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Some spoilers for story late in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Ok, so watched that scene from Butch Cassidy…I mean, did the bit where we create a diversion and jump off a cliff (Seriously, game, don’t steal from people named Butch), and rescued Eagle Flies (that won’t end well, will it? Nope).

I found it interesting that Dutch seemed to think it mattered that “Your guys shot first!” It was the kind of straw man argument that we often hear in today’s politics (“Well, what about the emails? Why aren’t we investigating them? THEY DID IT FIRST!”). It kinda doesn’t matter, does it?

I also kind of liked the symmetry of the missions having rapids, this idea of both Dutch and the Indians being swept away, quite literally.

Nice stuff.

But what I really want to talk about is something more gamey. We talk a lot (like, A LOT), about times in games where games are doing artistic, narrative things that are innate to gaming and why/if they work/don’t work. I think the game is doing that here.

This game is going on, and on, and on. We’re watching one story line end at a time, saying goodbye after goodbye, etc. etc. etc. I think the game is actively trying to make us feel the way Arthur and Dutch and everyone is feeling, that things are grinding slowly towards this inevitable tragedy. The game, I think, wants us to FEEL this futile grind, to feel this sense of slowly increasing finality.

On one hand, I respect that. That’s something other media can’t do. They can’t make us, the viewers/users/players share that emotional connection with the characters. This game is doing this gamey thing well here.

On the other hand…..ok, good, I get it. Now get on with it. Ready to get on with it, here. I’m ready to not be doing this anymore.

But see, that means the game has painted itself into a corner. It’s done very well putting me in the shoes of Arthur and Dutch and the gang. However, once they do that, they kinda have to follow through. If they now go “And now Milton shows up and it turns out he’s an alien taking over the world and everyone goes out in a heroic blaze of glory punctuated by exciting gunfights and nudity in cutscenes!” it wouldn’t make any sense. They have to follow through. And it’s good, I guess. It’s making me have that emotional empathy with the characters in that way that only games can do, and I like when games do that.

But……get on with it, game.

Feminina:

I agree. I think it’s all kind of grinding slowly but inevitably on because that’s how it feels for Arthur. He KNOWS its going to end, any time now, and yet he doesn’t know exactly when, and he kind of almost wants it to just be over with, even as, no doubt, he wants to stay alive to see some traces of good, like if he can get John and Abigail and Jack off to safety or something.

The weary sense of “OK, I get it, it’s all coming to an end” but still having to slog through things, but also kind of wanting to see how things turn out, but also being kind of just tired of it, is very intentionally corresponding to the way the main character is feeling. Which is effective, and nicely done, and I salute it.

But also, I was just kind of ready for it to be over.

But also, on another topic, I wanted to kind of give Dutch some half-hearted props here, because he came up with a plan that wasn’t entirely bad. I mean, it was MORALLY bad, pretending to sympathize while using the Indians to draw the army’s attention is reprehensible and clarifies that he’s a terrible person…but strategically, it’s a lot smarter than “bandannas on and let’s go!” It didn’t completely work out, since the Pinkertons showed up anyway, but the basic idea of stirring up conflict somewhere else to create a distraction from his own activities isn’t terrible.

But of course it is morally reprehensible, taking advantage of other peoples’ troubles and basically encouraging them all to go get killed, knowing the army will likely take it out on the survivors as well…that’s a long way from “we rob folks that rob other folks.” And just in case we missed how far he’s come from being the best man Arthur knows, we see him sidle off quietly, leaving Arthur to face the Pinkertons alone, and then flat-out deny it later. “No, I never left you!”

It just highlights the fact that whatever Dutch once was, and whatever moral ideals the gang once held, those days are gone.

Butch:

Yup. I salute it, but stop it.

That said….

Here we go again being annoyed at the game and hearing the game going “Dudes, what do you WANT from me? That’s the PLOT man! You knew it was the plot! If we ended this some other way, you’d be PISSED.” And, again, the game is correct.

This game can’t win with us.

Whoa, you thought that was kinda not entirely bad? It was so going wrong. Totally. And Arthur did make the very valid point that maybe, just maybe, fucking with the US Army might not have been the best plan. He points out (also validly) that there’s already a whole mess of people out to get them, why add?

It’s also a painful metaphor given our current political situation: Even when Dutch comes up with some idea that doesn’t totally suck it’s a) morally awful and b) he undermines it with his own need to be the center of attention. Had he really wanted to stir something up, to distract with the actions of others and slip away, he would’ve said “Hey, Eagle Flies, do this. We’ll give you the dynamite, good luck” and he’d leave. But no, he had to be there, guns in each hand, yelling, being the star of the show. In doing that, he got seen, it became HIS actions (and the actions of the gang) and so much for the distraction. He can’t leave well enough alone.

