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Beware spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2.
“It all comes back to this. I’ll never forget the first time I saw this trailer for the greatest game I’ve ever played Red Dead Redemption 2. The way the music builds and swells right around the time Arthur Morgan begins to speak, saying ‘listen to me, when the time comes, you gotta run and don’t look back. This is over.’ And It was over.
For me anyway.”
That is how I started another blog article here on the site. I like the quote for some reason. I mean it’s not the greatest thing ever written, but it gets across what was so special to me about that trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2.
That other blog article though isn’t as much about Red Dead as it is about The Last of Us Pt. 2. So I had to write about the moment in Red Dead Redemption 2 that made the game one I would keep coming back to over and over.
The thing about my relationship to Red Dead Redemption 2, before I could play it, though, is complicated.
You see, before the second Red Dead Redemption came into my possession I was looking forward to playing it so much, but, just as with the first Red Dead Redemption, I couldn’t hold myself from spoilers for the game. With the first game that gets a little more complicated because I played through to a certain point then found out the spoilers for the ending, but that’s another story.
With the second Red Dead game I knew very early on that Arthur Morgan would die.
“Didn’t We All?”
Yes. Well, I wasn’t able to get ahold of the game until Christmas of 2018 so by the time I came around to actually playing the damn thing I knew factually that Arthur would die and how. So I played slowly through the game.
In fact I played at such a slow pace, while still somehow managing to skip over plenty of features and iconic things to do, that it took me 3 months to finish the game. I would play for a while and then stop. Play for a little bit longer, then take a week or two break from playing.
I didn’t want Arthur or any of the characters I was growing to, and eventually did, love in the game to die. Hosea, Lenny, Sadie, Charles. I did not want any of these characters to die on my watch. (Luckily two of them didn’t, but the other two was almost too much already).
Besides playing the game slowly, I was looking through IGN’s walkthrough guide on pretty much anything and everything to know more about what I was doing. Which has a little something to do with the interesting part here. The moment I grew to love Red Dead Redemption more than any other game I’d ever played.
What ended up happening is somewhere along the line I had a random encounter with a runaway inmate from prison. You likely know the one. That guy who just seems to keep getting himself locked up and every time you have to shoot his chains off so he can escape.
What did I Get In Return?
Information of course. A way to get more money in the world of the game. Places to rob generally.
Well, this time the inmate gave me information about some cabin up near Annesburg that a very wealthy couple lived in. Maybe, just maybe, I could go up there and find a stash I would be able to take. If worse came to worse flat out rob the couple. But…
I was not yet into Chapter 6 of the game. Which, as I found out through IGN’s walkthrough guide, meant I could not access the “home robbery” yet. So, I kept playing. I got further and further. Watching Arthur as his health deteriorated.
I began feeling worse and worse about trying to rob people of their money. I mean, I wanted a clean playthrough. A good, honorable, Arthur Morgan at the time of his death. I wanted the ending I thought would be best.
Then, during chapter 6, a stranger mission popped up on the screen while I was up above Annesburg at one point. I was a little perplexed, but I figured I’d check it out. Then on the way back I could find this cabin I was searching for and steal anything that wasn’t nailed down. One last bit of thievery wouldn’t hurt anybody.
Well if you know the stranger mission I’m talking about then you likely have an idea of what happened to me next.
I walked up to a woman mourning her husband at his grave still unaware of who this was in the context of the robbery tip I had received earlier in the game. Her and Arthur talk for a bit and then, suddenly, I come to the realization of who “Charlotte” is. I was flabbergasted, flummoxed, and very quickly in tears.
I didn’t want to rob this woman.
Soon enough I was helping her learn how to hunt and all that is encompassed with the stranger mission involving her. All the while tears in my eyes at what Red Dead Redemption had done to me. How could this have happened. This poor woman now in my care in so many ways, yet right up until I walked up to her crying over her husband’s grave I was ready, willing, able, even giddy, to rob the house of this woman.
Now I’m out here protecting her from wolves and wiping tears from my eyes as I teach her how to skin a rabbit and I barely know what’s going on anymore.
