Red Dead Redemption 2: Defining the meaning of an American

There are so many things to talk about, but I consider the new video game Red Dead Redemption 2 on the big console home game systems to be one of the most paramount issues of our day. Not just because I love westerns and video games, but because the story itself is really at the core of our modern world and the confusing philosophies that we contend with every day—is big government better or small. I’ve always loved the “Red” games as the producer Rockstar has published them over vast amounts of time. The first Red Dead Redemption came out in 2010, and its sequel just this recent year of 2018, so a lot of time, money and effort goes into these things and they are truly epic for any scope of entertainment venue. But as I was playing Red Dead Redemption 2 I couldn’t help but think a thought I had been thinking for a long time, that the game was essentially Game of Thrones only set in a western instead of some unidentified middle ages of Europe. The essence of the game is to ask the question, “what does it mean to be an American.” The conflict of the game is when many different sectors of society unleash their understanding compared with the natural human tendency toward greed and violence. The result is a very compelling story that could easily fill up several seasons of a Netflix drama.

You can tell that the game is upsetting the progressive elements of our present society, they have lots of problems with some of the themes of the game. Red Dead Redemption 2 is set in 1899 just as the progressive movement is getting underway. In the game there are random characters that you meet many whom are part of the suffragette movement. As a player you can choose to help those people or harass them and many players are picking up these screaming feminists and putting them on railroad tracks to be run over by an oncoming train. And the game is providing awards for those actions, so the real progressives in our entertainment culture have serious problems with that. Additionally, the character you play in the game, Author Morgan is in a gang as kind of the heavy. The leader of the game is a guy named Dutch who is essentially a socialist philosopher. I don’t like the guy but it is a very interesting experiment in the fallacies of socialism that his vision is being destroyed moment by moment in the game driving him to lunacy because he can’t get socialism to work without being a criminal element in the larger context of society.

I thought Rockstar Games went out of their way not to insult progressives as many of the storylines within the game treated them fairly. But as the player you decided how relevant they were or weren’t, and that is what has progressives so angry. By the end of Author Morgan’s story in Red Dead Redemption 2 I had my good meter tapping out as high as it could go. That is a meter you get for doing good deeds for people, and mine was as good as it could get. And it was rewarding to do good as opposed to doing bad things which many players might be tempted to do. The whole thing is a very interesting experiment in human behavior that I thought went well beyond any previous entertainment exploration, whether it be a novel, a movie or a television show. This form of story telling I thought was very revolutionary, and powerful. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it is the literary equivalent to a Dicken’s novel, but Rockstar Games put a lot of effort into the whole presentation that there really has never been anything quite like it anywhere yet. I think of it as I often do with these massive video games, like its taking a resort vacation to an exotic place. On my 70” 4K television with a Bose sound system, its easy for me to forget that I’m just in my living room. The world is vast and well rendered in Red Dead Redemption 2, almost to the point of ridiculousness. That makes investing yourself into the stories that much more compelling, and powerful.

And again, by the end of Author Morgan’s storyline anyway, with the good meter at the highest point, because the character and those he interacts with changes depending on that meter, Author came to the point of what being an American really was. The game sifted through all the various elements of turn of the century North America and found the real heart and soul of American life quite wonderfully. It was a shame that his realization came all too late, but the point of the game is the tapestry that everything is set in more than the lives of the characters. I found the whole thing extremely refreshing. Its one of those things that everyone who can find the time should endeavor to experience.

I have always been around guns, but the first time I played Red Dead Redemption back in 2010 I had not yet purchased or became involved in Cowboy Fast Draw. But at the end of that game I decided that when things called down for me in life that I would. A few years later when an open window came I took 2K and had a custom fast draw holster made for myself and I bought my Ruger Vaquero. Since then I have been practicing Cowboy Fast Draw almost every day and I have become proficient. That is important because I see the gun, especially the way it was presented in American westerns to be even more symbolic to the life of free people as the samurai sword is to Japanese society—which is saying a lot. I usually dig a lot deeper into things than most people do so the first Red Dead game was something that built on thoughts I had been having for a long time. By the time this new game came out, I had a very good understanding of what Cowboy Fast Draw was all about so it was even more meaningful to me to be able to go around that vast world and gun fight other characters. I think any player would find the experience meaningful but for me and the kind of things I do in real life, it was even more so. It’s a world you simply don’t ever want to end.

That is why I think there is real opportunity here. We keep hearing about all these socialists that have been trained in our public-school system and are now making moves into larger official government positions. And that is in a class with the Trump economy and there is a lot of consternation about what will happen as a result. But the social experiment has already been simulated in Red Dead Redemption 2. And the socialists, like Dutch in the game, have no choice really when confronted with reality. Now, not to give too much away because Red Dead 2 is actually a prequel to the first Red Dead, but Dutch eventually has to jump off a cliff to kill himself because his views of the world just don’t match the reality of a new American idea. People followed Dutch because he was intelligent and well read, but that couldn’t solve his basic problem with his corrupted philosophy. And in a very complex story about many, many people, somehow Rockstar Games hit the nail right on the head, and it is truly a remarkable achievement in art and entertainment. And one that carries directly over into the politics of our modern times, in haunting ways that were quite intentional. There were moments in the game that were like the climax of every movie I’ve ever seen, only in the context of this game, they were better.

Rich Hoffman

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