Minor spoilers for early points in Red Dead Redemption 2
And that, THAT is what you call irony. Last night’s play session was ironic. As ironic as a hipster’s perfectly scraggly beard. Iron is not as irony as last night’s session.
Remember you being all “Missions too long, save points too few?” Of course you do. It was just last week and inspired white hot rage.
Well, Saturday I plopped down around 630. Kids were all off doing homework and sleeping and whatever else. I was tired, there was a hockey game on, but I wanted to play. So I booted it up and decided just to putz around Valentine. I played some five finger filet (which is pretty silly if you haven’t done it. Gwent it ain’t), took a bath, flirted some, heard this dude in the hotel all “Let me out! No one deserves this!” and whimpering, and tried forever to find him (well, forever being, like, three minutes), didn’t. I was about to call it a night when Mrs. McP got home, oh, around 650, and said she was going to hit the treadmill (she’s getting fit now, too). I thought, “Well, shit. There’s a story mission right there. It’ll likely take 45 minutes or so, but, meh. I have time before dinner. I’ll miss the first period of the hockey game.” So I went to the story mission. Stuff happened, and five minutes later I get a little medal thing you get when the mission’s over and I can save.
I thought “That can’t be right,” and checked and checked but no. Over. Savable.
I have nothing else to do in Valentine. It’s all in camp, down by where the Reverend is, and the gunslingers.
FIVE. DAMN. MINUTES.
So I shrugged and tuned in the hockey game in time to hear the end of them singing the anthem.
That, my friend, after yesterday, is irony.
You best go have a Reese’s bell.
But if you’ve done the last bit of Valentine, I have stuff to say.
OH THE IRONY.
Depends what story mission you’re talking about. I did everything I could see to do in Valentine, but it’s always possible I missed something.
I puttered around Saint Denis. Bought some horse revive (buy it now). It was a pretty uneventful session except for when I got held up on the road outside town, got in a gunfight (as one does), and was just about to finish off the last guy when I got run over by a passing horse and carriage.
The moral is, step off the road to do your gunfighting.
Then I went back in the direction of Valentine and the next gunslinger I need to interview for that guy’s book, and riding there took up the rest of the evening. I got right to that general area and then stopped because I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of something I wouldn’t be able to save.
So nothing much, but minimal rage.
We’ll settle for minimal rage.
Honestly, my last thought, as I turned off the game was “Femmy’s gonna be so pissed.”
Big saloon. Big brawl. Big guy. Ring bells?
HA! That’s kinda awesome. Kevin’s all
“Damn it, you’re too good, you’re gonna kill me oh hey look over there! Away from the road! Yeah! [SMACK]] Phew.”
I gotta go buy a faucet and food. In that order. If you’ve done that bar fight, I got stuff to say.
And the bounty…that was the dude selling bad medicine, right?
Yes, I have done the bar fight. And you’re right, it was blissfully short between save points compared to certain other things we won’t mention.
I got a bit uncomfortable towards the end, and was trying unsuccessfully to make him let go of the other dude. I was trying to pull back and everything, like “OK, this is fine, let’s back off.” (Much like all the people in the crowd were saying.)
The bounty that I actually completed was ‘bad medicine,’ yes. The one that turned into a white-hot-ragefest was…something else. But let us not dwell on it.
Ah, wonderful. So now, after all this time, and on a Monday no less:
Ok, so in the larger sense…..
If Fallout 3 (which you didn’t play, shame on you) was about the inherent corruption of the idyllic American dream, then this game, so far anyway, seems to be about the inevitable demise of the idyllic American dream, and, I have a feeling it’s gonna try to make us wonder if that’s a good thing, a bad thing, or, more likely, a complex thing that will add to the pile of our bloggage. After all, here we have characters that are lifted straight OUT of that most idealized piece of Americana: American westerns. Cowboys and Indians. The taming of the wild, wild west. We have a game that starts with telling you that the age of outlaws (our guys) is ending, that America is becoming a nation of laws (more on that later) and outlaws and their way of life are being “destroyed,” a word they took the time to underline.
