The Poker in Red Dead Redemption 2 Online is Great!

I had a nice talk with a friend recently while we were reflecting on the Tea Party days and the direction of today’s youth. By normal visual standards, the socialized instruction in public schools, and PC counterculture has everyone strapped to the body of Moby Dick at the end of that old story. And the drug use that has permeated everything that young people do, by conventional measure things look pretty hopeless. But two things happened over the weekend that I continue to be impressed with and they will certainly have an impact on how our culture is measured.

The first was a visit to Kings Island where the Festhaus was hosting a professional video game tournament. The place was packed to the brim and young people were everywhere and were quite happy competing on stage against each other with popular titles like Fortnite, and other video games that are part of a culture a lot of people over 30 don’t even understand. As I watched the activity I was thinking of a report that friend had said to me about Mason schools going even further into removing competitive events and statues from their public school—the everyone gets a trophy or none of them do type of thinking—and it was obvious that the politics might be moving in that direction. But the video game culture gets it. There are more opportunities for competition there than when I was a kid. Traditional sports are not the only ways to compete in life, or to learn to. Video games are all about capitalism and they are the preferred medium of young people’s entertainment experiences.

For instance, one of my favorite video games not just of last year, but ever is Red Dead Redemption 2. When that game first came out I was so excited about it that I took a week off work to play it, and for me it was a kind of vacation. It’s a western by Rockstar Games and for me it was like going to the West World of the popular HBO series. These video games are so immersive that they begin to simulate reality. They are different than the passive experience of movies so their impact on culture is something we just aren’t measuring yet. But in the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, it sold 24 million copies in just three days which amassed $725 million, and is still climbing. The earnings report for these video game companies are actually higher than many movie and television studios. Take-Two which is involved in Red Dead Redemption reported a Fiscal Year 2019 earnings report confirming so far $2.66 billion. Those are Disney type of numbers so this is not a market of entertainment that is obscure by any measure.

Red Dead Redemption 2 came out in October of 2018 and I played it several times a week through the turn of the year. I spent about a hundred hours playing it on story mode then I played the Beta development mode for the Online portion of the game. I had to capitalize that because their online concept for the game is a thing of itself. It’s quite an extraordinary attempt at hosting a very brutal and capitalist natured arena. In that meeting with the same friend we reflected on the near elimination of dodgeball from our society deeming it politically toxic. Dodgeball for us when we were kids was something that happened every day. Well for the kids of today, its these online arenas. A great video game must at least have online content where players can compete against each other in player versus player situations which are much more intense than dodgeball. The biggest difference is that one is virtual while the other was physical. But the mentality is the same.

I played the Beta for a while but I couldn’t give the game the kind of time it demanded to be good in that mode so I backed off and moved on to other things. Well, this past weekend Rockstar Games finally finished with their Online offering for Red Dead 2 and put it up on their latest update, which meant the official game went live, around six months or so after the original release, which of course keeps people buying copies of the game and keeping it going which is something to say about how video games tell their stories, over much longer periods of time than movies or other forms of entertainment. So I played the game again to see how things were going and was very happy and surprised to learn that the many bars of gold that I had during the Beta phase and all the money I earned carried over into the official release. And also I was very happy to learn that they had opened up the ability to play poker with other live players which is really the purpose of me writing this article. I was immensely pleased with the way the game was set up and I spent most of the weekend playing just that game mode.

I would not call myself a gambler or even a card player the way that people think of such things. I’m not a drinker, a womanizer or any of the things that are associated with the game of playing poker, which in my understanding of history has been advanced by socialists to attempt to demean the games of the Western frontier so that culturally people would be inspired to move away from those activities, so not to celebrate them. But I do love poker. I love watching it. I love playing it. And I love its history as an American game developed in the frontier days of New Orleans and spreading westward with the gunfighter culture. The game and the mind of gunfighting in the American West are synonymous and I love it for that attribute. Playing poker is a fun game that is uniquely very American, and I love it and including it so prominently in the online version of Red Dead Redemption was a technical feat that really impressed me.

