Some spoilers for plot points in Red Dead Redemption 2
Well, I’m on Chapter three!
Ok, let’s go. I got three things.
1) We talk a lot about narrative here on this blog, and rightly so. We talk about game mechanics a bunch, too, and rightly so. However, we very rarely talk about visual imagery. Not graphics, mind you, but actual visual metaphor. It’s rare to see it in games. So when the train robbery started with Arthur standing astride an oil filled wagon facing down a train, the very symbol of progress in 1899 (Indeed, I finally found a newspaper I could buy last night, and couldn’t find a cheat anywhere in it, but there was an article that said Cornwall proudly declared that railroads would cross every part of the USA, so railroads themselves are a sign of both progress and the end of Arthur’s way). Here, we have Arthur, symbolizing the old way of America, staring down the new way, but standing on something that’s ready to explode.
That’s cool, in and of itself. But it got me to thinking: We don’t talk about cool visual imagery cuz it’s rare. WHY is it rare? This medium we so love is VIDEO games. VIDEO. As in VISUAL. Every other visual media uses the fact that it is, in fact, visual. Games, oddly, do not, at least not very often. Even very, very good, themey games!
I wonder why. They are missing opportunities to be themey.
2) The shootout in Valentine….I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I think it’s very cool that there seem to be multiple bad guys in this game. There’s the O’Driscolls, fighting Arthur for their share of the present. There’s the Lemoyne Raiders, fighting a futile battle to bring back the past, and now we have Cornwall and the Pinkertons, bringing everything they have to usher in the future. That is very cool. It’s cool enough to have different baddies, but to have them all be symbolic is amazing.
I continue to be troubled by the way Strauss is portrayed. This “He only got grazed but he’s all wimpy” adds to my troubles. Arthur, in his journal, is even amused at how wimpy Strauss is.
I don’t like this. It’s particularly troubling in a game that takes such great pains to get its symbolism right. This game knows what it’s symbolizing. See above.
3) Every so often, as you know, there’s a scene in a game that makes me just sit back and ponder, and it takes me a while to get my head around it. The entire scene with the German immigrants is such a scene. To have Arthur not care (but to have CHARLES, he who worries on the white man coming to take his lands away, care), then to have Arthur, grudgingly care, to have it end with the German being rich, to have all the talk about how Arthur is, basically, awful leading up to it… There was a ton in there. Hell, even where it was in the narrative: when the gang is moving, looking for a home of their own, and how, instead of taking the land away from the Germans, they are LED to their new paradise BY the Germans…Massive amount to unpack, and I haven’t unpacked it yet.
So you first. What was your takeaway from all that?
Phew. There’s some bloggage. Timed all this wrong, though. Kids have a half day and I have to bake a Boston cream cake as it is Meatball’s birthday tomorrow. But blog we shall!
That was an interesting bit with the train robbery. Although I was a bit disappointed, because didn’t John sell it as “they see a burning wagon on the tracks, they’re going to stop”?
And then we didn’t even set the wagon on fire, but they stopped anyway. What’s that about? I WANTED A BURNING WAGON.
Moving on. I was kind of amused at how it then said “you can make money by robbing trains! Try different strategies!” like, “now we’ve taught you how, go out and have fun with it!” and I instead said “nah, I don’t think I’ll be doing that.”
I mean, it was fine as a mission, but I’m not exactly going to be running around looking for trains to rob. I’ve got other things to do with my life. Like having my companions freeze up on me in the middle of missions.
The shoot-out in Valentine was interesting, for the reasons you said regarding different bad guys–or, let’s say, different antagonists for the gang, since we’re as much ‘bad guys’ as anyone here–but also because it seemed to take Dutch by surprise that anyone would object to his gang’s thieving AND be willing to actually do something about it. It’s as if he’s used to the people they rob being either not strong enough (in terms of weapons and people) to retaliate directly, or else being “too far away” to find him. They’re all those civilized elites in their mansions or whatever, they’ll never come all the way out here to get back at him! It’s another sign, I think, of the way that ‘progress’ is coming to the world they know. Maybe in the old days the elites were too busy and the west was too wild, but things are changing. They’re making too much money here to let it slide, and they’re no longer afraid to come out after him (or send their dedicated people after him).
