But They’re Such ATTRACTIVE Forgeries

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Well, did some. I intimidated an art professor in order to get him to say that the mayor’s paintings were real. Then I noticed that the gunslinger dude’s quest was back on, and I liked that quest, so I took the train all the way to Valentine only to be told that he was back in St. Denis (Jesus, game, really?), then bumped into the two weirdos again and kicked them in the junk.

That was my night.

I suppose the undercurrent is the macho American ideal versus the effete, coastal, liberal elite. The two weirdos are “college boys,” and the professor from New Haven is, well, a professor from New Haven. What’s interesting is that, at first glance, these quests make the coastal elite folks look rather negative. The professor is a pretentious wimp, the weirdos are, well, weirdos who can’t prove their own manhood. However, if you look closer, the rich liberals are still the ones in charge. Arthur intimidates the professor so that a rich assed FOREIGN Mayor can get a museum that Arthur likely won’t be able to get into or understand. The weirdos? They do, even after being doofuses, walk away with the pretty woman leaving Arthur in the alley. It’s like “Look macho all you want, macho American. In the end you’re in the alley with fifteen bucks.”

Hmm.

And what did you make of the comparison between the art quests? Here, we have a quest about what art is. Is it “fake?” Is it “real?” Arthur makes the rather good point when the professor agrees to say they’re real that “now everyone can enjoy them.” The Mayor himself says they’re very nice paintings. All questions about the very nature of art that have been going on forever.

Compare that to the French “whole ass” who’s gallery showing ended so badly. There, too: Is it art? Is it beautiful? Scandalous? Offensive?

I’m all for pondering these things. I kinda like talking about art in all its forms, from video games to scented candles. But I’m not sure what these quests are doing in this game at this point.

Whatchu think?

Feminina:

Oh man…I never intimidated an art professor! I must have missed talking to the mayor at that party. Sad face.

Although I did the shocking art opening with the French guy, and the resulting brawl was kind of awesome. This is taking art SERIOUSLY. I can see that the two stories would make an interesting contrast. I’m also reminded of our questions about Margaret’s paying Arthur with a suspiciously enormous gem that everyone seemed to find believable enough that we got $50 for it.

Maybe if people believe it, it’s real enough.

And true, very true, that the elitist, wimpy college boys are still the ones on top of the social heap. These are the people in control, and whatever they want–even if it’s to play at participating in the violence and suffering that is the ordinary lot of the common man (to the imperfect extent that Arthur represents the common man)–they can just pay for it, stick around as long as it’s amusing for them, and then head home, basically unscathed. Unless we do wind up accidentally killing one of them. We’ll see! If we ever go back to Valentine.

But dude, that’s exactly what happened to me: I was in Saint Denis, saw the marker for the gunslingers quest back in Valentine, raced back there…and was told that they’d gone to Saint Denis. Siiiiigh.

Butch:

Well, those people were mad that their wives and mothers posed, which, in and of itself, is interesting. Obviously the wives and mothers thought it was art, right? Their neighbors and husbands may well have disagreed, but the women involved had no issue with it. Another side of suffrage, that.

So the art professor….

You get a letter from the mayor that basically says “Dude, I know you robbed me, so you owe me a favor.” Turns out the mayor, who is the dapper French guy, wants to open a fancy art museum in St. Denis, the pride of the state. So he goes out and buys all these legitimately great paintings that he thinks are from the masters, and has a professor in to verify them only to find they’re fakes. So we have the age old “If it’s a very nice painting but not painted by someone famous, does that make it less art than something else” debate. The mayor asks Arthur to find the professor (who is from New Haven, so take that as you will) and persuade him to “change his mind” about the authenticity of the paintings. Which Arthur does. Arthur, then, without irony and some genuine confusion says “You’ve done a good thing! Now people can enjoy those paintings!” Which…he has a point, right? They aren’t bullshit, ugly paintings. The mayor didn’t KNOW they were fakes when he bought them, and genuinely wanted a nice museum.

Questions.

You never know about those brothers. I wasn’t expecting to end up in Valentine this time. But hey, good chance to eat and stuff.

Speaking on that, now that I have money, I’ve taken to buying the nicest food I can get whenever I’m at a saloon. Like, lots of it. I had three bowls of oatmeal and four lamb fries in Valentine! I’m a fucking glutton! And have I gained any weight? No. Still underweight. I don’t get how the weight mechanic works. But whatever. I still get through the game.

But going to Valentine and having to turn right back around–that was just plain mean, game. Just plain mean.

At least I took the train, so no time was wasted. Just ten bucks I didn’t really need. If that had been my game time, then white hot rage.

Feminina:

I had the lamb fry too! FIVE DOLLARS for a meal seems a bit steep considering I just sold a perfectly good horse for $1.80 (to be fair, it was stolen, and the guy did say “if you don’t have papers, I can’t give you full price”), but hey, I can afford to treat myself. It’s not as if Dutch is going to invest that money wisely for the good of the gang if I turn it over.

Still underweight. You must have to just spend entire game sessions eating if you want to gain. Which I will obviously never do, even though there’s probably a trophy involved. “Nice work! You actually managed to put on two pounds!”

As for the art question…hm. True, perfectly nice paintings that people can enjoy but that don’t happen to have been painted by someone famous…those paintings are just as enjoyable no matter who painted them.

But…there’s something there about authenticity. Like, why do we have to pretend they were painted by someone famous to appreciate them? Why can’t we just say “hey, nice painting” and put it on the wall and not care who painted it? This whole idea that the paintings are “fake”: they aren’t obviously, false paintings. They are real paintings made of real paint and canvas. But they’re fake FAMOUS-PAINTER paintings. And that, potentially, makes them worthless.

It’s interesting that you’re now returning to the gunslingers quest, which is also about authenticity: did this guy really do all the things he claimed? Perhaps one could also ask, why do we have to believe that this one guy actually did this stuff, to enjoy the story? Why can’t we just say “hey, that’s a lively and exciting story”? The things written about in the story might even actually have happened, it’s just that other people (like, say, Arthur) did them rather than Boy Calloway. It’s not necessarily that they’re false stories (though some of them probably are), but they’re false FAMOUS-GUNSLINGER stories, which, potentially, makes them worthless.

It goes back to Margaret, and the idea of showing people what they want to see. They want to see fearless female animal trainers, and paintings by famous artists, and they want to read about the deeds of famous gunslingers. Or they want valuable giant gems from old family estates. The thing, whatever it is, is not valuable because of what it is, it’s only valuable because of its connections. Celebrity culture is eternal.

We want to form connections with influential, significant other people, however tenuous those connections may be (“I saw so-and-so’s painting! I read about what’s-his-name’s exciting life! I have a relic of Saint Thingummy!”), and we don’t care about forming connections with boring, anonymous people (who, statistically, are extremely likely to be ourselves and our fellow peasants).

Is it CORRECT to tell people these paintings are by famous artists? No…but arguably being incorrect will make them a lot happier.

The thing is, that does start to walk a dangerous line towards “oh, what is truth, anyway? Just tell people what they want to hear! Good, exciting stories full of dastardly deeds and improbable heroes!”

And eventually, here we are.

Butch:

Yeah the gunslingers popped as soon as I finished with the art guy. I did find that telling.

Still, as interesting as this is, what’s it doing here? This isn’t really what this game is about. Sure, it’s good for a couple days of good bloggage, but just because something is blog worthy doesn’t make it belong in every game.

Feminina:

Well, it is part of that whole ongoing theme: what’s the Real America? What’s freedom, what’s truth, what’s authenticity? Who gets to decide–who controls the narrative?

We’ve come back to it repeatedly since pretty early on with this question of how ‘realistic’ this history of the wild west is. How true, how believable, how much of what we know is false (and how much of what we once knew and then learned to be false, is false in other ways we still don’t know about)?

These questions have arguably been in this game since the load screen, with its melodramatic primary color poster image showing us one very bright, very limited, very unreal view that is then complicated and unfolded over and over throughout the story.

Butch:

Fair. Very fair.

But while we’re on load screens and art and what narratives are, it’s true that the load screen is that bright, macho, cowboy, stars and stripes image, that melds into the other load screens, the old timey photographs which, being photographs, would be seen as more real, less of the stylized box art. We always start the game with those, those images of history, real people, places and animals. Those are a very interesting contrast to the box art, and they are, really, the lead in, this “real” portrayal of the west. And those aren’t all macho, rah rah, USA USA. They’re more subtle, the images of pristine nature and hard working, hard people. At least the quotes around “real” are less than they are on the box art.

Right?

Feminina:

Yes, very true! All the old photos of landscapes, people sitting on their porches with their sewing, deer, little towns, whatever…not a macho manly cowboy pointing a gun at the viewer among them! Which is certainly a very intentional choice.

“You may have come here for the wild west movie…but here’s what you’re really going to be looking at.” (‘Looking at’ both in the sense of literally viewing, but also in the more general, “you’re looking at years of hard work living basically alone in the wilderness” that might have faced people actually moving west.)

And, also, it’s a series of depictions of the reality and hardship of life, but it’s also very peaceful, isn’t it? The music is quiet and gentle, the scenes are often very pretty with mountains and flowers, etc., and they fade gently from one to the next as if we’re just sitting calmly leafing through images from our own past, perhaps.

No doubt the reality depicted would be difficult, but we don’t see a lot of people working hard (partly, no doubt, because it was hard to take photos of things in motion with the cameras of the day, so action shots would be unrealistic) or seeming to be suffering. There aren’t battlefield shots or hangings or anything. They’ve chosen a fairly nice bunch of pictures to introduce the game.

Which, again, is certainly a choice, and an interesting one.

“Are you here for nonstop gunfights and brawling?! Do you want to make a name for yourself as the baddest outlaw in the west?! DO YOU!? Well, that’s not what you’re going to get. Here, chill for a minute and check out these nice landscape shots, and this deer in the meadow, and this woman knitting.”

Butch:

They are very relaxing. And they do have the trials and hard work. But they have something else: failure. Vacant shacks. Derelict wagons. A busted boat. A boat in a tree (what’s with that?). It’s a reminder that people went there and didn’t become American heroes. They became forgotten.

Which is very much a contrast to the gun toting hero taking up half the damn box.

Feminina:

Yeah, that too! Abandoned, collapsing buildings, broken wagons, etc. Things left behind by people who went there to build a life, and didn’t manage it.

Leftover pieces of all these dreams that have failed, much like the dreams of Dutch and the gang are bound to fail…or like those of the player who just wants to become the baddest outlaw in the west.

Butch:

It’s an unusual thing in a video game, really. Video games are usually about the very opposite of all that.

Feminina:

Or at least, when we see old wrecked things in games, it’s the ruins of ancient civilizations–aliens or elves or something. We’re used to that.

I was thinking about that the other day, actually, while looking at the wreckage of some abandoned building or other: it’s not that we haven’t seen this type of imagery before, it’s just that we’re not used to seeing it in this context–in more or less our own, nearly-modern world.

“These are the remnants of a forgotten people who were here before us…I don’t know, maybe 20 years ago?”

And, also, it’s interesting that pretty much all the wreckage we see is remnants of the relatively recent failure of (presumably) white settlers. The actual not-even-forgotten people who WERE here for a long time before us, they haven’t left these types of traces on the landscape, that we see. Which is maybe about how Indians live in harmony with the land and therefore leave fewer signs that an amateur eye would recognize, or maybe about how the game is not quite sure how to handle this issue and therefore just doesn’t address it here…I’m not sure which.

Butch:

Right, it might be there but it isn’t us. It isn’t a portent of our failures.

Closest we came was Horizon. Maybe, MAYBE Rise of the Tomb Raider with the failed Soviet settings. But it’s rare, and rarely hits this close to home.

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Ah, Love. To Hell With It.

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for story points in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Idly thinking about other games, as I sometimes do when I can’t play, and Sony’s little announcement that we didn’t really care about, and how we haven’t seen anything about The Last of Us 2 for a while. We need a new trailer.

Because if the trailer for TLOU2 is really, REALLY depressing, then you’ll be a lot happier with playing RDR2 for a while longer. Make the weariness cheerful in comparison!

Ha.

We do LIKE games, right? We do. Right?

Feminina:

I THINK we do. Right? I mean, we wouldn’t keep playing if we didn’t. Probably.