Playing poker was part of the original game, the story mode as they call it these days. And I enjoyed it immensely. I am not the kind of guy who likes to gamble money so I’m not a guy who enjoys hanging out in casinos at all. But I do enjoy the function of the game and the way its played so just gambling the chips is enough for me. I like the way poker chips feel in my hands and how they are used strategically to win or lose the game. It’s a very fascinating game and I spent many, many hours playing it against NPCs in the story mode. But having an online poker game is a whole separate situation. You have random players always coming and going and everyone has to play their hand and getting all that rolled into a fluid video game experience is difficult. The way that Rockstar set up their poker games in actual saloons in their various towns and cities was visually stunning and functionally very satisfying. I played a lot of poker over the weekend and I didn’t even have to leave my home.

As I played and saw how many people were playing the Online Red Dead Redemption 2 game, from poker to all the PVP combat that is involved it was obvious to me that this is where the world is at. Many kids wouldn’t even learn how to play poker if not for a game like this, or would they learn anything about westerns since they’ve been nearly eradicated from American culture. But in the world of video games, the western is alive and well and millions of young people are participating in that world and enjoying it. And with billions of dollars at stake in this growing industry, I don’t think anything that is politically underway to dismantle the American way of life is going to stick. Capitalism is alive and well, especially in the saloons and towns of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Rich Hoffman
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So You’ve Played Red Dead Redemption 2 and Loved it: Be a gunslinger in real life, join the Cowboy Fast Draw Association

As much as I talk about other things, I am not completely lost like a lot of people my age might otherwise be on the magical world of video games and their relatively new impact on global entertainment. But let me just say to my usual readers, its big business. I finally finished the story mode of Red Dead Redemption 2 after around 100 hours of game play, taking my time when I could and I have to say that I was absolutely amazed by the result. The game is such an astonishing technical achievement and it is by far the best thing that could have ever happened to the entertainment format of the American Western. As a story and experience it really is like taking a real-life cowboy experience like the movie City Slickers and placing them into a 1960s spaghetti western with all the high drama of something like Game of Thrones. It is big, bold and beautiful in so many ways. And I knew that as I completed the game and all the epilogue missions that there was going to be a Red Dead online coming at the end of November. I planned to revisit the game at that time but wasn’t expecting much. But let me say that I have been pleasantly surprised. It looks like as massive as Red Dead Redemption 2 is as a game with sales well over a billion dollars already and something like 20 million copies sold before the Holiday season, that the purposed of the online play is to use the game as a kind of training experience for the online world that they have created. It is just vast and ultimately never-ending in what it allows players to do and interact with one another.

I couldn’t help but think as I was playing missions with other people the other day, most of them much younger than I am, that this game is really their only experience with a real American western and for many they are very touched by it. The game itself is a very moral story about good and bad and the many quandaries of the critical decisions that went into exploding life across the American frontier. But at its core it’s about gunfighting and is clearly one of the best arguments for the real-life problems of the Second Amendment. A lot of young people may not be paying attention to the real political problems going on in the outside world, but they sure care a lot about earning enough money in the game to purchase upgrades for their guns and dress in the coolest gunfighting outfits. But I couldn’t help notice that many of them probably didn’t know that they could do all the things they are doing in Read Dead Redemption in real life with Cowboy Fast Draw as seen at the following link:

Belonging to the Cowboy Fast Draw Association is one of the groups I am most proud to affiliate with, they are really a good group of people who meet all over the United States to compete in real life fast draw competitions using real guns. It’s what I think of as one of the coolest sports in the world right now as other countries are trying to participate but have too strict of gun laws to actually do it. But in the good ol’ United States it is much easier to participate in. Yet I have noticed that most of the members are well over 40, largely because guns and holster rigs are expensive so it takes a little upfront investment to get involved. But once you do, it is infinitely rewarding. I enjoyed the original Red Dead Redemption enormously and getting my own fast draw rig was always something I had planned to do. But raising a family every last dollar that I made went into family needs, a car was always breaking down, a kid always needed a school fee or band instrument. Someone needed braces of a family member across the country wanted us to visit them, so there was always something for like twenty years that kept me from getting my own fast draw gun rig.