Our gang, our ultra Americana gang, is poor. They’re lost. Their way of life is disappearing. They’re caught between the East (and all those elites with their technology and laws and stuff who will destroy them) and the West (unemployment, poverty, death for sure). Here they are…stuck in the heartland, planning to get back all this money that they (stole but) lost. Timely, no? And, as we go, likely complex.
So let’s start with some complexities!
Excluding the first chapter and the “high society” missions, which were really just tutorials and setting up the bazillion characters, I figure we’ve done two things here (or I have): The bounty and this fight which, as you say, ended rather violently.
These quests have something that really stood out to me: in each, Arthur gets asked, repeatedly, “Why? Why are you doing this?” After he gets pulled off the big guy, the other guy is all “Why? YOU’VE ALREADY WON” (emphasis mine, and a line I’m still pondering and wil for some time), and the bounty kept saying “Why? I didn’t do anything to you, etc.” Arthur’s rather weak answer was “for the money.” Now, we could say a) we have enough of that, as I can’t find anything to spend it on or b) (and this is going to more the way Mr. O is playing), “Why, Arthur, are you working so hard, risking so much, doing so much damage to so many people to preserve a way of life that is both very unpleasant (you’re living in a shitty camp, always on the run) and doomed no matter what?” Why are you doing this? Why not just say fuck it? Get with the times? Stop living in the past? All this struggle to save something doomed just isn’t fucking worth it.
As for the bar fight, same thing could be said about the anger. All that anger just isn’t fucking worth it. It’s over. Over both for Arthur’s current fight (much as we could say to a lot of people in the heartland now, shut up, you won this particular fight, your cheeto is president) BUT also for Arthur’s way of life. It’s over. Why are you doing this? Win or lose, kill the bounty, beat the guy, it’s over.
Which, in the bigger metaphor, would mean “The Norman Rockwell ‘ideal’ America is over. Why the hell is anyone fighting to preserve it?”
And that’s quite a theme.
I could say some stuff about the gunslinger quest as well, but maybe I’ll just let that be for now.
Nice theming! Way to be thoughtful while I’m being consumed by rage.
It’s an interesting thought, to compare modern nostalgia for Norman Rockwell Americana, with its images of idealized mid-century small town life, to The Gang’s presumed nostalgia for the Wild West. I don’t know if the characters are really presented as being nostalgic, exactly, but the idea that they’re trying to hold onto a way of life that, objectively speaking, isn’t necessarily all that awesome, is an interesting one.
I think maybe the game assumes that WE think the Wild West was this great, iconic era of freedom and American possibility, rather than giving those thoughts to the characters. Maybe it’s playing on our assumptions, and letting us fill in the nostalgia.
I mean, as far as I’ve heard, none of the characters are really sitting around talking about how great the good old days were–they certainly talk about their pasts, but pretty matter-of-factly and with a fair amount of awareness that things were dirty and dangerous then, and still are. I don’t get the sense that any of them are romanticizing anything…and yet, there’s also certainly a sense that the game thinks maybe we, the players, are. (I personally am not. But we’ve had that discussion.)
And speaking of the good old days, I appreciated the brief nod to the idea of really OLD old days, when the wagon train is passing by the cliff and some Indians are watching them go by, and Hosea or whoever talks about how they all got treated terribly and completely screwed. THERE are some people who could talk wistfully about the good old days. I like that we have the character of Charles, showing how there were complex relationships between races and peoples, and I’m waiting to see how the game deals with it when we meet Indians again. Presumably with a bit more subtlety than in classic Westerns with their cowboys and Indians/good-evil themes, but we’ll see.
Oh, I don’t think the gang is either nostalgic or idealized. Nor, I think, does the game expect us to see them that way. I think they’re supposed to be….maybe not grotesque, per se….but..hmm…warped? Maybe? visions of iconic images of the American ideal. I think a part of the metaphor is the game saying “hey, this shit that we idealize ISN’T ideal at all.” Now, whether it turns out we feel it’s worth preserving…that’s a different story. Well, “worth preserving” in whether we develop some sort of attachment or empathy with Arthur and/or the gang. The metaphor. Not the idea of the west.