Unless we’re just addicts. Grimly chasing the ‘enjoyment’ of the early days when this habit was all a big party, unable to make it through the day without a hit of discussion about narrative or character development even when it’s not about ‘fun’ as much as it is about ‘sanity’…

Naw. We like them. I’m pretty sure.

Butch:

I’m pretty sure, too. Pretty sure. One must remind one’s self that one likes the things one likes from time to time.

Usually when I’m sitting down to play/drink and it’s loud. Or I’m paying someone to do shit in Junior’s closet.

But on Sony blowing off E3 and doing little announcements instead…man, wouldn’t it be awesome if next time they did some shit all “Hey, tune into this little livestream….no biggie….couple of trailers and PS5!!!!!!”

We can dream.

Feminina:

Ooooh…that would be cool…

We can dream!

And we must like games, or we wouldn’t be dreaming. Right? I think this must be right.

Butch:

Either that or games are the only dreams we have left.

****sob****

I better go play.

Feminina:

Go play now. You’re depressing both of us.

Surely playing will help, because we like to play! Or…

Just go play.

Butch:

It did kinda help!

Did a lot of stuff.

Let’s see….

First, met a guy who wants orchids and feathers I guarantee I will never bring him. Arthur’s continued incredulousness over what people want collected is amusing. The hats. “Can I get you a hat?” Nice touch. And I have a thought: the game is mocking people who do collectibles in games. We’ve talked on how this is a linear game that seems to have shoved stuff in, right? It’s at its best when we’re not running around, right? Every single time we’ve gotten a collect the stuff bit Arthur has basically says “Who would want that crap?” Cigarette cards (“They pay for these?”), fish (“They hang these on the wall?”), dinosaur bones (“They want things this old?”) now orchids and feathers (“Just….”). Arthur isn’t just shaking his head at people in his world that want them. He’s shaking his head at players choosing to waste their time. At least, it’s meta enough to think that.

Ain’t getting no feathers.

Second, decided to go get moonshine SPECIFICALLY for the last line you mentioned. Did NOT expect the dude was building the electric chair, which really is a ghastly commentary on modernity, isn’t it? I’d love to talk about this last line but I can’t cuz the QUEST IS ENDLESS. Literally. I stole the shine, trekked all the up to get the bad guy, trekked up again cuz Roach died and I reloaded, got the guy, thought the speech about electricity was wonderfully ghastly (this game is complicated in the way it treats modernity), gave the guy away and now I HAVE NO ICON AS TO WHERE TO GO TO FINISH THE QUEST AND I’M SO MAD CUZ THAT TOOK FOREVER AND STILL NO BLOGGAGE.

So I calmed down by

Third, went to the show and SAW ENTICING KNICKERS so happy.

Fourth, got into a fight at a gallery, which was a very cool dovetail with the electric chair guy. On one hand, here’s the ghastly future of executions. On the other, here’s the rather wonderful future of art. I feel kinda awful I helped the professor. On the other hand, I’m rooting for the artist. And yet, both are a) flawed people and b) representations of the future.

Hmm.

Fifth, went to see Mary. Did all of that, including MORE ENTICING KNICKERS. Dude….RUN AWAY WITH MARY! NOW!

This was the last thing I did, and I’m still pondering in the overarching central metaphor. We’ve pretty much known that he’s marching towards inevitable doom, both of the gang’s way of life and the probable end of his own, and all the metaphor that entails. Here, the story gave him an off ramp. He COULD have gone. Really. His excuses were just that, excuses. Notably, they were loyalty to the gang, in other words, a loyalty to a metaphorical way of life. He’s clinging to his ways DESPITE THERE BEING SOMETHING BETTER HE COULD HAVE.

Once upon a time, my father in law (I keep mentioning family in this game) was in the Navy. He was successful, so successful he got offered a full scholarship to Annapolis, which is, of course, very prestigious. He turned it down, and, instead, went back to the dying, working class logging town in which he and his grandparents and his great grandparents were raised. It was a shithole, and a dying one at that (it has lost two thirds of its population in the last twenty years. Even its McDonalds is boarded up). Why did he do that? Why did he go back to a dying way of life when he had an off ramp? Well, his reason (I almost typed excuse): “My people were there.” Seriously. I often wonder if it was that, fear of something different, or both.

What I do know is he regrets that decision, the decision not to take that off ramp to Annapolis.

But people make that decision, not to take the off ramp to something better because of their people, or fear, or both, every day. And a lot of them get rewarded by watching their way of life die.

I watched that scene and was mentally screaming at Arthur “GO, YOU MORON, GO!!!!” But I wonder if that, once again, is my perspective living how I do. Maybe there were a lot of people who watched that and thought “Yeah, sad that he won’t be with Mary, but it’s true, you gotta stay with your people.”

Something to think on, anyway.

Feminina:

Ain’t gettin’ no feathers. And I like your take on it. Arthur is telling us we’re silly to fall for these collectible items! They’re ridiculous! Let’s all scorn to participate.

The moonshine quest IS kind of endless. It’s one of those things where you have to wait for a while before the next step comes up. But discussion fodder! Electricity, the wonder of the modern world…obviously must be used to kill people!

But the guy really means well, because he thinks it’s going to result in painless and humane executions, compared to hanging. So is he really trying to do something good? This is the future, all right…is it an improvement on the past, maybe, a little? Or is it just a modern, equally horrible take on something horrible? Arthur certainly seems pretty skeptical that it’s an improvement.

And here’s another thing that really struck me: Arthur is kind of a monster here. He’s intentionally taunting and tormenting that guy, trying to freak him out and make him miserable and terrified, and apparently just thinks it’s entertaining to make him cry. Why? That guy didn’t do anything in particular to him that dozens of other guys haven’t done before (that is, try to kill him to avoid capture). He’s not any worse a criminal than any others, as far as we can tell. He doesn’t represent some particularly awful brand of outrage, like he’s a known baby-murderer or something. Normally Arthur just lugs his bounties back to jail and dumps them–why does this one guy deserve to be regaled with awful details about all the horrible things that are going to happen to him?

I think it’s maybe just supposed to show US that Arthur doesn’t trust this newfangled invention, but it shows us that through him essentially torturing this random dude. I felt pretty gross about that whole bit. I felt like saying, Arthur, SHUT UP. Maybe it’s meant to indicate that newfangled inventions–and therefore modern civilization in general–make people cruel and nasty? “This is a cruel new thing, and it makes those complicit in its use turn cruel as well?”

On the other hand, this behavior isn’t completely unfamiliar from Arthur, so maybe “it turned him cruel” is inaccurate. Maybe it just reminds us how cruel he’s always had the capacity to be. He was pretty mean to Kieran for quite a while, and taunted him with threats of death and torment a few times. Maybe it’s just that, at least the way we’ve been playing it, all white-hat and helping people and not antagonizing the people in camp, I’d kind of forgotten what a jerk I thought he was, back near the beginning. Hm.

Enticing knickers!!!!! This reminds us that we do like games. And then you got to see the enticing knickers again with Mary! Good times. Did you try to put your arm around her? I did. Then looked sheepish and stopped when she gave me a stern glance.

And yeah, man…he should have gone with her. He could have! You really felt it, in that moment, that he could have just gone. Of course he didn’t because loyalty, and he’ll probably wind up dead because loyalty, but I believed Mary really wanted him to go with her, and that he did think about it for a couple of seconds.

And then of course he said “after this is done,” and she said “sure,” and you know that will never happen. Sigh.

And I’m sure you’re right, that there are people who watch that scene and feel that he did the right thing, that he DID have to stay with his people, and who knows? Loyalty is a thing. “My place is with my people” is a valid decision. It’s just interesting that even though he clearly does love Mary, she’s NOT one of his people. “My place is with my wife” would also be a very convincing argument, and yet the idea of it doesn’t override his sense of his duty to the gang. She’s an outsider (he doesn’t even attempt to suggest that she come back with him to the gang), and his duty lies with his group.

Still, it was nice that they got to see a show together and have one good evening to remember each other by.

Butch:

The taunting was out of character, but I don’t think it was making a point about Arthur so much as it was trying to get out of the corner they painted themselves into, narrativewise. They had to make the point that the professor isn’t just the kind, benevolent force he thinks he is (maybe), that it’s far more complicated than that. The quest couldn’t be “Hey! You made the electric chair! Way to go!” But they didn’t have a character who could do it besides Arthur. Who else could do that? That’s what happens when you send the player way out to nowhere. That’s not a defense of it; it’s sloppy writing. But I think that was it.

As for Mary…..

I agree he didn’t see her as one of his people, but he also didn’t want her to be BECAUSE HE LOVED HER. He was all “I’m an outlaw, and the people near me will be considered outlaws.” He WANTED her to stay an outsider. That would suggest that the gang isn’t the people he LOVES. He wants to keep his loves at arm’s length. When it comes to the gang? Loyalty for sure. He’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with them. But Mary? He’s of the opinion that the last place anyone he loves should be is with the gang.

Arthur doesn’t love the gang, but he stays with them anyway.

Hmm.

Feminina:

Hm…yeah. I agree, it did feel like the game wanted us to know that it wasn’t all “rah-rah the electric chair is awesome!” So, yeah, maybe just awkward writing, that Arthur had to be the one to get this message across, and had to do it by being a jerk to a prisoner.

He was being a serious jerk, though. LEAVE THE MAN ALONE ARTHUR. I mean, he could have expressed these doubts to the inventor, that would have been easy enough to write. “Hey, are you sure this is a good idea? I’ve seen cows struck by lightning” etc. etc. Let the scientist argue for his idea! “Oh no, it’s going to be great because I carefully target the nerves” or whatever. We could still have gotten all the same points.

But no, we have to hand over this poor criminal, whimpering in terror, to a probable grisly and nightmarish death. I think it’s partly we’re meant to feel kind of bad about participating in the whole thing. And maybe “I feel bad about myself for being such a terrible person” is a fair approach to that.

And Mary, yeah, I can see that too. He doesn’t want the woman he loves to get mixed up with the gang. I don’t know that I’d agree he doesn’t love the gang, though. I mean, obviously not every individual person in it, but he loves Dutch and Hosea, and I think he loves the core idea of the gang and its principles of freedom and so forth. He loves it, I think, the way other people love their country. It’s his home, his identity, part of who he is. You can’t give that up just for romance! At least, some people can’t. He can’t.

Butch:

Yeah, it was clumsy writing. Though maybe someone SO fell in love with that conversation happening in a lightning storm they put up with the clumsy writing.

Whoa, I agree about the love of the ideals, that I do. But you think he loves Dutch? I think he feels he owes Dutch because of all Dutch did for him, but love? I’m not sure he even likes Dutch, or, at the very least, he hasn’t thought it through. He thinks Dutch just is, and him being with Dutch just is. Him thinking about if he likes Dutch is like thinking if you like the sun coming up in the east instead of the south west. The sun just is. We certainly haven’t seen any emotion from Arthur re the gang like we saw with Mary.

This day’s bloggage turned around! It’s like I played.

Feminina:

My conversation with that dude didn’t even happen during a lightning storm! No excuses. Lazy writing, or it’s supposed to remind us that Arthur is kind of a jerk. Which he does keep telling all the people who say “you’re a good man”! “No I’m not,” he always says. Maybe he’s right.

But dude, you think all this “you’re like a son to me” and their shared history and the fact that Dutch practically raised him, that’s all nothing? See, I think Arthur does love Dutch, the way people love the (sometimes terribly) flawed people who raise them. It’s not a logical thing, and yes, logically he can see (and is more and more coming to see) that Dutch is a deeply flawed human, but emotions famously do not answer to logic. Dutch and Hosea took him in when he was a kid and took care of him and gave him home and family. I think of course he loves them.

Butch:

Dude, really? I thought for sure it was staged. Like, right at some point where he says something particularly nasty, there was a pause and a lightning bolt struck right in the middle of the sky. I remember thinking “Nice touch. Little cheesy, but nice touch.” That was dumb luck?

Re: love. Hmm. I’ll give you that. But not like he loves Mary.

 

Life: The Soul-Crusher

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers

Butch:

I got nothing. I have a crushed soul. That’s what I have.

Yesterday involved utter family chaos, homework until 830 (which, of course, he needs “help” with), ridiculous family politics and exactly no games. Yesterday was miserable.