I ran across a substantial amount of money for a big job I had been working on so I treated myself to my gun rig and have been practicing at Cowboy Fast Draw for several years now, and am getting pretty good at it. After probably 30,000 to 35,000 shots at a fast draw target, I am starting to feel good about my speed and accuracy. It did take a while. It was something that had been on my mind well before I ever played the first Red Dead going way back into my twenties when I was going through a really tough time. Westerns and western music really kept the zest for life alive in me. On their most basic foundations westerns are about the meaning of life so they always had great appeal to me so when I grew up I wanted to be as much of a gunfighter as society could endure. Ironically, I had acquired my gun rig and some advanced fast draw skill before Red Dead Redemption 2 came out which had even more meaning for me because of the new hobby I had.

Traveling around the online world it has become very obvious that many young people are deeply touched by Red Dead Redemption 2 and likely would like to have a similar experience as I have. So let me put this little invite out there. If you are unsure of how to get involved in Cowboy Fast Draw because you are enjoying playing Red Dead Redemption but would like to take everything up a notch, don’t hesitate to ask me. I can help you get started on something that would be infinitely rewarding. While my regular audience here is much older than the people playing Red Dead Redemption 2 I would personally love to see more young people getting involved in Cowboy Fast Draw. It really isn’t any different from what you do in the game, but that it never ends. While the content of Red Dead Redemption does eventually run out, the challenges in real life never do.

In the Cowboy Fast Draw Association, you get to dress up as a gunslinger for real, and have a reason to do it. You have a reason to buy fancy guns for real and learn to take care of them. And the scoring format is safe and fun. Its one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in my life and I would recommend it to anybody. I had been thinking that membership in the cowboy sports may just flicker away because new generations just do not have many positive western entertainment venues that are cool enough to hold their attention, that is until Red Dead Redemption 2 came along and inspired millions of people to live in that world quite authentically. And for those who just want to climb into the world of Red Dead Redemption for real and live it in real life I’d point you to the Cowboy Fast Draw Association at the link shown here. If you have any questions, just ask. I’d love to help as many new people get involved in the sport as possible. While I personally love the world of Red Dead Redemption, it is no match for having a real fast draw rig on your hip which is an experience I have every day. And wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Rich Hoffman

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The Ballad of Buster Sgruggs: A review and an observation on the nature of existance

I have always loved westerns, they are uniquely American inventions born of our culture and the world watches them with great curiosity. If you are in a hotel in London or even Paris and Madrid, and flipping through the channels in the middle of the night, you will see lots of old westerns playing because to them there is great optimism in old American westerns. Westerns specifically show values easily in a stripped away fashion of what American values truly are, what a capitalist society truly thinks about itself and others. Hollywood essentially built itself on the strength of the western but leftist radicals’ intent on destroying America have launched a not so secret crusade against all westerns essentially, most obvious in big Disney productions like The Lone Ranger and the Star Wars film Solo: A Star Wars Story. Even in the disguise of science fiction such as Solo was, modern critics and the entertainment press in general want nothing to do with them, and they make it known as they try to torpedo those films at the box office leaving a clear message to filmmakers to stay away from the genre or else. Those who do so dare usually end up turning the American western into a Shakespearian tragedy which is certainly the case of the new one from the Coen Brothers called The Ballad of Buster Sgruggs, just released to Netflix and the video game by Rockstar Games called Red Dead Redemption 2. However, in the case of both references, Red Dead and Buster Sgruggs the old traditions of the American western are there and represented strongly and in the age of the Trump presidency, are quite necessary.

It wasn’t planned this way because Rockstar Games has been making Red Dead Redemption 2 for the last eight years, and the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan have been writing The Ballad of Buster Sgruggs for the last 15 years so neither could have known what would happened in 2016 when Donald Trump would be elected president and the world would be shifting toward nationalism as opposed to a one world government. But with those events westerns such as these suddenly have much more appeal to the longing individualists struggling to make sense of our modern times. And let me tell you something dear reader, it is a real treat to get something as good as The Ballad of Buster Sgruggs delivered to the comfort of your own living room through Netflix as opposed to having to go to the theater to watch it. The film was released to limited theatrical presentations, but on a project like this very inventive western, it is a must watch for those with Netflix accounts.

