This project does not qualify as Game Art, no matter how elusive the definition is. Nonetheless, it is one of those performative fringe activity that take place within a video game that evoke many of the attributes of the artistic gesture. There's video, there's photography, there's documentation, there's whimsical obsession and playful seriousness... And it's definitely more interesting than torturing suffragettes. Birdwatching in RDR2 reminds me of Jonne Hansson's machinima, Outcast.
As Audubon's contributor Nicholas Lund writes,
I spent most of my time finding birds, and was impressed with the breadth and relative accuracy of the species represented. Birds change with habitat: Roseate Spoonbills and Great Egrets feed in the bayous of Saint Denis. Laughing Gulls and Red-footed Boobies roost along the coast, while eagles and condors soar over mountain peaks. Each of these are crafted with accurate field marks and habits. There are dozens of species I couldn’t even find, including Carolina Parakeets, Ferruginous Hawks, and Pileated Woodpeckers. Like real life birding, you’re never guaranteed to see anything.
I wonder what Jonathan Franzen would make of birdwatching in gaming.