.


It’s almost as if you can use what you already have to make the game fun yourself. weird.

Imagination died when kids (now young adults) stopped playing outside with neighboring kids growing up.

At one of our city parks they actually have a playground with instructions/ideas posted by the sets for what you can do to have fun. Very prescribed and very saddening to see. Its like witnessing an animal lose the skills to hunt. We’re modernizing basic behavior out of them.

My kid splay outside all the time, bit of a hyperbole to say that doesn’t exist anymore.

There are a fair number of busybodies who think that letting your kid go out of your sight is child abuse.

Never had the problem, of course I’m in the Netherlands, we think kids falling on their face and going out alone is called growing up

There isn’t much imagination you can apply to a video game that doesn’t give you the tools to be creative. Even then, these people obviously have some creativity to spare.

See GTA Online, that has a level creator and an endless stream of user generated content.

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers." – Socrates

No matter how tough you think you were growing up, there will always be someone from the past to call you a sheltered puff pastry.

I can’t argue. I have been known to gobble up dainties with my legs crossed quite regularly

Imagine seeing the overwhelming popularity of Minecraft and Roblox and deciding that imagination was dead. Couldn’t be me.

Ah yes, thats why one of the most popular video games among kids is Minecraft, a game in which you literally have to craft everything you do from scratch.

a perfect story.

I guess its good that they can laugh at themselves, because I’m not sure what else they expect to get from "everyone get online and play this game in order to show the developers that we’re unhappy about the state of the game".

the message of "we’re clowns for loving this" is

1) extremely funny to me
2) extremely relatable……………

I generally don’t expect great responses from corporations any time, but a "committed fanbase going online to show the worth in new content" seems far more likely than "fanbase dropping off of a service".

Personally, I work for a company that sells a digital product, and I can tell you that we’d react more quickly to a lot of churn vs user numbers continuing to the stay the same (or even growing if other people find this appealing). I guess it might depend on the specific monetization they’re doing here though.

This is actually amazing. An online protest that has complete self-awareness. I hope this one works.

Narrator: it won’t.

This reminds of an interview I watched with one of the producers of the movie, Dredd. He talked about how, though well meaning, fan petitions for the production of a sequel actually hurt the chances of it being made.

The reason being that the studio was literally given a number of people actually interested in the movie. This number, unfortunately did not calculate to a box office total that would justify the cost of production.

This is a little different since I’m guessing Rockstar already has live player count numbers, but simply filling a server and then some with some disgruntled fans isn’t likely to rock the boat. If anything it might just show them what they likely already have known: that the player count (and thus, potential revenue) just isn’t worth the investment.

Hopefully I’m wrong and these players get some fresh content down the road. Glad they are enjoying themselves while they do it!

GitHyp player count pretty much tells the tale. Between this and GTAV this isn’t seeing the activity in pretty much how you described. At least these players are having fun with the clowning idea, though very futile by the looks of those numbers.

Tells me people like to visit a Western, just not live in one.

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. On one side, there’s barely any content. On the other side, there’s barely any players. Which is the cause, which is the consequence? And the answer is probably "yes".

Sounds to me more like R* wasn’t making gobs of liquid cash hand over fist, and just went back to adding more flying death cars to GTAV.

I don’t understand this attitude that games need post-launch support to be enjoyable. This reminds of that Battlefront 2 petition begging to be allowed the chance to buy DLC, which was just so weird. If the game is good, especially a multiplayer game, shouldn’t playing a fun game be good enough? How much DLC does chess or poker get? People still play the original Starcraft for god sake.

I both agree and disagree with your assessment. I completely agree that if it’s a great competitive multiplayer game, you don’t necessarily need DLC. But Read Dead Online is mostly a co-op experience with quests, missions, etc. On the one hand it acts like an open world MMO and encourages you to play forever by its design, but after a few weeks there’s just nothing left to experience other than bumping into other players. PVE games need infusion of content or players will leave. However, the examples you gave are all classic competitive games. It’s the same as playing a sport. The rules can stay the same and in fact, lack of change makes it more watchable by an audience and easier to master by the players. They’re also games with finely honed balance. In the example of chess, it’s a classic symmetrical competitive game. Changing it would ruin the centuries of game theory and the entire culture around it.

That being said, Red Dead is also not actually an MMO with any sort of fee involved. It’s a free add-on for anyone who bought the single player Red Dead Redemption 2. My issue here is.. how can players actually expect companies to continue making free content for something that players aren’t paying for? Destiny 2 is sort of like RDO, but it also gets regular paid DLC and has microtransations out the ass.

Not many people even play RDO. Why would Rockstar put money into it?

I think there’s a lot of mileage to be gotten from just messing around in a big sandbox like Red Dead. You say there’s nothing left to do other than bumping into other players but isn’t that the point of having a multiplayer mode in the first place?

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