However, I would not call The Ballad of Buster Sgruggs a traditional western such as Bonanza or Gunsmoke where the protagonists defeat the antagonists with great moral clarity by the end of the story set to uplifting music. Buster Sgruggs is a tragedy, but in all other aspects, it is a very epic achievement of art set against the canvas of America and is very much worth watching. The movie is divided up into six primary stories and is presented in a format much like the great film by Akira Kurosawa called Dreams. The six stories are very compelling but one in particular I felt a great affinity with, it was the story of an old gold digger panning for gold in some unlisted wilderness environment. I think that story said so much about the pros and cons of capitalism in a very simple setting that it was brilliant in its execution. That portion of the story was well worth watching all by itself.

I have a real love of old western towns and Buster Sgruggs had plenty of well-designed sets that were wonderfully built of old frontier towns. The reason I love those towns so much is that they say a lot about us as human beings, suddenly free from the aristocrats of politics and provided with great resources, what is it that humans desire to build. Modern cities have lots of added levels to them and the benefit of modern construction methods, but when you look at an old frontier town and consider the amount of human capital it took to build them, everything from downing the trees, to plaining the wood for construction to building every last thing by hand, to see a town build in a remote corner of the world for the purpose of a new economy freshly discovered in just a few years is quite a remarkable undertaking. And in a lot of ways The Ballad of Buster Sgruggs captured that dim hope that the human race placed in such projects without being overly preachy about it. Everything was wonderfully shot and was generally ambitious in the way that those old towns were constructed. The filmmakers seemed to have understood that yearning and applied the same effort to their craft to obvious effect.

Another particularly sad but very effective story was the segment involving Liam Neeson as he traveled the country with a quadriplegic orator. Not to give anything away, but it was quite a commentary on the human condition and why people do things that they do. The results were ultimately very depressing, but all too honest and I thought it was a wonderful display of high art. Way too sad, but honest and it really is a good format to tell a story like that in the context of a western where people for the first time in their lives were free to roam about on their own, without the protections of group affiliations or government reach.

Another such tragedy that I didn’t see the end coming was the segment about the Oregon Trail, wonderfully photographed in Nebraska with a real caravan of covered wagons. You can’t help but love the characters, they are very likable and you want to cheer them on to success. The love story that evolves is one that anybody would want to see flourish, but how it all ends was just sobering. Often human beings cut the rug out from under themselves all with good intentions, but we often write our own tragic ends in life before the story ever starts. And that was the case of that story, sad, tragic but worth living. It was a mesmerizing tail not so much of good and evil, but in stupidity and hope, blind faith, and the harsh realities of existence.

If you get a chance, I’d highly recommend The Ballad of Buster Sgruggs and to watch it with an open mind, without the pretense of previous westerns. I would not so much call this a tragedy set in the west because there are moments of great optimism in it. I for one had several favorite characters, my favorite probably being Buster Sgruggs himself and the banker who is tasked with fending off a bank robbery. I can really relate to that guy. But ultimately, I think my favorite character was the old man panning for gold. His shock and awe intertwined with endless hope and persistence is something that anybody could admire. And his story alone makes The Ballad of Buster Sgruggs worth watching. But lucky for us there is so much more to enjoy and it is a real achievement in these changing days of entertainment where something of that quality can be streamed at home rather than a theatrical experience which is yet another benchmark in our march into the future.