I got nothing. But I’m gonna play this morning cuz fuck it.

Feminina:

Dude. Sympathies on the crushed soul. Sometimes life is just like that. Everyone gets needy all at the same time.

Play. Because remember the rules: it’s important to secure your own sanity before assisting others with their sanity crises! Or if not before, at least contemporaneous to. The calm, patient inner parent needs some you-time.

My soul is surprisingly uncrushed considering I just came back from the RMV–again. Remembered my glasses, passed the eye exam, and will receive a new ID with a brand new awkward photo of me in the mail in 6 to 8 weeks. Ha. I think actually she said about a week. But whatever.

I always get paranoid that I’m going to blink in those, so instead I open my eyes extra big while simultaneously trying not to bug them out, and they say “smile if you want to” and I think it’ll look weird if I intentionally make a stern face, but I don’t want to grin like I’m having a great time because that will just be inappropriate if I’m pulled over for reckless driving or something, so I end up with a wide-eyed, intense stare and an awkward half smile like I don’t know how faces work and am possibly an alien in an unconvincing human disguise. But I guess that’s pretty much standard for ID photos, so I can’t really complain.

Fucking faces! How do they work?

Go play. You need it. YOUR FAMILY NEEDS IT, because they need you to stay sane.

Do it for your family.

Butch:

Dear god, don’t they just all need attention at the same time? Usually right around the time I’m sitting down to play and/or drink.

Yes. Yes, the parent does need time. Yes. Which it will be unlikely to get tomorrow and the next day, what being the weekend, and you know how that shit goes. I’m hoping that this one will be a little smoother, as Junior has play practice all damn day tomorrow, but we’ll see.

And no, you can’t complain. If the concern you have is wide eyed, intense stare (which is kinda what you had when your emails came accompanied by a random photo of you) and not reminding yourself that you aged fifty-two years in the ten since your last photo, you’re winning at the game of life.

“Fucking faces! How do they work?”

Weird, but strangely awesome T SHIRT.

You must’ve been at the RMV. Not even noon and you’re swearing.

I think I shall play. After the dude who’s installing Junior’s closet thing leaves. Always feel awkward playing when someone’s around. Plus, he might interrupt me.

Feminina:

If only you could just tell them, “one crisis at a time, please! You–stifle your emotional issues for now, your brother’s already booked for this slot!”

Instead, on the contrary, a lot of times they seem to feed on each other. “He’s upset about something? SO AM I!!!!!”

That is actually kind of a good T shirt. It’s also probably about the only time I will ever make an Insane Clown Posse reference, so that’s notable.

Definitely play after the guy leaves.

Butch:

Dude, you have no idea how hard I try. “Look, I will talk to you when I’m finished helping your brother with his homework and don’t touch that and ok, I’ll help you brush your teeth and yes, that’s very nice you want to read but I’m busy right now with…something, shit, I forgot….oh right, homework, no, don’t get mad that I forgot about you…..”

It’s usually more “Oh you think HIS shit is important? Well, what if I break THIS?” “Oh, yeah? What if I throw THIS?” “Oh yeah? What if I pee all over THIS????”

Dude, I didn’t even catch that. You’re swearing and dropping ICP references before lunch. What did they do to you at the RMV?????

The guy is gone. On it.

Sweet Bureaucracy

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for plot points in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Ok, met Bronte, got Jack back, went to a party, read a letter from Mary.

First, gameplay note I gotta get out of the way.

That shootout in the graveyard was cool, I’ll give it that. The fog, the tight spaces, the maze, even the red dots disappearing on the minimap. Great stuff! Too bad it had no point in the narrative. It was like some developer came up with it and everyone was all “Cool! But…uh…where do we put it?” I guess they needed something other than Dutch strolling in all “Can we have Jack back?” and having Bronte go “Yeah, sure, no biggie.” But still. It seemed tacked on. Cool, though.

Ok, back to themes.

When you said that I might not like how Bronte was portrayed, I was kinda expecting a greasy mustache, a comical accent, sitting at a table eating, kinda like Mr. Piscetti on Curious George (as an aside, in this era of wokeness, how in the exact fuck is that allowed to be on TV? On PBS Kids no less! I digress). While I haven’t gotten to know him all that much, I’m not offended…yet. It certainly isn’t as bad as the portrayal of Strauss. That said, it’s early in his story arc.

I kinda get why they need to have him, though. This game, as we have said numerous times, is about the end of a classic way of life. Certainly, a force that causes way of life changes is immigration and demographic changes. Such things are complex. Some people (like us) welcome them, some people, well, don’t. Given this game is an allegory for the present, it would be quite the oversight if it didn’t go there on immigration. One of the big foreign “scary” bugbears of immigration at the time was, in fact, Italians, so it makes some historical sense (my own family came from Italy not long after the events of this game, in the early 1920s). Strauss seems gratuitous. This makes historical, narrative and allegorical sense. I’m curious to see where it goes.

The party was, once again, pretty great. Another thing on the list of things games should have is the hero singing badly and not knowing the words.

But the reprise of Dutch’s speech was the highlight. Did you listen to his speech? Cuz I have thoughts on that.

I also have a feverish Junior at home, so the thoughts might take a while. But I have thoughts.

Feminina:

I didn’t hear Dutch’s speech! I was mingling, listening to other people, must have missed it. Damn. Good party, though.

And yeah, the graveyard was interesting but seemed a bit superfluous (did you see that ghostly-looking woman who kept running by? I couldn’t figure out what, if anything, she was up to. Maybe she was actually just a ghost).

And no, Bronte isn’t a cartoon caricature. As I said, he has layers.

I’m in line at the RMV. Shivering, can’t write well or form useful thoughts. Send provisions.

Butch:

Shivering? Shit, you’re not getting this fevery thing Junior has, are you?

Ok, remember the “we’re gonna make it! Have faith!” speech Dutch gave early on in the game to much cheering? Well, this was almost word for word the same speech, only he was talking about leaving the country entirely to go to Tahiti and Fiji. Seriously. But it was more the way it was delivered. Unlike the upbeat message he had in the first place, this was hoarse, raspy and desperate. Instead of the daytime, here he was, in the dark, at a fire, saying the same things to drunken, tired, spent people in a desperate “please…please listen…” voice. As he was speaking (I have no idea if this was just coincidence, but it was awesome either way), thunderclouds gathered in the distance and a storm started to roll in.

It was cool. And, really, a metaphor for the way that people who’s way of life is in danger get desperate. People start thinking that if they, or their leaders, just yell a lot louder, get more irrational, things will be ok.

Nice stuff. And the fact it was missable made it that much better. He didn’t call everyone around like last time. He was missable.

Don’t get sick. And, by the way, you don’t drive. Why are you there?

Feminina:

I DON’T drive, much, but I CAN. And I figure I might as well continue to be able to do it legally.

I was only shivering because I was waiting outside in the cold. No worries. And I was only waiting outside because they don’t open until 9:00 but I got there an hour early because that’s when I get into Boston, and obviously people were already in line, so whatever, I joined them. And I was only there because it’s the happy year where my driver’s license expires but I renewed it online last time so this time I have to go in person. And I only have to go back and do it all over again next week because…I forgot…my…freaking…glasses. Siiiiiigh.

Got all my documents! Yes sir! But left the damn glasses on the shelf by the door. And I cannot even squint my way through the eye exam without them anymore. Siiiiiigh.

On the plus side, it’s spring out there! Cold but the sun is shining! There are worse times to wait in line for an hour outside the RMV to absolutely no purpose. Bright side.

And yeah, I do remember that speech now–I was thinking you meant he gave a speech at Bronte’s party.

All right, getting off the train.

Butch:

Wait you need the glasses to take the test? What’s with that? Squint, fail, get the restriction on your license, move on. That’s how I remember it.

Well, on the other bright side, it delays the inevitable where you get to compare the picture of you today to the picture of you ten years ago oh who am I kidding you look exactly the same.

Let’s just say I don’t look exactly the same.

Feminina:

I don’t know, she said I had to be able to pass the test (with glasses if not without). Otherwise, they don’t know my glasses are actually good enough that I can see to drive with them, do they? Maybe it’s a 15-year-old prescription! Maybe I don’t even OWN glasses, for all they know. Actually, she said I had to come back with glasses or with a doctor’s note that said I can pass the test while wearing glasses. So I guess I could get my doctor to say that yes, I could pass the test with glasses, and STILL not actually own any. Hm.

Maybe you have to squint, fail, then look again with glasses so that they can put the restriction on your license? I don’t know, man. I only know I spent one hour of real time standing in line and have nothing to show for it. Not even a concluded quest! Siiiiiiigh.

I need to get an extra pair of glasses that can just stay in my bag at all times so I don’t have to remember to bring them places. I already have my work glasses (on my desk) and my home glasses (on the shelf), but that is clearly not enough. To the internet, home of cheap (in every sense) spectacles (in every sense)!

And to get back on topic–it is a very nice parallel, with Dutch’s meant-to-be-rousing speech that, this time, is not going over nearly as well (even with himself, it seems). As you say, the darkness, everyone huddled and miserable and half of them not even listening, Dutch all hoarse and desperate. Originally this speech was about hope and optimism!–now it’s just trying to stave off despair by sheer force of will.

One can’t help but have a bad feeling about the future. I mean, we’ve been assuming since we started the game that they’re all doomed, but here we’re really beginning to see it unraveling in earnest.

Butch:

White hot rage, that. At least you weren’t carrying a tied up dude.

That’s very organized of you. I just have the regular glasses and the sunglasses. That’s usually fine, unless I forget about sunset. That tends to become an issue.

Oh they’re totally doomed. Every way of life is, eventually. I’m not saying that as (necessarily) a bad thing. Progress only comes through change. I certainly prefer today, as fucked up as it is, to the whole Americana ideal. Shit, just twenty years ago we never would have AOC in Congress. Fifty years ago homosexuality was illegal in some places. Fifty two years ago, so was interracial marriage. One can only hope things will get better and that means the demise of some people’s way of life.

Though “the gang is doomed” isn’t really what Dutch is afraid of. Dutch is really afraid that the gang’s lot isn’t going to improve like everyone else’s lot. He isn’t dreaming of the same life. He’s dreaming of Fiji for fuck’s sake. At least, he is now. Maybe that means he knows that they’re doomed in terms of finding freedom on the plains and is grasping at ways not to be totally doomed. It does seem like a rather irrational grasp. Fiji? I mean, c’mon.

Feminina:

Yeah, this tropical getaway seems like a frantic grab at something that sounded good when someone mentioned it in passing one time, and now he’s pinning all his hopes on it because he doesn’t have anything better.

Which is pretty grim, and everyone seems to know it. People are pretty skeptical: “Tahiti? really?” and you get the sense that they’re mostly going along with it because they don’t have anything better either.

Desperate people following a desperate leader, all grasping at straws. Yes, this has all the signs of something that’s bound to turn out great. Ha.

Butch:

It also resonates in the present. Wish it didn’t.

It’s kinda amazing that that was so missable. This game has no problem making it so you don’t catch stuff. I can’t decide if that’s cool or pretentious or both.

Feminina:

Make America Tahiti Again! Everything’s going to be great.

So, so, so great.

We’re doomed, aren’t we? Yes. Yes we are.

Speaking of how every way of life comes to an end.

Re: pretentious or cool…hm. Yeah. A bit of both, maybe. I mean, it’s kind of cool that they don’t care about making sure you get all these points they’re putting in there. “We’re going to throw in a lot of moody, themey, narratively interesting stuff, and if you don’t care about it, or just aren’t paying attention, that’s fine–you can ignore it!”

On the other hand, it feels a bit like making Easter eggs out of story points, and hey, I don’t care about missing Easter eggs but I don’t WANT to miss story points.

On yet a third hand, we also should probably give Rockstar some credit for knowing how to design a game, and consider that it’s possible that moment wasn’t as completely missable as it seemed. Maybe Dutch would have just stood there giving that speech for days until we went close enough to pay attention to it. Maybe he would have eventually tracked us down and said “hey, Arthur, here’s my plan!” and recited it then. Certainly the casualness of some of these interactions is less happenstance than it feels.

