Tags

, , , , ,

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.