Rich Hoffman

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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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Red Dead Redemption 2: Playing in the future by exploring the great westerns of the past

When Red Dead Redemption came out many years ago, I said that it was one of the best westerns ever produced. As a video game by Rockstar, the company that made the title, it was an awe-inspiring effort that still holds up as one of the greatest games ever made eight years later. Other games that were benchmarks of open world simulation gaming have been titles that I’ve referred to such as Uncharted 4 for the PlayStation 4 console, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch. I wish I had time to play everything because I really enjoy video games, but I only have time for a few that I consider to be exceptional and game changers. So when those types of games come out, I usually take some time to spend with them. And that was certainly the case when it came to the sequel to Red Dead Redemption called appropriately enough, Red Dead Redemption 2. The game has been on the radar for release for a long time, many years now but finally on October 26th of 2018 the game made release so I targeted time to spend with it for my own reasons. The game itself is a prequel to the previous story and is set this time in 1899, a period I am very interested in regarding American history. The result was just astonishing. It really is the closest thing to a real-life West World experience that anybody could hope to get. It is not a perfect simulated reality but as a player you can easily forget about the real world and find yourself living and breathing in that massive computer world complete to every detail including tree bark, flowers and insects. The world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is fully alive with people and places set in the Old West and is just an amazing technical achievement not to mention some of the best writing for a western that I’ve ever experienced. It is truly an amazing achievement that is worth talking about.

But first there needs to be some context as to how powerful and popular video game sales are, especially for something like this. As a person I am well over the age of the average player so when my wife and I picked up our pre-ordered copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 at GameStop at Bridgewater Falls in Ohio at 9 P.M. on October 25, just hours before the official release at midnight I was met with a very large line that snaked out the door, down the sidewalk and down into the parking lot. I had just come off an important oversea call with some business partners and worked some political angles that were important for the upcoming election. On the very next night I would be at the Jim Renacci debate with Sherrod Brown at Miami University and mingling with the crowd there. During those conversations the talk wasn’t about the upcoming election for anybody under the age of 30, it was about playing Red Dead Redemption 2. But I didn’t get any weird looks for being too old to be at GameStop even though I can’t say that I had ever been to a video game release quite like this. One of my daughters used to manage a GameStop store and she’d tell me about these hot releases, such as happen with each new Madden game or Call of Duty. But this game, Red Dead Redemption 2 had been promoted for a long time as the game missed several previous release dates so people were very excited to see the result. My wife somehow managed to get us into group one on the pre-release so literally the moment we arrived we were called to the front of the line to pick up our copy and within a few minutes we were back home to start the 3 hour download of over 100gigs of information just to start playing the game. The game sold over 17 million copies during that opening weekend which accounted for nearly $800 million in sales. Compared to the average Hollywood movie, these video games are just destroying the traditional movie experience. These entertainment platforms are far more popular with young people than any movie and for good reason. I left that GameStop amazed.

It’s no secret that I love gunfighters and the basic morality of the Wild West period. I have always felt that there was something extremely optimistic about Wild West towns, that really beautiful moment in world history where individual liberty was free to dream and yearn for a better life as it matched up against the harsh realities of nature. The great things about westerns and the American historic period about gunfighters is that it was the culmination of a lot of philosophic thought crashing into an Asian culture in the American Indian that puts many of our modern problems into a correct context. And Rockstar Games has done something quite remarkable with Red Dead Redemption 2, they have paid honest homage to great classic westerns like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Magnificent Seven and High Plains Drifter and literally put video game players in those worlds not with a two-hour story but one that goes on for hundreds of hours. I have been taking my time with the game and am at over 100 hours and I still have a lot more story to get through as of this writing. I have been doing all the side quest which include taking up bounty hunting jobs, fishing, hunting, crafting various equipment improvements and generally exploring a massive western themed world from the high snow-capped mountains in the north to the plains and deserts of the lowlands. There is even a fictional town called Saint Denis which is a kind of New Orleans city complete with early versions of electricity that is fully realized and populated with people. For instance, just for fun I went into town on my horse and spent the entire night in a high stakes poker game, and I won a lot of money. The game play was just jaw dropping cool, and realistic. It was as close to an experience of actually sitting down at a table in Las Vegas is, yet the whole thing was set in an Old West environment as the sun set and rose again outside the windows. There are many little side activities in Red Dead Redemption 2 that a player could literally get lost in forever, if there was ever enough time in that sentiment.