On a fourth hand (I guess–I should probably just drop the hands at this point), we know that Arthur can go through life ‘antagonizing’ everyone he meets and presumably then you just play the game as a jerk, so maybe you can also play the game as an oblivious dude who never talks to or pays attention to anyone unless forced into it by a cutscene.

I don’t know. I’m certainly not playing it again to see whether or not I can actually ignore all the conversations.

Butch:

Oh lord, me neither. I barely have the time to play it once.

But right! That’s my issue with it. Yes, realism, but being SO realistic that you screw up your own narrative is just show offy game design, not good game design. I think, anyway.

Well, he did rather randomly come up to Arthur and said, like “Fiji! Tahiti! It’s gonna happen!” and, as this was before the speech, this made me say “Dude, you are DRUNK.” Made more sense with the speech. Sorta.

Feminina:

There is also that option, when people come up to you and start talking about non-mission-but-character stuff, to be all dismissive: circle for “not now.” I never do that, because I’m polite and also interested in what people have to say, but again, if you’re playing it as a guy who doesn’t give a damn about anyone, that certainly fits.

So, again…I guess it’s cool that if you’re a player who’s into playing the guy who doesn’t care, you can ignore all that stuff! And Dutch’ll still tell you “Tahiti is going to be great!”

Butch:

It is an interesting approach to narrative. I suppose on that is unique to games, at that.

Feminina:

“We’ll make sure you know enough to follow the story, but it’s up to you how much you want to flesh it out.”

Hm. Again, if you’re someone who’s really just playing for the combat and the stagecoach robberies, or whatever, this could be great for you. Why should you have to sit through a bunch of dialogue you don’t care about? Maybe it’s another approach to that sort of customization of games that we discussed with, say, the ability to set different difficulty levels for different types of challenges in RotTR.

We’d rather there be story people can skip than no story. WE don’t have to skip it. I think maybe it just makes us nervous because we’re not sure we’ll get everything if it isn’t plopped right in front of us. I know I am!

But…maybe it’s not all bad. Maybe they would have just left out some of this stuff because they didn’t want to risk annoying the combat people, but this way they could put it all in. Maybe risking missing something is just the price story people like us have to pay to have story at all.

Hm.

Butch:

It’s just more proof the “rules” of game narrative are still being written.

And we bloggers are happier for it.

Fairness Don’t Enter Into It

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Spoilers for Tilly quest in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

So today’s topic: Is it fair to direct white hot rage at a game when, really, the rage stems from the fact that you just suck at something the game has made you practice a million times?

So yesterday, decided to go find 100 gallons of moonshine cuz you told me it was interesting. Took the train to Rhodes, talked to the guy. Noticed strangers, and found two convicts, Black and White. Did you find them? I did. Took down their posters, burned them, I have a feeling I’ll see them again. We’ll talk then.

Then I realized I was closer to camp than usual so I put the shine on the back burner and went to talk to Mary Beth. Of course, that quest was also a switcheroo, and instead of continuing the vaguely flirty conversation with Mary Beth (who I like!) off I went to save Tilly.

Grimshaw’s a badass! I want to know where that scar comes from. The fact that Arthur mentioned she, too, had been “involved with kidnapping.” I want to know more!

Anyway, everything was going swimmingly until (you probably guessed by now) I had to lasso the guy.

I really, really suck at lassoing guys.

I chased that dude…..I don’t even know. Far. Very, very, VEEEERRRRRY far.

By the time I finally got the guy, I was so far away from anywhere that it took me twenty five minutes of real time to get him back to where he was supposed to be. Twenty five minutes. Of course, there were no horses to be found, as Grimshaw was all “Well, shit, if he’s going to run to another state on foot, then he’ll never come back here,” and, of course, my stamina kept running out as I was carrying a dude across a whole fucking STATE, so it took twenty five damn minutes of real time. Did I mention it took twenty five minutes of real time?

Ergo the rage.

Now, I can hear the game saying to us “Guys. Seriously. Guys. It is not my fault that, despite being such awesome game bloggers, you’re morons. Please do not be mad at me because you are morons.” And really, the game is right, right? The game has taught me to lasso. The game has made me practice lassoing multiple times. Really, it’s not a bad mechanic. It’s not mushy, it’s not unfair, it’s not even, objectively, all that difficult. I just suck at it. This isn’t some hard, weird, icky mechanic they just plopped in this quest and expected me to do. Some games do that. This isn’t that. This is just that I suck at it.

And ordinarily I would have this post be about how I’m terrible at stuff sometimes and sometimes you just don’t have your hands and silly me but ‘the fact that this is not the first, nor the second time that we’ve gotten white hot rage at this game for something that isn’t, objectively, the game’s fault.

And while each of these instances could, maybe should, be blamed on us, it’s so weird that one game has so many such instances that I’m starting to get suspect that maybe it’s the game. It’s like when your kid “accidentally” does stupid shit all weekend, you start thinking “Ok, first time, accident. Second time, ok, but twenty eighth time maybe it’s time to say ‘Kid?'”

But it’s frustrating because I genuinely can’t find anything that the game really IS doing wrong. I can’t find proof it broke that toy on purpose. Or that toy. Or my coffee cup. But man….

You know what I mean?

Feminina:

Point: Grimshawe is SUCH a badass. I kind of love her. She takes no nonsense, that’s for sure. This bit was also an interesting take on ‘belonging,’ kind of at the edge of that’s-not-right with the “she belongs to ME” given we’re talking about a black woman not that long after the end of slavery. But in context not completely offensive because it was clearly meant as belonging in a family sense rather than a property sense? And there was the idea that maybe this ownership language was all that these men would really listen to, as if their own ideas of relationships have been warped by a long history of being viewed as property so that’s the only way they can look at someone they–in a twisted way–actually value?

I don’t know. It felt awkward to me, but maybe not a complete mess. And damn, was Grimshawe a stone-cold badass.

That out of the way, second point: the chasing and lassoing was a drag. It was. It wasn’t quite as much a drag for me, in that I probably only spent 10 minutes of real time hauling the dude back to the house after Grimshawe decided to stop following me because I was going to wind up halfway across the state. So I was filled with mild annoyance rather than white-hot rage. But it was enough that I do feel you on the white-hot rage, for sure.

And you’re right, lassoing is not, objectively, a terrible mechanic. There’s no reason it should be that awful. And yet, it’s always annoying and kind of awful, and I always miss several times, and frequently even once I catch something I hit the wrong button and let it go by mistake and have to start over. It’s annoying.

And winding up on the other side of the state with no horse and having to walk all the way back, THAT is maddening. That is exactly where I rage-quit after that bounty so many ages ago! Facing the fact that I was going to have to spend 25 minutes of real time hauling a (in my case dead) dude cross-country! I’m actually kind of impressed that you did it instead of just rage-quitting.

And as you say, is it FAIR to blame the game for this? I don’t know! But it’s certainly understandable to feel a mite BITTER towards the game. That I will say. And it does seem like there have been an awful lot of these not-the-game’s-fault bitterness-inducing incidents, doesn’t it? And yeah, it does make one wonder if there’s a pattern there, and whether the pattern can REALLY be entirely explained by us being morons (which I won’t argue!), or if maybe, somehow, in some inexplicable and subtle way, it’s the game’s damn fault after all.

I’m right there with you, man. Right there.

Butch:

Hmm. I didn’t even register that implication. I, too, found it more about family, and where you belong, but I can see the read on that. I guess we’re supposed to see it in parallel with Jack’s kidnapping, in that Jack belongs to Abigail, but that would reduce Tilly to the level of a child, which isn’t much better.

Hmm.

It is, but I can hear the game saying “Guys. Seriously. This is not that hard. It’s really, really similar to shooting and you do that all the damn time.” Also, the game is saying “Dudes. If I didn’t have something a little different, you’d be all over your blog all ‘every mission is the damn same.'” The game is also saying “Dudes. I taught you this.” And saying “Seriously, you really can’t complain that anything in me is hard. I am an easy game. This ain’t Dark souls, people. Git gud.”

And the game is right on all counts! It is! And yet, I can’t get the hang of it and it annoys me.

Dude, yellow mission. Had to do it eventually. There was no reason to believe that had I rage quit without saving that tonight I’d be looking at an even longer way to trudge. A bounty? Sure. Quit. Ignore it later. This? One does not rage quit in main story missions.

But the thing is, I’m actively trying to find reasons to blame the game for all of these incidents, and I just plain can’t. We both are very, very good at finding things wrong with games. We are goddam master PhD elite ninjas at finding things wrong with games. If there are things wrong with games, we’re gonna find them. And here, I’m desperately trying to use all these well honed skills to find something wrong here and I can’t. Shit, every time I try to find a way to blame the game for everything, I wind up finding reasons it’s NOT the game’s fault.

While I am willing to admit that maybe hand holdy games, my age and my general level of soul crushing real life has eroded my skills at playing games, ain’t nothing has eroded my skills at criticizing games, which means maybe this is all my fault.

Even feeling bitter isn’t fair! You shouldn’t feel bitter towards something if it is blameless.

Feminina:

I didn’t say it was fair, I just said it was understandable. The heart knows not the language of logic! And the heart is really damn annoyed sometimes.

But you’re right, this is not, objectively, a hard game. There aren’t that many fights, the fights there are are generally not that tough, you’re not ambushed on the road that often and when you are, if you die they take some money and don’t bother you again, there aren’t a lot of tricky QTEs or weird mechanics quirks. It’s not a hard game. It just…finds ways to be annoying.

And you would have no reason to know this since you actually caught him eventually, but the first time I chased the dude I LOST him and failed the mission, and all that happened was that I reloaded at the beginning of the chase. So that’s probably the checkpoint you would have reloaded at if you’d rage-quit, and it was annoying to do the chase again, but perhaps not that much more annoying than spending 25 minutes of real time walking across the state.

Uh…I mean, that would have been WAY more annoying, so good thing you persevered! Not trying to rub salt in the wounds here. Ahem.

Oh, and speaking of way back when, when we were talking about the slave catcher and whether or not it was Arthur’s place to decide whether he lived or died–how about that decision at the end of this mission, of whether to kill…that dude (the gang had a name, but I can’t remember it) or not?

I didn’t kill him. Tilly said she didn’t want him dead, so I didn’t kill him. Grimshawe also had a solid argument that it was probably safer to kill him! But Tilly was the most-wronged person there, so I figured it was her call. I don’t know if that will come back to haunt me or not. It hasn’t yet, but there’s game still to go. I may still live to regret it.

You?

Butch:

You’re getting curmudgeonly in your old age. It’s like you had kids or bought a house or something.

Does it find ways to annoy, though? Or it is us?

I mean, it’s EASY. Even TR and UC and games like that have bigger, badder more frustrating fights. “Reaper Moment” is from one of our favorite franchises. This game is a damn cakewalk. Even the end chapter fights, there isn’t much dying. I think that’s why the damn bounty from hell was so damn weird.

And I dunno, man. I’m always wary of relying on “checkpoints.” I’m fearful that those are more “Look, dude, we’ll cut you a break and not make you do the whole thing again, but we’re not actually SAVING in the sense of, you know, saving the game. So don’t rage quit, m’kay?”

Maybe I’m wrong, but why risk it?

I, too, let the guy live, but I was rather surprised at being given the choice. This game is odd in when it does that. Like, you also had to affirmatively choose (or not) to take the monk’s mission to free the slaves, which, of course, led to the Mrs. Downes bit in a later mission. You could choose to burn the wanted posters for Black and White, or not (I think not meant take them in yourself), and you wouldn’t have gotten the mission hey wait.

I think the pattern is the game lets you choose when there’s a LATER mission that will either happen or not based on your choice. I think. I haven’t met a mission that came after the “rescue Mary’s brother” (yet) which was the first accept/decline mission, but the other accept/decline mission have (so far) had sequels.

But on the slaver….

It’s true you didn’t have an explicit choice, but you kinda did. Remember I looked it up and it said if you had just shot him you got honor? So that was more than the idea that you could, theoretically shoot anyone just for the fun of it. It had in game effects (albeit small ones).

Feminina:

Good point about the odd places where you have choices…and the potential sequels. Hm. Something to watch for.

Some Bad News and Some Different Bad News

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Spoilers for Saint Denis encounters in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

I’m also starting to see why you’re so far ahead of me, and I’m jealous. It’s weekends. It has to be. Cuz you’re SO FAR ahead of me. Your weekends must be so, so great. Looking ahead at my nightmarish one coming up… I’ll try not to hate you. I like you too much to hate you.

