Saturday Gaming Post: Red Dead Dénouement
I (finally) finished Red Dead Redemption 2.
I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is one of the most interesting, relaxing, and frustrating games I’ve ever played.
A prequel to the original Red Dead Redemption, it’s got a lot of characters you’ll remember from the first one. Remember how, in the original one, you played John Marston, a former gang member who has to chase down Bill, Javier, and Dutch? Remember your wife Abigail and your son Jack?
Well, now you know who has plot armor in the prequel. Because you meet a LOT of people in the gang John Marston used to be in. For example, you meet Arthur Morgan, the POV character.
And, one by one by one, you get to see what happened to the old gang.
They do a great job with characterization. There are a bunch of people who are affiliated with the gang and they all have distinct personalities. There’s the young hothead, the old coot, the chaotic evil bandit, the wise mentor con artist, the outsider who wants to be an insider, the ingénue who wants to be a writer someday… seriously, everybody in the gang is someone that I could write a quick sentence about (if not a paragraph!) and give a background of, more or less, what trope they exemplify.
So when the game kills one (and the game kills many of them), it FEELS like a member of your gang has been killed. It’s not just Generic Gang Member #4 of #13 that gets killed (collect them all!), it’s The Kid. I can’t believe they killed The Kid. I can’t believe we found ourselves in a situation where The Kid would get shot. This lifestyle has resulted in the death of a friend.
Sometimes people die because of mistakes (poor Kid), sometimes they die as the result of stupidity, sometimes they die as the result of treachery. (And that last one BURNS.)
A lot of ink has been spilled on the amount of mayhem that the game allows you to engage in. Engaging in general outlawery against general people allows for Arthur Morgan. For example, while you are out and about in the world, you can punch the people you meet. If you see a person on the street who is making statements that everyone in 2019 agrees with (but were controversial in 1899), you can punch this person. And that leads to articles about how the point of the game is to let players fantasize about punching people making uncontroversial statements.
But if you engage in mayhem in the game, your gang member friends call you out. The Matron who keeps the internal logistics of the camp going pulls you aside and yells at you. More importantly, you sit down with some of your friends and tell them that you don’t know what’s been going on with yourself… you’ve been killing animals you didn’t need to, killing people you didn’t need to, and they tell you that you should stop and be the good person they know you are. At one point, you even compare yourself to the aforementioned chaotic evil bandit. “I’m no better than Micah”, you say in a moment of self-reflection.
Even as the game allows you to do whatever you want, it doesn’t allow you to want whatever you want and the game does NOT let you want to be more like Micah.
Which, yes, can make for a bit of a muddled moral theme when you say something like “I need a perfect goat skin and this little hamlet is the only place where I can get one and if that results in a shootout, then that results in a shootout.”
Even so, you can see that the game has one heck of a point of view and it’s not one that celebrates orgies of nihilistic violence.
If you enjoy games at all, you should pick up Red Dead Redemption 2. Even if you don’t like being an outlaw, you don’t HAVE to be one. You can just hunt and fish and explore and play dominoes with friends and have a non-violent game of exploration and wildlife appreciation that is frozen in amber in 1899 forever.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is promotional image for Red Dead Redemption 2 from Rockstar’s twitter feed.)