The game is quite honest and eager to explore the clash of progressivism with the rugged concept of the American individualist and the amount of dialogue that was written and acted in this story by many random events is just staggering. There really isn’t any way to experience everything and to talk to everyone in just one playthrough of the game. Decisions made have consequences in the overall world so not everyone will be available to players based on what they do or say to other people. But the basic plot of the game guides you through a kind of participatory novel. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a story telling experience that is unlike anything ever produced, novel, motion picture or Broadway play. There are some very probing questions asked in the story that is explored with great depth that no western ever had time to fully contemplate. The attention to every little detail is just staggering and how they all randomly interact with each other only conjured in my mind that Red Dead Redemption was simply an early version of the HBO series West World. You really do forget that you are playing a game as a player, you are pulled into that world and living it.

At this point I still have a lot more to play, I probably won’t have it wrapped up as a story until after the Thanksgiving Holiday. Maybe even Christmas. If I put 14 hours a weekend into the game it will probably take another 6 weeks to finish, that is how big it is as a conceptional element. Players could blast through the story if they wanted probably in 60 hours or so, but for me, I want to live in that world of Red Dead Redemption. I personally love the time period and the optimism of the American frontier and this is the best way to experience it. Even in their worst elements, I consider the drunks, thieves and whores of the Old West to be much better people than our modern counterparts because there is an honesty in human endeavor that is evident in that time period that is lacking in modern life, so I am spending as much time there as I can. And if you are like me and like to play video games but don’t have time for all of them, if you had to pick, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the one to play. It is better than any Netflix series, any movie made, or long-standing network television program. It is modern entertainment in its best form yet and it is something to see. If this is how entertainment in the future will be, then we all have a lot to look forward to. One thing that is obvious about the makers of Read Dead Redemption 2 is that they love American westerns and they have somehow managed to put every one of them into the story of this new video game from the ugliness of criminal outlaws, such as the movie the Wild Bunch explored down to the innocence and honesty of Little House on the Prairie. It’s all there in raw and spectacular fashion and is an experience everyone should have at least once, no matter how old you may be.

Rich Hoffman

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Red Dead Redemption 2: A Western for a new generation

One thing is quite clear, Hollywood as a culture doesn’t know how to make westerns any more, which is a shame. Westerns have always been about what makes American culture work, so losing that ability to communicate western values has been missed. Disney has been best positioned to make westerns and I thought their two best attempts were quite good, The Lone Ranger in 2013 and Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2018 which was essentially a western set in space, but the company obviously has more progressive concerns on their mind and didn’t understand how to market those efforts because they were torn as a company as to whether any western should even be made. Ending America is a primary concern of progressives, so making stories about the birth of America is something that modern film studios just don’t like to do unless they are making fun of westerns. But that’s alright, because movies are on their way out anyway. Video games are becoming the new narrative device of choice and Rockstar Games is about to reveal their newest western, Red Dead Redemption 2 which is featured in the video seen below, and is yet the latest benchmark in storytelling through a video game. I have said often that the first Red Dead Redemption was one of the greatest games I’ve ever played, and is certainly one of the best westerns produced. But nearly a decade after the release of the first Red Dead Redemption this second game looks to be essentially a West World type of experience that will be the next great western for which a new generation will gain exposure.

The ambition of this game is incredible, and will go a long way to introducing the western back to audiences in a way that the genre has always deserved. In this age of Netflix and Amazon streaming a two-hour western just feels too short, people want and need at least 10 hours of content to really get into a story these days, so movies never really have time to get into a narrative experience. It’s just not the way that story telling is done any more. But even further than that, video games are the new dominate form of entertainment because it allows the consumer a chance to be a participant rather than just a consumer. And the problem with a real-life West World type of experience in an amusement park setting is the insurance liability of all the dangers you would encounter trying to duplicate something like that in real life. So a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 is the closest thing to a real experience that people can get, and it just so happens that Rockstar Games has picked a western for that platform.