T SHIRT!!!!!

I played a little. Indeed, I said “I shall charge ahead with the main quest, meet this Italian dude.” So I did! Or I thought I was! I met some kids, ran around an alley, met them again, as one does, they told me about the mansion, ok, great. That’s it. That didn’t do much. And now, NOW Femmy, the truth of your weekends becomes clear as I have a) a main Dutch quest, b) a Mary Beth quest back in camp (also main, more on that in a second), and c) three, count ’em THREE stranger quests in St. Denis.

I was supposed to be making progress!!!!!!

And you’ve done them all, haven’t you? You have. Five. You’re at least FIVE DAMN QUESTS ahead of me. Probably more. Probably a lot more.

And what’s so sad…I did this last night. And my first thought, my ONLY thought when I saw those quests wasn’t even about the game at all. My thought was, I am not making this up, “Femmy’s weekends are so much better than mine……”

That’s what it’s come to.

But I will throw some bloggage out there, and it has to do with the Mary Beth quest I just got and haven’t done.

It reminded me that I haven’t been back to camp in forever. Now, back in chapter three, I was getting sorta annoyed at how often I had to schlep back to camp. I felt I was spending a lot of time and a lot of oatcakes going to and from camp. I was slightly irked. But now, I haven’t been there in a while and, yes, I’m not riding around all the time, but I also have lost some of the narrative momentum re: my camp mates. I haven’t talked to anyone, played cards, gone fishing, robbed dudes, anything. While I don’t miss the schlepping, I miss that. It’s a pacing mistake, but I’m not sure how they could fix it.

Hmm.

Feminina:

I am sorry. Very, very sorry. I wish I could help make your weekends more awesome, like mine.

Because…man, I didn’t actually play that much lately, maybe a couple of hours, but dude, I’m now in chapter 6. SIX. So much for my theory that maybe it ended in 5 because 5 is a nice round number.

I got so disturbed by the idea that there might be unlimited numbers of chapters still ahead that I actually looked it up, and apparently there are 8 altogether.

Siiiiigh. It just goes on and on, man.

So yes, I have done all the missions you have right now. And I have done a bunch more after that. And then some more on the side. I have done things, and gone places, and witnessed events, such as you cannot yet imagine. And apparently I still have not-quite-three chapters’ worth of them to do. There’s good bloggage here, there is, there’s stuff about which we can talk later, but I’m getting a bit weary.

Which I suppose is in character! Maybe it’s all part of the immersive nature of the game experience!

Also, Mr. O’ signed up for HBO Go and has started watching Deadwood, and it is weirdly disorienting to me. I keep thinking I should be on the controller. And then the other thing I think is “not more of THIS!”

I’m not really in the mood for Deadwood. Although even in the 15 minutes I’ve idly observed, I’ve seen more nudity than in the 400 hours of this game so far, so…there’s that. Thanks, HBO! We can always count on you. (Does this game actually have a clock? 400 hours is obviously an exaggeration, but it’s got to be at least 30 or 40 by now. Hm…the internet says no, it doesn’t track playing time. Perhaps for the best.)

So. I agree, the pacing gets a bit awkward at times, when you’re far away across the map and have to talk to people in camp. I’ve been thinking what an odd little version of fast travel we have here…so limited. I guess it kind of strengthens the sense of camp as your home base, and everything kind of coming back to/revolving around that social center. You can fast travel AWAY, which supports the sense of it as a hub, but then it can be a long slog to get back. Which says something, perhaps, but I’m not sure what. It’s easy to leave home, but not easy to come back? Home will always be waiting, but you might have to fight to get there? You always ride out refreshed and full of energy, but the homeward trip is harder because you’re worn down and running low on canned peas? Hm.

Anyway, I find that I never use it. And having to trudge back to camp to talk to people does mean that sometimes you’ve got these slow bits where all you do is ride. Maybe the idea is that you’ll take the opportunity to look at the passing landscape and find some rock paintings or dinosaur bones or dismembered victims of serial killers, but in practice this does not happen. For me, anyway.

I HAVE actually sometimes seen some nice flat rock faces and thought “that looks like a place there could be a painting!” and then I stare at it for a while and see nothing and ride off. Much like your experience with the ground that looked like a good place for dinosaur bones. Because really, what the hell does Arthur, or either of us, know about looking for bones or paintings?

Meh.

Butch:

SIX? This is not making me feel better about my weekends.

How the hell are you DOING this?

We’ll go with “the immersive nature of the game experience”. And I’ll speed up. Slow down a little. Pace yourself. You’re overplaying. Ergo the weary. Do something else, like, I dunno, deal with deafening fighting all weekend long, or, even better, keep your head on a swivel, look and listen like a damn gopher listening for wolves for snippets of a few words that will start a fight and be ready to pounce on them. Do this non stop for fifty hours or so.

I can relate to weary. I so can.

No clock is for the best, indeed.

Yeah, I got that disoriented watching Westworld, what with the cowboys. That, too, had lots of nudity. First shot of the show! So yeah, way to go HBO. But I gotta say, we’re so into finding holes in narratives it’s kinda ruined TV. We would have decimated that show. Plot holes so big you could drive a bus through them. And they say that’s GOOD TV narrative!

Stick to games.

See? Weary as you may be, it could be oh so much worse. SO MUCH WORSE.

Maybe the idea is that you’ll find stuff, but yeah, I’m totally over the magpie. Very over it. From now on, head down, to the missions. Shit, are the stranger missions good? Worth doing for the bloggage?

Meh, indeed. I wasn’t really looking for anything anyway. I’ve never been into that. Collectibles was always more a you thing.

I’ll catch up. Just play slower. You’ll get a second wind when I can talk about it in more depth and detail. Like, later in the week. Maybe I’ll play before the kids get home.

That’s all you need to know about my weekends: Being Arthur makes me feel LESS weary.

Feminina:

There is some bloggage in the stranger missions. There is. At least in two of them, I can’t remember the other one. Oh, wait, I do remember that one. So yeah, him too.

I would like to be able to say they were meaningless trifles with no deeper theme and that you could skip them without missing anything, but…yeah, there was some stuff in there. Especially one of them, good lord.

I’m sorry. You should probably do them.

But no dinosaur bones or serial killers or rock paintings or perfect taxidermied squirrels. Even Albert Mason the wildlife photographer–I did all of his stuff, and the payoff was extremely minor. Unless he turns up again unexpectedly with some big revelation, it was really nothing. He said “thanks for all the help, I’m going home!” or something and that was the last I saw of him. No particular themes other than what we’ve already talked about, how he’s trying to capture images of an exotic wilderness for the folks back in civilization or whatever. And we’ve already talked about that!

Butch:

Oh fuck that guy. He had his chance a bunch of times when I was out that way. I tried. He blew it.

I’m gonna play cuz I’m weary. Though fit! TV is a good motivator to use the treadmill. I’m watching GLOW on netflix, which is surprisingly good. You’d like it.

But as I was changing after fitness, I started thinking, blogwise:

You know, we’ve been at this game for two and a half months, which sounds like a long time until you realize that at this time last year we were smack in the middle of Divinity, a game I played for 80 hours that we didn’t finish until, by my count, last week of May, first week of June. Eight chapters aside, we’ll finish this way before that. But, more importantly, we didn’t really get weary of that game. We certainly weren’t weary of it after two and a half months.

So what’s with this shit? Yes, you had your issues. But the game is GOOD. We’re talking the shit out of it! It’s not that it’s lousy. You can’t say it’s the worst game ever or anything. It’s not even the most depressing game we’ve ever played. And yet….there is some weariness, even on my part.

So I wonder what gives. What is it about the design of this game that is leading to the weary? If it’s not quality or depression or lack of bloggage or even length (see Divinity being longer), what?

That’s a pretty good blog question for a weary day.

[Later]

Whoa. Yeah. Hmm.

So met a French guy who I drank with, and he gave me a sketch of nudity. Art doesn’t matter. Women matter. Not sure what to make of him.

Met a dude who wants 100 gallons of moonshine. He’ll have to wait.

And then….freed some slaves. That was…hmm. Then met him again and, well, found a crucifix. And Mrs. Worley.

That I did not expect. Nope.

That had some shit, didn’t it. Arthur doing the right thing, the monk believing in him, the nun, at the end, all “we were right about you,” freeing the slaves only to meet a woman that he, essentially, doomed to another kind of slavery, him saying Dutch was the best man he knew to a monk….

Whoa.

Also really went to the moral complexity and moral ambiguity about playing games in the first place.

I gotta digest.

Feminina:

Right? There are some themes in those stranger quests.

And some (vague, artistic) nudity.

Art doesn’t matter! Get out and live, that’s what matters!

And yeah, lots there about what makes a ‘good man.’ Helping others? Apparently? Even if you also hurt others a lot of the time, though? And it’s very interesting that Arthur genuinely thinks of Dutch as a good man. Like, the Best Man. Not a charismatic guy with big ideas trying to do his best, not a guy with some issues but decent at heart, not a guy who’s been like a father to Arthur…the best man I know.

Hm. We could dismissively say that probably doesn’t mean much because Arthur doesn’t know very many good men, which is almost certainly true, but…he still thinks of Dutch as actively a good man. Apparently. Which is not really the impression I personally have of Dutch.

So either Arthur knows Dutch better than we do–which is true, he does–or Arthur is too close to Dutch to see him clearly–which is probably also true. Maybe Dutch is better than we think, but not as good as Arthur thinks.

And that moonshine guy…dude. That guy. We’ll talk later.

It’s also a very good question why this game makes us weary in a way other games don’t seem to have, even though it is not, objectively, a bad game, or a boring game, or even the most crushingly depressing game we’ve ever played. I don’t know. I mean, if it were just me I’d say it’s a combination of early frustrations (not, as we’ve established, entirely the game’s fault but still a hurdle to overcome) and of just not particularly liking the Wild West as a setting and having limited patience for it, but that doesn’t explain why you’re weary too. Hm.

Oh, and you mean Mrs. Downes? Yeah, running into her was kind of a kick in the teeth.

“Oh, hi…uh…sorry about…this…” And then she reasonably wants nothing to do with you and you have to sneak around waiting for the cops to stop searching, which with the narrow alleys and stuff really made me think of Mafia 3. The whole setting of Saint Denis actually really reminds me of the city environments in that game. It’s kind of entertaining.

Butch:

A huge kick in the teeth, and a perfectly timed kick in the teeth. All that right after you’re feeling pretty good, didn’t hurt the kid, got the cross back, even helped the kid out, feeling very white hat then BAM.

What was a nice touch in the way I wound up playing it was that I decided to ditch the cops by going way out of my way. I noticed that cops are pretty much in the nice part of town, so I went the other way and got back through the ghetto. It was kinda striking to have met poor people I helped, then a poor woman I put into poverty, then have the long walk home at night through poverty.

Heavy stuff.

Yeah: “Art doesn’t matter! Get out and live, that’s what matters!”

Which is also rather meta, as we are here playing an artistic work, in a genre that has been criticized for making people cooped up loners with no lives. Hmm.

(Hey game, don’t try to talk Femmy out of playing any more than you already have.)

I don’t have that impression of Dutch either. I like Hosea a lot better. Also, even though he maybe hasn’t really gotten to know many good men, he KNOWS other good men. He’s met them. He occasionally goes out into the world.

But maybe it’s all part of Dutch’s charm? Leaders that rely on propaganda and loyalty often make their followers believe they are good people despite voluminous evidence to the contrary. I’ll just leave that there. Perhaps Arthur is just under Dutch’s thrall.

I dunno. I’m not that fond of Dutch.

Oh, I should actually do the moonshine guy, then?

I do like the line “Feller, after a hundred gallons of shine love’s gonna come pretty cheap.”

Preach.

I would say that maybe it’s sympathetic weariness, feeling your pain, except that talking to you about it is great fun and not a source of the weary at all. Shit, we talk about something else daily these days. And if weariness was contagious you’d have awful weekends. Ha.

Maybe we’re just overplaying. I still don’t know how you’re so far ahead. I’ve been playing! Shit, I don’t even start Monday with “I got nothing.” This game has fewer “I got nothings” than any game I can remember and you’re still lapping me here.