Ummmm…….what? Abandoning?

I’m not there yet, Femmy……

Feminina:

Oh…sorry. I thought that came right after the…uh…

Well, it’ll happen soon! Or not! In the meantime, forget I mentioned it.

But yes, true, stirring up trouble among other people so you can do your thing is a not-bad plan, but if you want to be RIGHT THERE in the middle of it, it’s less great.

But hey, bandannas on! No one will ever know it’s us! Hahahahahaha CHARGE!!!!

Oh, Dutch. I guess it’s really just the bare bones of the idea that I gave him halfhearted props for. Because you’re right, the execution was terrible, as are all of Dutch’s plans.

Butch:

Absolutely terrible.

Though, oddly, he must’ve been good once. I did find a cigarette card of “gunslingers of the west” with him on it.

Although….

It also had all the other gunslingers on it. Take that as you will.

His “You’re men started first” argument also didn’t hold much water.

This game will end at some point, right?

Feminina:

I don’t know, man, I just stopped playing it when I ran out of dinosaur bones. There never was exactly a conclusion.

Just kidding! There is a conclusion, and it does end…eventually. Not when you think it’s going to, though.

I mean, you’d think you’re very close to the end right now…and yet you are not.

We’ll talk later.

Butch:

I’m trying, man! Just….read a lot of books before you start another game. Read slowly. If you start something now, we’ll never be on the same page again.

I’ll go fast! Honest!

Feminina:

Yeah, I have stuff to read. Plus I’m going to a conference in Chicago in a couple of weeks, that’s several days I wouldn’t be able to play anyway. And I’ve always got Pokemon Go.

It’s not your fault. It’s just this game. And as you say, once again it’s not really the game doing anything wrong! It’s not the game’s fault either! We’d probably complain just as much if it wrapped up with a single dramatic showdown full of fire and explosions and nudity and wave after wave of nude enemies who caught on fire and then exploded–we’d say “come on, that’s not narratively or thematically consistent!”

So it does narrative and thematic consistency and we still complain, because there is no pleasing us. Although let’s keep in mind that there is pleasing some people, because lots of people ADORED this game. So maybe we (and by ‘we’ I largely mean ‘I’) are just the whiny outliers who don’t appreciate the art or whatever.

Because dude, this isn’t even about not knowing how to save properly, which I acknowledge is on me. My feelings about the entire final 20% of the game are not based on anything to do with save issues, and I still have…things to say about it.

We’ll talk later.

Butch:

Ok, good. I feel like I’m depriving you of your hobby what with my slow play and trips to Nashville and my crazy assed kids. I do not want to deprive you of your hobby! But maybe your hobby is really just blogging and it’s cool.

We would complain about melodrama. And then we’d be all “Why did we do all that other themey stuff if it was going to end this way?” and there would be white hot rage.

Game can’t win.

And, I do get the sense that lately, some six months after its release, it’s getting to that “And now it’s hip to hate on this thing everyone adored” phase. One can never tell, though, if criticisms in this phase of anything are legit or just being leveled cuz everything everyone loves always goes through this “hip to hate on it” phase, which usually precedes the “no one is saying anything about it” phase, which precedes the “everyone now embraces the fact that they were right the first time and it was a classic” phase.

So who knows? Maybe they read our blog and are seeing its warts, or maybe this is just the natural progression of everything that eventually ends up a “classic.”

You’ve said “we’ll talk later” enough that I now realize this is not you doing your usual riff on the title of the blog but it is because you have capital T Thoughts that you are dying to discuss once I solve the issues of my lack of free time, trip to Nashville and crazy assed kids.

Working on it, dude. Working on it.

Cuz there’s gotta be something very unexpected a comin’. I’m curious, too.

Feminina:

I mostly just have one major thing to say about it, but I’m ITCHING to say that.

I mean, there are other observations, I’m sure we’ll have thoughtful discussions about how the final 20% works with the themes of the first 80% and so on. We’ll talk.

It’s going to be great.

Butch:

I feel so bad. You’re ITCHING, you have nothing to play, I’m a terrible friend.

I blame my family.

Feminina:

Nah, I really just want to complain about one thing.

I’ll come rushing in saying “OK you played it so [ALLCAPS WHINERANT] all right I’m good let’s talk about narrative or whatever.”

Butch:

So really, just another day at the blog?

Feminina:

Pretty much.

Butch:

You know, it just occurred to me…….

Finishing the last traces of hidden Easter candy and it occurs to me that the Easter bunny and Santa have a weird quirk: they give chocolate replicas of themselves as gifts.