Rockstar is the same company that makes the Grand Theft Auto games that I am not a fan of. But they do several things very well in them, and the best of what they do as a company ends up in their western games that come out every eight years or so. The amount of effort Rockstar has put into Red Dead Redemption 2 is just jaw dropping. When it is released it will set the new standard of what a video game should be. The previous benchmark holder was Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which came out last year for the Nintendo Switch and was an awesome experience. But it’s also in a fantasy setting whereas Red Dead Redemption 2 is all about the foundations of American society, which is actually very relevant to today.

The period of American history from the late 1870s to the late 1890s is one of my favorite periods. As we prepare as a civilization to enter the wild frontiers of space, there is a lot we can learn from this most open capitalist market that erupted during western expansion during this particular time. Western expansion happened so fast that governments hadn’t yet established themselves, and the race to acquire land away from the French, the British and the Spanish was incredible, so putting bodies on the frontier was the primary concern of government as opposed to ruling over their citizens. That left human need and desire open and raw leaving justice to be truly determined by the gun. It was during westward expansion that the Second Amendment was truly tested for the first time and it proved that people could govern themselves while cut off from Washington D.C. due to the vast distances involved only recently connected by railroads.

The gambling, the prostitutes and the gunslingers were obviously the default modes of human operation when given unlimited amounts of freedom to behave without the restrictions of too much law and regulation. As primal as those desires were they do provide an insight into the kind of world that humans make for themselves when government is so limited that it’s not a daily concern for the people. Modern day Las Vegas can be viewed as the most modern rendition of that early western idea of limited government and lots of personal freedom, but the tradition was started during the many frontier towns that rose up in that delicate period after the Civil War and disintegrated by the time the new century was ushered in.

Hollywood built itself on westerns taking this rough period of personal freedom and establishing values upon them for which to instruct our society what America was and strived to be. The westerns made by Hollywood may not have been very realistic, but they were about what we all wanted to be. The Disney Company made its bread and butter off westerns like Davy Crockett and Zorro, before they allowed themselves to fall into more of a progressive company trying to undo those values as opposed to learning about them and communicating to a new generation. What Rockstar Games has done with Red Dead Redemption 2 is settle for the more realistic version of life on the western frontiers. The focus is on personal choice, to be a villain or a hero, many of the decisions are driven by the human necessity for survival and that is an important distinction. If we are to understand ourselves today, as a species about to colonize space, then we need to understand ourselves as a society of people stripped of government rules and to witness how we behave when choices are truly free. Do you shoot someone in the head just because you can and steal all his possessions or do you make a friend out of them so that you can have an alley later on to draw from? These are the choices of a free society and are at the heart of our Bill of Rights, so actively participating in a world where those ideas are openly at play is very useful.

When talking about westerns we ultimately these days think about the plight of the Indians. As I have said often, Indians were part of declining cultures holding onto their past while the gunslingers and gold prospectors were part of a growing culture that was rapidly expanding. If it wasn’t the Americans who settled the west it would have been the Spanish or English who were racing against us to settle all that newly discovered land from a European perspective. It is popular progressively to think of the Indians as a superior culture only from the perspective of the progressive nature lovers. In reality, the Indians were part of cities that rose and fell in North America and throughout Mexico and had to resort back to the status of hunters and gatherers. To view the Indians as villains as they were often thought of in early Hollywood westerns is the subconscious reaction to this social failure on their part. While they were chucking rocks and shooting arrows while worshiping crazy nature gods the American frontiersmen were using guns, building wagons and using printed Bibles to advance their culture over the savages who were gross reminders of where humans came from—not the optimistic visions of where they were going.

For Red Dead Redemption 2 to pick this era as the backdrop of such a participatory environment it is exciting that so many people will gain exposure to such a great western as told by the fairly new venue of video game play. The ability to play in that world and learn about the era and the values is something that I think is truly beneficial to modern society. As Hollywood has lost its ability to tell a two-hour story that would entertain people with a mix of values and thrills, the video game industry has taken over and is now the king setting the benchmarks for the future. And nothing will have done that better up to this point than Red Dead Redemption 2. It is truly a modern miracle lovingly put together to capture a period of time that is very important to the human species and allow people to learn what it truly means to live free and how to make choices when the gun is all that stands between justice and villainy.

Rich Hoffman

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