Feminina:

Yeah, totally. “I’m doing well, I’m helping people out of the goodness of my heart, making nuns happy, and…oh…now I remember I kind of suck as a human being.”

But–perhaps like his own vision of Dutch–he was TRYING, right then. And even when he’s bad, we could argue he doesn’t really MEAN to be terrible. He’s usually just–to use the hackneyed excuse–following orders.

Not that that’s really an excuse.

The moonshine guy…yeah, you should probably do it. It’s…it’s got some discussion fodder. Speaking of bad people. A single, confounding comment from a bystander at the very end is alone worth the price of admission, if the price of admission is paid in discussion fodder. Unfortunately, it’s kind of long, but…dude. It’s some kind of a thing.

Butch:

Ok. A thing it is. If just to see how many words we can squeeze out of one comment from a bystander in a side quest.

Knowing us, quite a few.

But back to this quest….

I kinda bought that, in that moment, Arthur was sorry for what he did to Mrs. Downes. He was shocked, and did try to apologize. That was kinda striking. I do think that, in light of his love of Dutch, he’s starting to doubt, if just a little. He seems to be very uncomfortable getting praised for being a good person, and maybe that’s partially because Dutch has convinced him he’s not a good person, maybe buried the good in him under the evil.

But it was interesting that Arthur, who thinks he is a cruel, jaded man, was both shocked and slightly guilty in that moment.

Feminina:

Yes, it was kind of as if he was thinking “wait, taking all their money and seeing them driven from their home wasn’t the low point of that story? I somehow made it even worse than that? NOW I feel kind of bad.”

I also wonder if maybe Dutch used to be a better person than he is now, and Arthur is remembering the good man he knew and not completely seeing the more dubious one he is today.

We do only have a limited period from which to judge. And he undoubtedly has some good qualities besides charm: he’s very egalitarian, accepting all kinds of people as members of his family, and he undoubtedly does CARE about his family. I feel like maybe he cares about them partly because they make him feel important, rather than entirely for each of them as a person, but if you’re a downtrodden outcast with nowhere else to go and Dutch van der Linde takes you in and makes you one of the group and gives you a noble purpose, does it really matter to you that you’re more important to him as a member of the group than as an individual? The way the gang closes ranks against the Pinkertons to defend him, it’s clear they really, genuinely love the man, and it’s not entirely because he talks a good game (though he does).

Also, we have talked at length about Arthur’s contention that the gang robs folk that rob other folks, and don’t pick on people just trying to get along. We’re dubious about that…but maybe it used to be true? Maybe Dutch was, at one point, something close to an outlaw-hero who robs the rich and gives to the poor and never leaves a member of his merry gang behind. Maybe it’s nostalgia as well as wishful thinking that makes Arthur see him as a good man now. Remember their happy memories on the fishing boat, when you could kind of gather how things must have been when they were younger and had more hope and more energy and more optimistic life ahead of them…when the west was still wide open and civilization hadn’t sprawled all over it yet, to get to the theme.

And if this is true, than the whole story is at least in part about how weariness and disappointment and running (and the crushing grip of law and civilization?) can grind you down and change you, and make good men give up their ideals and start turning into not-so-good men. Maybe even into bad men.

And, at the same time, how not-so-good men can maybe start to see the complexity of things and, just possibly, become slightly better men. I don’t know if that’s Arthur’s trajectory. Maybe he’s going to end up just as bad as he started. But certainly, as you say, it seems as if he’s thinking about it, and self-reflection, as well as being ground down by disappointment, can lead to change.

Hm.

Butch:

I agree with all of that. There’s no doubt that Arthur was surprised at how Dutch was in Blackwater. He keeps saying he was shocked, how that wasn’t like Dutch, etc. We, of course, can’t judge because the game very intentionally doesn’t show you what happened in Blackwater (at least not yet), but yes, you get the sense that disappointment and running or SOMETHING has changed Dutch and not for the better. It hasn’t gotten to a tipping point with the gang….yet…but I imagine it will.

Actually, it’s more than Blackwater. Arthur doesn’t like the idea of branching out into moneylending. This new, futuristic way of robbing people doesn’t sit well with him, which may well go to why he’s particularly upset about Mrs. Downes. She’s really the first victim of the gang’s participation in the robbery of the future that he’s had to confront in person. Seeing her like that makes him realize that the off hand “Well, they didn’t have to take the money but they did so it’s on them” justifications for the gang’s actions are morally bankrupt and, once you start thinking the gang is morally bankrupt for doing THIS, then maybe they’re also morally bankrupt for doing THAT.

Etc.

Hm, indeed.

Feminina:

Very true, very true. With the old, honest way of robbing people, they just wound up dead from gunshots or starvation out on the open range! Not this gradual humiliating decline into dirt and poverty!

Which is me being sarcastic about Arthur’s presumed interpretation here, not me disagreeing with your point, which I think is true and an excellent one.

It DOES feel cleaner and more honest to just swoop down and rob a stagecoach than it does to threaten a debtor. It ABSOLUTELY does. I would way rather rob stagecoaches than beat up debtors! Pretty much from the very beginning we’ve been talking about how threatening the debtors makes us feel uncomfortable and we don’t like doing it. Whereas I have few qualms about robbing coaches other than the fact that they tend to be annoying chase scenes.

And yet, we have to consider that the game is choosing to show us the grim consequences to another person that come from threatening the debtor, but hasn’t shown us the parallel story where the young wife of the stagecoach driver we killed during that robbery ALSO has to turn to prostitution to feed her children because without a husband bringing in a paycheck she can’t pay the mortgage on the farm. And that’s just as plausible a story.

So I think you’re absolutely right, that’s definitely what Arthur feels, and that’s what we also feel, and that’s a major point the game is making, and yet…

That feeling is not objectively justified. People who wind up dead because we were doing our (violent, illegal) job are just as dead either way. Their families are just as bereft, and, if dependent on them, just as likely to end up in abject poverty. The game chooses not to make that point (which is fair, you can’t make EVERY point), but that’s a narrative decision, not a reflection of some larger truth. And that’s interesting, too.

Butch:

Yeah, I think this makes Arthur confront the fact that his bad actions, both present and past, had collateral damage. Sure, he’s killed people, but he probably never thought much about their wives and children who also might have ended up destitute. Here, he had to see the fact that this woman suffered because of what he did to her husband, not to her. That’s likely new to him. Shouldn’t be, but it is.

But here’s me thinking about it, anyway.

But even this was something I personally didn’t consider until I saw it. After all, the last time we saw Mrs. Downes she was leaving her house, sure, but she seemed like all was not lost. Her son was there (what happened to him?), she had money to pay the debt, they were still clean and well dressed. Sure, their life wasn’t great, but they weren’t half a step away from this, at least on the surface. I probably felt the way Arthur likely felt: Well, sucks to be them, but they’ll be sorta ok.

Wrong.

Feminina:

So true! That’s exactly how I felt about them. “Well…sucks they were driven off their land, but they’re together, they both seem healthy, they’ll manage…”

Or not, as it turns out. And presumably this is at least partly because she gave us all their remaining money to pay off that debt, right? Just in case we might miss the fact that this is RALLY our fault. Not only did Arthur hassle the sick husband and perhaps hasten his death, he came back to hassle the grieving widow as they’re on their way out the door of the house they’ve lost and demand the only money they have left to their name. Are they not ruined enough? Nope.

Oh, and even though I totally brushed off the wildlife photographer and told you not to bother with him (and I stand by that), I do think one other moderately interesting thing we could say about him is that he represents the viewpoint of the conservationist. I don’t know if you did the bit with the alligators, but he was talking about what a shame it was that all the really giant alligators had been hunted down already and he would only be able to get a picture of the smaller ones that were left.

And Arthur was saying “well, good riddance, why do we want giant alligators eating us?” Expressing the understandable feelings of people who actually live in an area likely to be frequented by giant alligators.

But the photographer is more like us, modern folk today all concerned about saving the endangered tigers and stuff. It’s all very well for us to think it’s sad that they’re going extinct: they aren’t eating US. Or our livestock that we depend on for our sustenance, etc.

And me being a first-world liberal sort I think there IS value in having tigers around and it’s important for people to co-exist with tigers by maybe not living right in their habitat, but that also is easy for me to say because I don’t have to strike out into the wilderness and infiltrate tiger habitat to make enough money to feed my family or whatever. “Just stay away from the tigers!” works great when we’ve already killed off all the large predators in the Boston area.

So Albert Mason is modernity in that way as well, and Arthur is looking at him like “you’re totally bonkers,” but I actually kind of agree with him. And yet, I as Arthur will shoot a big alligator that tries to eat me, or my horse, because the value of conserving wildlife is less important to me than my own life and comfort. And that’s how humans, without necessarily specifically INTENDING to, destroy everything we touch (except for the 35 species we like to eat or decorate our houses with).

Just like Arthur, without really specifically INTENDING to drive this woman into prostitution, does his job and does it anyway.

Butch:

And feels bad. This game does make one feel bad, from time to time.

Hmm. I did not get that about the alligators. Nor shall I. Thank you, weary blogmate.

Hey, man. Just cuz I eat weird animals….I’m doing it cuz I care, man!

I do feel bad that I’ve killed three legendary animals. That was pretty nasty of me. I do think the game is trying to make you feel a little bad in that you kill the wild animal and make a “trinket” to get the perk. Good job, player. You took the rarest of beasts to make a trinket.

Feminina:

Yes! We feel a little bad about throwing all the majesty of nature into a grinder to improve our own situation by a tiny amount (‘trinket’ is very telling language), and we feel bad about reducing the Downes family to this state, but we do it anyway because it’s the game (and even if we decide not to hunt, we can’t decide not to collect the debt, just to make sure we don’t miss this part).

Part of the whole “civilization is the bad thing here” argument? It’s the machine of civilization that does this to all of us, and to the wild world, and we/Arthur are just bits of the tiny gears, doing our part to grind others before we ourselves are ground down in our turn.

Nice. Very uplifting.

Butch:

Well, maybe I’ll go to the vaudeville to cheer up. I still haven’t seen the enticing knickers.

Feminina:

I recommend it. You could use a pleasant diversion. Arthur too.

Return of the White-Hot Rage

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for Lemoyne Raiders bounty in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Ok, they just gotta name that bounty quest white hot rage.

So first, did vaudeville. I’m gonna add “gratuitous shows” to my list of shit all games need. Though, gotta say, little disappointed as there were no kneecaps. I did get belly, though. You weren’t lying. Got a dude who caught bullets in his teeth, a belly exposing fire dancer, and a lady singing “Hello my ragtime gal.” Arthur cheering was too awesome for words, and the MC being all “Thank you for coming in for a distraction from how awful life is” over and over was a disquieting tapping on the fourth wall.

Pretty great.

Then gave a woman building a statue or something twenty bucks and she told me I’d be on a plaque.

Then….then…..THEN…..

Said “You know? Out of solidarity with Femmy, I should do that bounty. THAT bounty. After all the bloggage, I should at least do it. Then we can talk later. Plus, she said there was good dialog.”

So I grabbed the poster. Whistled for Roach (who was stabled) and was happy when he showed up. Or so I thought. Started riding, realized Roach wasn’t handling right….wasn’t Roach. Rode way the fuck out of the way to a stable to get Roach. Rage started to seep in. Rode out to the fort to get the guy…..

And died 245984759785 times.

That Gatling gun.

Even when I was kinda close, three times, dudes appeared behind me and one shot killed me.

You think it was bad cuz you got killed after you got the guy?

I NEVER EVEN GOT THE GUY. NOT. ONCE.

Rage. Utter rage.

I did worse on it than you did!

How the HELL did you even get the guy?

Amazing that this quest managed to enrage us both in totally different ways.

Feminina:

Wow. Is that a sign of good design, if a game can engage two different people in two different ways over the same quest? Or just a sign of a bad quest?

My approach was to just bolt directly for the staircase on the left side as soon as the combat started. You can get out of the way of the Gatling gun that way and just have to deal with 800 raiders shooting normal guns at you.

You can even work your way up to the balcony and take over the Gatling for yourself.

Or if you’re too enraged, you can say screw it and go do something else.

As for the kneecaps, you gotta get to the show where they do the can-can. Whooooooooo! Arthur’s cheering really is the best.