After all, gameplay wise, we ARE, in some way, trying to “preserve” Arthur, right? We’re trying to keep him alive, literally. The game makes us do that.
Hm. True. Not much of a game if we can’t keep the protagonist alive. But certainly, we’re not being encouraged to see him as some noble heroic figure. I mean, the dude keeps saying “I’m not a good man.”
I track down bounties for the money, not because I care about the law or what the person did. (Though I did half expect the doctor to try to bribe you to let him go, and there to be a decision to make about whether or not to accept…maybe they’re saving that moral dilemma for another day.)
OBVIOUSLY he doesn’t care about the law, being a wanted criminal himself and all. He doesn’t care about ‘civilization.’ And yet, he certainly has a moral code: he’s loyal to Dutch (even though he and others express concerns about Dutch’s leadership lately), he helps out strangers from time to time (even if he says it’s “only because I thought it would impress the women”), he only occasionally has to be dragged off other men to prevent him from beating them to death.
Well, I mentioned this game reminded me quite a bit of the Witcher. In that, we had a similar thing: a grizzled hero, a loyalty to a dying art, a father figure. True, not the first time, but still. In a number of ways, the Witcher 3 WAS a western. A lone figure riding into town, looking at wanted posters for money, riding off after he was done, homeless. Geralt and Arthur are pretty much identical, and not just that they don’t shave and growl. They’re both profit driven, morally ambiguous, loyal only to their own people (note: Geralt didn’t join up with Roche and the Temerians in TW2 out of some desire to help the underdog. He did it cuz, if you tell Roche to fuck off, he kills you. Doesn’t fight you, kills you. You die. It’s a fail state.)
And Arthur has his charms. He has the same world weary wit, the same basic, dry humor as Geralt. But TW3 focused on the good of Geralt, the charm of Geralt. This game is focusing on the darker side of Arthur. That said, they’re different sides of the same coin, the same motivations, the same ambiguity.
Geralt (or, at least, the world that Geralt lived in) was ALSO a metaphor for a nation that was, in a way, doomed. Just not an American one.
We even had contracts in TW3 where killing the monster wasn’t as clear cut, morally, as it usually is.
So, metaphor aside, this idea of the ambiguous cowboy is a game we’ve played before. It’ll be interesting to compare as we go.
Those are good points, and some very good and interesting parallels between those two games. Indeed. Although I think Geralt is arguably MORE a classic cowboy than Arthur. As you say, Geralt rides into town and fixes a problem and rides off again into the sunset. That’s his job.
That’s not Arthur’s job. Geralt, however blurry his moral choices at times, is a problem fixer for ordinary, dull, law-abiding people. Arthur is an outlaw. A problem-causer for those ordinary people–by profession, if not always in every interaction.
This is the opposite of the definition of a cowboy! Well, I mean, literally speaking, the definition of a cowboy is a guy who herds cows–but as we know, in the Wild Western tradition, like Geralt, a cowboy also rides into town, fixes a problem, and rides away again.
Maybe he fixes a problem caused by a Bad Man. Maybe something like the dastardly plot of an outlaw gang to, I don’t know, rob a train. Or something.
Arthur is an anti-cowboy, really. He (and his gang, because unlike Geralt or the classic cowboy, he doesn’t really work alone) makes a living stealing from people.
Whatever you want to say about Geralt and whether or not he’s a good or a bad person (and I will happily engage in this discussion), he doesn’t make his living stealing from people.
We could maybe get some interesting conversation out of why we’ve got all the tropes of a cowboy, but we’re actually the cowboy’s Bad Man, but then again, antiheroes are a dime a dozen so perhaps it’s nothing deeper than “people like to explore the idea of being bad.”
This wasn’t bad for a Monday!
Told you themes would cure the rage.