I didn’t even complete the stranger mission. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want Arthur and Charlotte’s relationship to end on the note it does in the stranger mission, and I sure as hell didn’t want to take Charlotte’s money.
Thus, Red Dead Redemption 2 became my favorite game that I had, and have, ever played.
Why Does This Matter In The Slightest?
Well, it reminds me of a disconcerting truth about Red Dead Redemption 2.
You see, I love the world we live in today. I love being able to play Red Dead. I love having the ability to use an iPhone. All of the amenities afforded to me by living in the day and age in which we live make me happy to live now. Hell, even further, I’m not exactly a fan of westerns.
Sure I like the modern western as much as anybody else. Truly, I tend to love the neo-western. The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I love them all. (Oh, and No Country For Old Men). Yet, the traditional western… not so much. Which may make you think “why does he like Red Dead Redemption 2 at all?”
Well first off the truth of the matter is that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a neo-western at heart. It straddles the line between this and the traditional western. (Technically it can be argued not so well). What makes it so interesting in how it’s story is told is, of course, redemption.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is about redemption.
“Boy, what an original thought?” You ask rhetorically.
Well, yeah, simply saying that the fact Red Dead Redemption is about redemption sounds quite silly.
The reason redemption matters so much in relation to why I love Red Dead is tied to what type of game it is. RDR2 is an open world game. You are free to do what you want and do what you please for the most part.
“Yes, I know”
Fine, I’ll get to the point.
You see unlike if I were playing a game like Skyrim, an RPG, I would be free to do what I want and play in the way that pleases me as well. But, in Red Dead although you are free for the most part to do what you want you are playing as a character. And… this character is trapped.
Yes I know. RDR2 is an open world game, in my opinion the best of all time, and we know what type of gameplay entails an open world game. I’m not talking about the characters like that. No…
What I’m saying is that they are trapped in the existence they have to live. Even amongst this grand landscape with so many things to do, it seems that Arthur and the gang are destined to the end we know comes to the gang. Not just because the game is a prequel, but because thematically in the story the writers of the game created this is the case.
Think about the way you reacted to each time a character died in the game. You may have gotten emotional, but was it surprising in the way a twist ending is? No. Of course not. Death was always something that you should expect given the life this gang of outlaws lived.
This, in my opinion, is the epitome of the modern western. There is seemingly a vast open world that you can explore until your heart is content. But, in the end, you’re left weeping because the character you have grown to love throughout the course of the story is dead. Gone and past never able to escape their fate.
Thus is our existence as video game players or film and television watchers. We play the game, watch the movie, or watch the TV show all the way through. We fall in love with these characters. And then… it’s over.
Remind you of anything else besides visual and interactive entertainment?
Because for me it kind of reminds me of life. Just… life.
You live. You love. You work. Maybe have kids. Then you die. (Oh, and you pay taxes).
You may not feel trapped and it is true that we are free in many ways.
Yet, in so many ways, we aren’t.
Maybe your living as an oppressed person on this earth. You could also be stuck in your mindset. Or, just your mind. Hell, somewhere out there in the world someone is literally physically trapped.
Is it a downer, yes. But it is also the truth for so many of us.
So we always come back to our favorite movie, TV show, book, or video game. Some story we wish we could escape into. Sometimes they end and you are delighted to see that the characters did it, they won, they defeated evil or got the girl or escaped to live happily ever after. And, sometimes, they remind us of the harsh realities of our existence.
So, Rockstar, thank you for forcing that moment upon me. In a game that innately has the ability to remind us of the harshest of realities. One that generally left us all in tears at some point during the game. That gave me the moment which reminded me that in a harsh, cold, rough reality that can punish to do the right thing for the person next you.
Through the disconcerting truth that, like me, you may see in Red Dead Redemption 2 I was reminded that redemption is possible.
But that’s a long story about me and my feelings. That’s why I keep coming back over and over to this game.
What is the moment you truly started to love Red Dead Redemption 2?
Hell, what moment while playing any game has made you fall in love with the it or the medium for that matter?
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