I also gave the woman $20 for the war memorial.

Butch:

I’m going with bad quest. Well, bad fight, anyway.

I just did it, or I would have stewed about it. Took me three more tries. But, didn’t get killed by the dudes who tried to take him (cuz I knew they were coming, thank you).

But I did it. And kept him alive, too! I even reloaded when I shot him by accident once just to get the bloggage!

So, certainly, when you tie him up and he’s all “Isn’t there anyone still fighting?” That’s suggestive, isn’t it? But I’m not sure it landed with me. After all, sure, we got this guy, but there are still people “fighting” the ideas of the Civil War today, let alone in 1899 Lemoyne. He was hardly the last dude. If the game wanted that to have some finality, it didn’t.

Buuuut…..what I will give the game is when Arthur is taunting him saying “I’m bunking at that house we took from you…” and the dude is all “You’ll get your comeuppance!” and Arthur laughs and says “No, I don’t think we will.”

Well….hmm.

What do you make of that line? The arrogance of the guy who isn’t tied up thinking he never will be tied up? The over confidence of the victor? Or is it legit in the sense that whatever comeuppance awaits Arthur (and there’s going to be one, I think), it won’t be from the Raiders? TB, Pinkertons, however this ends, I do NOT see it ending with the Raiders taking out the gang. Arthur may well get a comeuppance, but he has defeated the Raiders right and truly.

So what do you make of that line?

The cheering really is great. “She’s the best!” “These guys can PLAY!”

Gotta be in every game.

Feminina:

I also found it interesting that you have the chance, as always, to antagonize the performers rather than cheer. And as always, I pick the nice option and cheer. I’m sure he heckles amusingly if you antagonize, but man, I’m just not into being a jerk unnecessarily.

Plus, the cheering is so enthusiastic and awesome. It really should be in every game.

The gang wasn’t in that house when I did this!–so I didn’t get the taunting. My Arthur mostly just ignored him. Interesting.

Butch:

Right! Man, this quest hated you.

It’s an aside. Arthur goes “I don’t usually talk to you raiders” which is loaded in itself, and then “But I wanted to tell you we’re staying at that ol’ mansion you guys used to have.” The dude is all “You’re the Yankee traitors took the belle? [lots of nasty insults]” and then the comeuppance bit.

It’s really another instance of Arthur really not liking racists. He felt the need to mock the guy.

That goes to narrative, I think, and not just the game reminding us that racists are bad, and Arthur sure isn’t one cuz racists are bad. They didn’t need to put Arthur mocking the guy in to draw the line between bad guy and good Arthur.

But there’s no doubt Arthur enjoyed taking this guy in.

Makes one of us, anyway.

Feminina:

Ha! At least one person enjoyed it.

I thought the conversation was still interesting in the way the dude kept talking about how they just wanted to live free of government oppression and so on, which is quite similar to the gang’s own dreams.

But with more racism, apparently. That is interesting that there was another bit kind of stressing how Arthur and the gang are NOT THAT.

Butch:

Although he didn’t really have that much racism in his rant. His rant was about freedom and states and all that shit, but he didn’t bring up slavery or segregation or any of that. Not once. Sure, we can extrapolate and say he was fighting for the Confederacy and that’s bad, but his concerns really weren’t racial. Hell, the most racist dude I’ve met in St. Denis was the eugenics guy with the nice hair and the nice suit, not this Lemoyne dude.

So yes, I’m sure that this dude wouldn’t have welcomed Lenny with open arms (LENNNNY!!!), his diatribe, and his main motivations, were very much in tune with Dutch.

Feminina:

Agreed. I think the taunting that I didn’t get is where the racism aspect came in. He was almost my first contact with the Lemoyne Raiders, and my general impression was that these guys were basically just another version of the game.

Butch:

Heh. It’s funny how we got different stuff out of this (I mean, besides different versions of white hot rage) based on when we did it. This was one of the last (maybe the last) interaction I had with the raiders, so him there all “Isn’t anyone still fighting?” sounded more like a coda to the narrative arc. That line probably meant less in your context as, well, duh, they all are.

And even the taunting you didn’t get didn’t really have any “Ha, you racist asshole” to it. It was more Arthur just gloating. Well, you could hear his disdain for the raiders in it; it was clear that he looks down on these people. But unlike his “I’ll kill all you hooded fuckers” growl when I killed the Klansmen, there was no mention of racial justice.

History is Written for Your Amusement

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Minor spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Well, played some, but didn’t do much. It was one of those sessions where you just kinda take care of business. Sold some stuff to empty the satchel, upgraded some stuff on Roach, upgraded my guns, watched a show about Josiah Blackwater that was….interesting…(What are your thoughts on that? I’m not sure what mine are), asked in a dive bar about the guy and was told he was in the nice bar (surprise surprise), and then it was too late in the day to start a bounty or a main quest or vaudeville so I played dominoes and called it a night. I’m starting with vaudeville when I next play.

I do have some thoughts.

First, just the other day the blog had something up on race and how we haven’t seen Chinese people very much. You mentioned you’d seen a couple around St. Denis, and I have as well, but I want to mention one in particular. You don’t generally go to shops, but did you notice that the gunsmith is Chinese? His shop even has a Chinese name. It is NICE inside. Compare that to the other guy I visited: the trapper. The trapper is a grungy white dude who has a stall in the grungy market.

Is that saying something? The Asian with the technical know how is making bank in the “future” and the white guy with outdated skills is not? Certainly, the differences were striking.

Race aside, it was striking how different the shops were. In other towns, shops were pretty much shops. There wasn’t much differentiation as to who as doing great and who wasn’t. Everyone was pretty much on the same page. Not so much in St. Denis.

OOO! There was another key difference! The fences in Emerald Ranch and Rhodes were grungy as hell, right? Working out of a shack and a stable. Did you visit the fence in St. Denis?

Wonder what they’re saying there. Hmm.

Ok, Second:

I see what you mean about the differences in different parts of the city. Certainly the richer bits pop with color, even at night, and the racial divisions and how they’re portrayed would be just as much at home in Mafia 3. That said, there are a couple of key similarities in the different parts of the city. One in particular stood out to me: it’s claustrophobic as hell. Everything’s narrow, you’re bumping into people, there’s very little (intentional choice of words incoming) freedom to move. That’s true even in the nice parts!

It was a telling thing that I gave up trying to ride Roach. I stabled him. It just wasn’t working. The last straw, and a telling straw it was, was when I hitched him (hitched him for god’s sake! To a hitching post!) and a trolley went by and he panicked and ran. Here I was trying to keep “my ways,” do what I had been doing all along, what I liked doing (that is, ride my horse) and eventually I, the player, said “fuck it, ain’t working.”

That’s cool game design.

Not bad for a playing session where I didn’t do much.

Feminina:

See, this is where it’s good we’re both playing. We can notice different things! Because those are good points to notice, about the shops and the fences, and here’s the thing: I did not notice those things at all.

Because I pretty much never go into shops, and I have never visited a fence except when I had to drop off stolen carriages with that dude as part of a mission. (I just can’t be bothered! I donate all my fenceable items to camp, and haven’t had to sell to clear my satchel in ages…I guess I just eat everything?)

So I have no personal experience with what you’re talking about, but I totally believe and validate your observations!

It’s like, all the money is in the city with the ‘future,’ isn’t it? That’s where you go to get some of the glory and riches of the modern age. The rest of the world is just scraping by with the same old worn-out stuff, but in the city, you can make it big!

Since I HAVE wandered around the streets, I have certainly noticed, like you, how crowded it is. As you say, it feels so different from what we’re used to in the wilderness, or even in small towns. The narrow streets you have to share with trollies, the people everywhere, the buildings all wedged together. Unlike you, I persist in riding my horse around everywhere anyway, because I’m just that stubborn, but I definitely have to ride a lot more slowly. It’s a nice bit of scene-setting and differentiation of environments.

I vaguely remember the Josiah Blackwater show, but it’s been a long time since I saw it. He was kind of horrible, wasn’t he? I remember thinking something like “well, that’s another founding legend revealed as a monster.” And yet the show didn’t even seem to be aware that it was revealing him as a monster, it was quite unironic and presenting all his deeds as if they were unquestionably glorious. That’s how history gets told, I guess.

First perhaps as bare facts, then dramatically embellished to make a point that resonates with the present audience, then revisited (perhaps many times) as sensibilities change. And we’re playing a part in that sequence, revisiting the tale with our own modern sensibilities. We’re part of it all too.

Butch:

I sorta figured you’d missed stuff. It was very interesting how they were portrayed.

So the fence in St. Denis…well, you remember the fence from the carriage mission. He was in a stable. The dude in Rhodes was in a shack. But THIS guy, he’s French, for starters (again, a foreigner having the nice shop) and he’s surrounded by art and jewelry and all sorts of nice stuff. It’s the technician and the guy who is both taking and selling to the rich who are the ones that are well off, and both are from other countries.

You can make it big… Well, yes and no. The trapper, out in the wilderness, was doing ok. Last time I saw him, he was up on a grassy hilltop with a great view, he had two or three big ol’ tents, big ol’ campfire with meat roasting, living the grand outdoor life. Now, he’s in a shitty, tiny stall in the shitty, cramped market wearing shitty, dirty clothes. No one wants the services of someone who can skin a legendary wolf anymore. He was doing FAR better before.

It really does feel different, though. Games aren’t always very good at that. Games do ok at making things LOOK different, but I can’t remember a game where playing it felt so different in a different environment.

I still feel like the place is uniformly unpleasant. I haven’t really explored the nice bits, but even those feel cramped and unpleasant. I want to be out riding the plains again! And I think the game wants me to feel that way, too.

Josiah Blackwater: Unquestionably glorious and unquestionably true. They say “There he was, riding two gators down the river shooting eagles out of the sky when he saw a mountain lion.” Like, that’s not a deed, dude, but told as total fact. Even the way he was portrayed, having a beard since the day he was born.

We’re playing a part, all right. Dramatically embellished to make a point that resonates with the present audience could apply quite nicely to the game we’ve been playing all this time.

Oooo! And before I forget, cuz I forgot, did you see my screenshot? I also know you don’t buy newspapers.

Feminina:

I DO buy newspapers, actually! Whenever I see a guy selling them! I have several!

I just don’t read them. I think my Arthur buys them for toilet paper and kindling.

I haven’t seen your screenshot, as I did not play last night. What was it?

Good point about obviously ridiculous legends being presented as simple truth. Like our own cherished myths about George Washington’s cherry tree or Davy Crockett killing a b’ar when he was only three. Or the wild west being a place of ideal freedom and opportunity for all.

Butch:

So the paper had an article about the lion being shot and Margaret.

Remember we thought that Margaret was just him staying in character? I’ll quote myself:

Gender sure is a thing here. I found it interesting that the game staunchly refused to call Margaret anything but Margaret. Often, in games, in situations like this, the sidekick or whoever will eventually roll his or her eyes and be all “Oh, stop it, your name is Edward” or something. Here, he’s Margaret all the way through. Even Sally calls him “Mr. Margaret.” Margaret, and the game, never broke character. Or maybe his name really IS Margaret? Why am I assuming?

I said that last bit as a joke, kinda.

But guess what?

The paper said, paraphrasing, that after the death of his lion, HAYWOOD MARGARET is believed to have returned to England.

Which….themes, now.

We didn’t really believe he really WAS Mr. Margaret, right? We thought he was insisting on being called that, etc. But it turns out he really was named Mr. Margaret. It wasn’t a stage name. It wasn’t even a first name! I put “Mr. Margaret” in quotes! We assumed it was bullshit, and it wasn’t bullshit.

So here we are, and there we were, talking about things that were “obvious bullshit” that turned out not to be bullshit at all.

Hmm.

Also…..

He returned to England. He took his shot, it didn’t work out, and he left. This around the same time that Dutch, on his way to St. Denis, talks about maybe leaving the country. Arthur kinda pooh poohs it, and rightly so. Do we really think they are going to (or can) leave the country? I don’t. But Mr. Margaret did. The outsider got out. When his American dream failed, he turned out (we assume….maybe we shouldn’t…) kinda ok. At least he had a fallback plan. The outsider, again, wins.

All this from an article.