I can’t tell if this is a little weird or something we should get on board with. Imagine: if we made a tradition that we just got little chocolate Butch and Femmys made, and made it tradition that that’s what we gave out, ever, every year, then a) we wouldn’t have to think about what we were giving and b) no one would complain cuz who doesn’t like chocolate replicas? People LOVE chocolate bunnies and Santas. People really just want chocolate replicas!

I should have thought of this sooner.

Feminina:

That is…that’s a bit weird, but I kind of like it! It’s outside the box. Or inside the chocolate box, which is a good place to be. Because as you say, who doesn’t like chocolate figures? Great for every occasion! Never worry about what to give anyone, ever again!

I’m getting a mold made ASAP.

Butch:

If the Easter Bunny can get away with it, why can’t I?

Seasonal T SHIRT!!!!!!

I think it’s genius. Or I’ve had too many old jelly beans. Or both.

Feminina:

Definitely both.

Of course we do have to remember that both Santa and the Easter Bunny are famous not only for chocolate statues of themselves, but also for being hard to pin down when it counts.

They sneak down chimneys or scurry around the garden in the middle of the night leaving their chocolates, but they’re never around later when someone starts saying “so, dad, how come we all got the exact same present as mom and grammy, and it’s a chocolate figurine of you?”

Butch:

Dude, who’s gonna ask? Chocolate, man! If it was socks every year, people would be pissed, especially socks with pictures of yourself on them. But chocolate? No one wants to pin down Santa and the Easter bunny over that. You just gaze upward, offering a silent thanks for chocolate!

If anyone asks, you just say “Cuz chocolate, that’s why!” and they say “Oh yeah, right!”

Have you ever bitched about getting chocolate? No. There ya go.

Feminina:

“Cuz chocolate, that’s why!” IS a pretty inarguable answer to any potential challenge.

All right, I like it. Off to “Chocolate Figurines R U” to order a nice mold!

Also consider, if we have the mold, we can really customize…some people could get chocolate figurines filled with caramel! Some filled with jam! Some filled with other chocolate! Some (the ones you don’t like as much) filled with nothing!

Some milk chocolate, some dark…the possibilities are endless. And delicious.

Butch:

And the ones you really don’t like get the hollow ones that crumble when you bite them!

Feminina:

Yeah! Truly, the perfect gift for everyone, including people you don’t want to give gifts to at all.

Butch:

I have a feeling I’m going to get a lot of hollow, crumbly Butches.

That’s gotta be a NEW SENTENCE.

Feminina:

I’m pretty sure neither I nor any normal person has ever heard it before.

Butch:

Well this took a hard left turn.

I guess I really did eat too many jelly beans.

Feminina:

Yeah…you played, too! It’s not as if there was nothing to talk about!

We had the military, shabby treatment of the Indians by the military AND some random guy who pretended to be their friend…and we didn’t even get to the conflict between Rain Falls and Eagle Flies.

I mean, we understand Eagle Flies’ frustration, right? And in an actiony video game, we’re kind of PRIMED to expect that the solution to any problem will hinge on violence. Obviously he and his people should fight! Kick some US Army ass! Let’s go!

And yet, just as with Arthur and the gang, we can tell it’s not going to end well. Rain Falls, who’s trying to just keep his people ALIVE, is the more rational one. But we, and he, and Eagle Flies, must all be chafing under the obvious injustice. It feels wrong to say his approach is the right one, because it’s a choice they shouldn’t have had to make. Injustice was done, and it’s not right, and siding with Rain Falls feels wrong…but so does siding with Eagle Flies because we know in the long run all he’s going to get is dead. He/we can’t win this by fighting.

Butch:

Still…it’s a lot like the gang, too, where you know that either way, Arthur’s cautious way or Dutch’s nuts way, they’re doomed. The game takes place in 1899. We’re here in 2019, and we know what happened to outlaws and Native Americans. Doesn’t matter who did what, who does what. It’s not like outlaws and Natives all died because they should’ve listened to the other guy. They died cuz the future showed up. There is no “right” way. We know how the story ends.

It’s much like Arthur’s TB. He’s gonna die. As he said to Charles “It’s bad…and it’s gonna get worse.” There’s nothing he can do.

The game has kind of tricked us into forgetting that, too. We’re here wondering on whether Eagle Flies or Rain Falls is right, and who has the better plan, etc. We forget that dude, this was 120 years ago. We know how it ends.

Feminina:

Well, no. I’m not forgetting that we know how it turned out (or how it has turned out to date, anyway).

I originally wrote “he’s not going to win this by fighting. Or by not fighting” but then I started to mentally wander off into the weeds of “the US Army, like the future, is steamrolling through and there’s nothing anyone can really do about it,” and then I had to go check a work thing and didn’t want to get into it, so I just sent it without that.

But yeah…I think we are, generally, aware of the overall history even if we can briefly pretend in the middle of some game battle that that specific game battle could potentially make a difference.