Feminina:

Oh man, that’s AWESOME. His name was really Margaret? And he was really British? We wondered whether that might not also have been part of the act, but if he went back there…though I suppose it’s also possible that he just told the reporter “I’m going back to England!” and then slipped into the crowd, dropped the accent, and went off to Ohio where he met up with the young lovers and they all started a business together.

Anyway, interesting. Very interesting. An intriguing addition to the set of examples we have of people with dreams who tried to make it in the west and failed.

Margaret goes back to England, the Downes family is shattered by death and driven off their land, Mary’s brother is dragged back into the grasp of normal life. They’re all retreating, in one way or another. The dream of starting somewhere new didn’t work out for them, so they went back to something less exciting.

And the gang, too, was fleeing farther and farther west, but that dream has failed for them and we see them now retreating back into civilized lands. Hm.

Butch:

And the Greys and the Braithwaites and and and.

Really, the only dude we’ve seen who’s come west and has made it is Cornwall, who a) is not likeable at all and b) is, knowing what we know in 2019, just as doomed. Railroads aren’t exactly an industry that has a future, right? Another article in one paper I read talked about cars getting more popular. Cornwall is, in a way, going to meet the same fate.

The only folks we’ve seen who are prospering, sorta, and will continue to do so as far as we know are the fence and gunsmith in St. Denis (there will always be guns/tech, rich folk buying stuff) and Strauss the banker.

And they’re all foreign.

Hmm.

Feminina:

Guns, cars, and banking. AMERICA, damn it!

I wasn’t even thinking of the Grays and the Braitwaites as people who came west and failed, more as established representatives of older (and still failing) systems in the south, but that’s an interesting take. I saw them more as a counterpoint…a sort of “whether you stay where you are with your old family estates, or strike out for unconquered territory in the west, the future is still going to crush you.” But certainly they came west of where they were, in generations past, and in the end that experiment failed for them as the dynasties they tried to be.

It’s an interesting point, about foreigners. (Have you met Bronte yet?) Because certainly another part of the soul of America, celebrated at least at some points, is that we’re “a nation of immigrants.” These AREN’T necessarily foreigners, are they? They’re likely citizens, immigrants who will stay here, part of the soul of the country. Not Margaret, since he went back to England…but then, his dream failed.

We have to think, too, about the fact that this story is about the ‘open west,’ where pretty much every person who wasn’t an Indian was in fact an immigrant/foreigner. Arthur’s a foreigner there, and he’s arguably doing better for himself than Indians shoved onto reservations at gunpoint.

Hm.

Butch:

Well, Arthur is weird in that he’s the one person we know is FROM the west, a second generation immigrant, if you will. This is assuming, as you say, the Greys and Braithwaites are from the South. Even Dutch seems to be from away, as his father was from Pennsylvania. Arthur is a card carrying Westerner, someone who has been there since birth. He didn’t go to the west. He was already there.

Feminina:

Well, him and Charles. Maybe Javier. That is another interesting point, the shifting definitions of ‘from here’ and ‘outsider.’

Have you read Arthur’s journal entries about Saint Denis? Very harsh words. He’s not a fan.

Butch:

Ooo! Not yet.

Javier’s from elsewhere. He’s Mexican.

Charles I’ll give you.

And, well, you have to shift “from here” eventually. You say you’re from the West, but if we go back far enough you have a relative who isn’t. I figure, you’re from there if you’re born there. Good enough.

Feminina:

Good enough.

Check out that journal. Very scathing language about the crushing muck of the city and stuff. I felt that here he’s actually saying that yes, he really BELIEVES in Dutch’s dream of freedom and open space and all. He’s so laconic, it’s hard to tell a lot of the time if he’s really onboard with everything because he shares those ideals, or if he’s just kind of following along with Dutch because they’re family and Dutch is the boss, but this made me think he really is a believer. Or at least he was, and still wants to be–clearly, he’s also become a doubter in the sense that he’s not sure Dutch can pull it off, but he still thinks it’s worth fighting for.

Butch:

I will check out the journal. Odd, cuz I usually do. Missed that.

I haven’t met Bronte. I did find out he’s Italian, though. Interesting twist.

Is he going to annoy me? I’m already annoyed at how they portrayed half my heritage.

Feminina:

He…may. Not to prejudice you against him, but…he may well.

Butch:

Great.

This game has been pretty good about portraying minorities and women. Until it isn’t.

Feminina:

I mean, he’s not without layers, and I’m not sure he’s any worse than other people we’ve seen. He has a dream, like everyone else. We’ll talk later.

Butch:

We always do.

I really hope I get something in tonight. Have to run Junior around.

Vaudeville first. Best to see the knickers with Mrs. McP out.

Scandalous.

Feminina:

She would swoon. SWOON I tell you! There’s also some belly. It’s practically pornography.

Butch:

Aw, shit. Belly?

I best close the shades.

Feminina:

Yes, that would be safest. Otherwise you’ll never be able to walk down your street again without the neighbors whispering.

I mean, even more.

Games Children Play

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers, except of the carefree joy you rashly expect to gain from parenting

Butch:

I got nothing. Been a while, but I got nothing. Holy shit did I WANT to have something, but there was…..some degree of neediness in my family last night.

You have many blessings in life, Femmy. Amongst them: Quiet kids, a spouse to whom you can say “Babe, love ya, but I really, really want to be alone right now so fuck off” and he will not get mad and will completely understand, quiet kids, and, let’s see….yeah all of that.

More, kids who can be alone themselves. My kids either need to be all up in my shit, or they insist on playing with each other. Thus, my life is 50% “I think he wants to play something else…don’t hit him, he won’t want to play with him if you hit him…well why don’t you guys…how about if you…look, I think if you say you’ll play that with him after he hit you it’ll go bad….well, if you say so…..” and 50% “Look I TOLD you it would go bad….don’t break his stuff..I know he hit you first and WHY DON’T YOU ALL JUST PLAY ALONE YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE EACH OTHER!!!!!!!”

I often wondered why multi-player games were so popular, because it seemed that all they were were people being mean to each other, then complaining that all the games were were people being mean to each other, then continuing to play them despite that. “This makes no sense,” I thought, “why play with assholes who will make you mad?” It still makes no sense, but damn, my kids…..that seems to be the pattern to which they are drawn……

Wait….hold on…they’re doing it again. And two of them aren’t dressed.

We were doing so well.

Feminina:

Hahaha! Kids who can be alone by themselves. You’re so funny. Mine will play quietly by themselves about once a month. It’s glorious when it happens, but it’s rare.

Most of the time, they just want to be wherever we are. They play right next to us, which is great when you’re trying to get something done and they’re galumphing around under your feet, or they don’t even play, they just sit around looking mournful and wanting us to play with them.

“Help me build a Lego castle! Draw me a picture! Play Battleship with me, only I’ll get bored halfway through and start proposing amendments to the rules like ‘one ship can ride on top of another’!”

We have that entire playroom upstairs, filled to the brim with toys, and they hardly ever go up there except to bring toys down and strew them all over the living room. Because WE spend way more time in the living room, and they just want to be near us.

Which is kind of sweet, and no doubt in 10 years when they don’t want anything to do with us we’ll look back on these days with a twinge of nostalgia, but also…just go play, why can’t you?

Butch:

No. There will be no nostalgia. See, this is what people with young kids tell themselves to survive, but then, when the kids really are leaving you alone and you’ve played an hour and are now having wine quietly (it has happened) the joy. The rapture. The lack of nostalgia.

My kids, though, will interrupt anyone. I had to go get a buddy of mine who needed a ride yesterday. He’s going through a WHOLE lotta shit, and I hadn’t seen him in way too long (he doesn’t use computers so I have to rely on that personal contact thing, it sucks) and he’s trying to talk to me about, like, adult shit, and I had to have Junior with me and Junior keeps interrupting to talk about minecraft and soccer and shit.

At least your kids just usually look at me, slightly confused.

Wait….one ship can’t ride on top of the other?

Feminina:

Dude, you explain how you’re even going to GET a battleship onto an aircraft carrier. I mean, sure, in theory it would FIT, but the logistics are ridiculous. Because no, battleships can’t have wings! It’s battleSHIP, not battlePLANE! And no, Godzilla cannot come out and put it on the carrier, there’s no Godzilla in this game! Although that would be more interesting…

The discussion only devolves from there.

Yeah, the dream is that our kids are going to be surly teenagers and when we say “wanna hang out?” they’ll growl “EEEWWW, NO!!!” and stomp away, and we’ll sigh with relief and open another bottle of wine and finally finish this game we’ve been trying to play.

Butch:

Dude, they totally should put Godzilla in battleship. Fuck, they pretty much did that in the ***cough*** movie they made of Battleship (and may we all hope Mystery Science Theater stays around long enough to do that one).

They’re mucking around with every damn kids game. Yellow marbles worth more points in Hungry Hungry Hippos. Hungry Hungry Hippos! Adding strategy to a game where the whole point is letting a three year old mash a lever! Fuck, they added fire and ice power ups to Sorry. Sorry! Power ups! Shit, can’t a kid do ANYTHING without a power up in it anymore?

I blame video games.

Pretty soon they’ll be adding spells to checkers and howitzers to chess.

Actually, that might be cool.

Dude, surly teenagers is so very much the dream. It is a dream I am actively trying to bring about.

This rapture will only be eclipsed by the moment I can say “Junior? Car keys on on the table. Go get your brothers. I’m gonna have another drink and finish this game I’ve been trying to play since you were twelve.”

Feminina:

I am also pretty bemused by movies based on board games. And yes, the ‘power up’ in Sorry! What the hell is that?!

We generally just play without that option. Because what the hell. I do blame video games for this.

Butch:

Oh, see, that shit don’t fly in my house.

“But those are the RULES” they say.

Ignore every house rule, insist on literal Sorry.

Feminina:

I’m sure we’ll reach a rules-lawyer phase sooner or later. Once he can actually read all the rules more easily. He can be pretty picky about Pokemon already.

Butch:

Junior is there with D&D.

This pains me.

Feminina:

Sigh. It was bound to happen. The feeling of mastery that comes from knowing 500 obscure rules, and the sense of power that comes from enforcing them, are irresistible to a young mind looking for order and meaning in life.

It will pass once he realizes that in real life nothing makes any damn sense. Other than booze and video games, of course.

Butch:

And D&D makes even less sense.

It’s why we play, really.

Well, why we used to. Before we realized that booze and video games did the trick without having to leave the house.

Feminina:

I still miss D&D. Those were good times! But the scheduling is just impossible now. Booze and video games will have to keep filling the void.

Butch:

Dude, I can barely find time to go buy food. Or vacuum. I haven’t done that in forever.

It just keeps getting more nuts. This week? Monday: Nugget has a before school thing. Tuesday: Meatball, 1/2 day, Nugget, after school thing needing to be picked up at 145, Junior, needing to be picked up at different school at 3, then taken to a trumpet lesson at 4. Wednesday: Nugget: before school thing. Thursday: Junior has a concert from 7-8 at the high school. Friday: Junior has crew until 5, at which point I must pick him up, take him all the way the fuck home, feed him, then put everyone back in the car and take him to a social back at the other school from 6:30 until 8:30.

Oh, and somewhere in there I have to do, like, everything else I’m supposed to do like feed people.

And bake Junior a cake cuz it’s his birthday.

Ain’t no room for D&D. Or anything else, really.

Feminina:

No…no, there’s really no time for fun and games. Or much of anything else.

Indeed, the days when you can just hand Jr. the car keys can’t come soon enough.

Butch:

This is why, dear blogmate, dear readers, when I start the day with “I got nothing,” do not doubt my dedication to games, to my friend Femmy, or to the blog. No, when I start the day with “I got nothing,” keep me in your thoughts. Light a candle to me.

Preferably the “white hot rage” or “hopeless despair” scents from PFTL’s new line.

Patent pending.

Feminina:

Also, feel free to raise a glass of the libation of your choice in a solemn salute.

Our pear brandy works particularly well.

Butch:

I’d plug the lingerie, but that would just remind me that parents of kids the same age as mine never have time for that, either.

Feminina:

Yeah, there’s no point taunting people. Or ourselves.

Butch:

We never taunt people. We’re nice that way.

Except ourselves. We excel at that.

Feminina:

Well, we’re horrible people, so we deserve it.