The world is changing, and Dutch doesn’t really get that: he still thinks they can find someplace to hide out that will be far enough away that the future won’t catch them.
And I wonder if maybe Strauss kind of represents the future’s foothold inside the gang…with his legal-but-shady business and his wimpiness compared to the manly, rough-and-ready crime of the rest of them. Sort of like “honest robbery” compared to lowly, legal robbery.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of those Germans either, honestly. As you said, Arthur was a total jerk about it and initially wanted to just chase them away and take their campsite–he only helped them because Charles insisted, and then it indirectly led the gang to their next safe camp AND got Arthur a big bar of gold. Helping people was the right thing to do, but Arthur didn’t want to do it: again, he’s not actually a good person, even though the grateful family was showering him with thanks and praise.
I like to imagine they somehow weren’t immediately murdered as soon as they got out of sight over the next hill, but “a wagon loaded with gold” is EXACTLY the kind of target we/our gang would be going after in other circumstances, so it’s undoubtedly going to be sought after by others, unless we conveniently killed everyone who knew about the gold. Which is completely unclear, since it never really explained how anyone knew in the first place…did the family boast about it in the last town or something? Get a little too careless flashing money around while buying supplies?
And how about the fact that we must assume they’re setting off into the new world to be bankers, more or less? Are we not just enabling the future we’re trying to escape?
You’re evil. “I wanted them to crash thus killing many innocent people!” What did you want them to do? Slow down, evacuate everyone, then accelerate, thus leading to a wonderful fireball?
Don’t answer that.
Still. I kinda want to see more visual imagery in games. That was a great shot. Do better, games.
Did that frozen companion thing happen again?????
Yeah, what’s funny is that, after the John mission, I took the train back to Valentine (expedia had a “one way + shoot up the town” bundle), and that’s when I got the tutorial there. “Did you enjoy your trip? Extend the memories by ROBBING EVERYONE!” It didn’t seem to care that I was just ON the train. “Sure, you could just buy a ticket, but wouldn’t it be more fun to wait until it’s moving and jump on from your horse?”
I, too, have no interest in that. The problem was that Roach was on the other side of the train from where I wanted to be. I got on, was trying to get around the train, and it started moving when I was along side it and the prompt was all “Jump to train” and I’m saying “No! No! Just….I just want to get to Valentine! I don’t want to rob this train! That would be so wrong! I just….uh….want to kill everyone in Valentine!”
Yup, the future. Arthur even alludes to that when he’s riding with Charles, about the country being a big place but not anymore. Hosea doesn’t buy it, either. He tells Dutch “When are we going to stop running? When get to Paris?”
Though, while I agree entirely with your point, I don’t think that actually having Cornwall come there in person was the best way to show it. I found myself thinking “Oh, come on, this dude is a multi zillionaire, he has operations all over the damn world, and he, personally, is going to come to this place that I can’t even ride through without Roach getting dirty to personally confront some dude that robbed his train of what must be a pittance to him?” (What, I have long thoughts when I play.) They could have made the point about elites no longer being “too far away to find them” without the elite ACTUALLY finding him.
I certainly expect there to be a big, theme ridden confrontation between Cornwall and the gang, and it would be hard to have that confrontation with Cornwall if Cornwall wasn’t, you know, in the game, but it’s a stretch.
Maybe they’re working on ‘honest’/legal robbery, but there must’ve been a way to have a character that did that without even flirting with troublesome racial/religious stereotypes.
And he isn’t a good person….true….but I think it’s still unclear if he just isn’t a good person who revels in it or if he really does have some good in him and doesn’t know how to find it/do it. At the end, when they are showering him with praise, he’s genuinely surprised. “Why are people thanking me? Why are people saying I’m great?” It’s more than just, “Yeah, yeah, whatever, got any gold?”
Did you read the journal entry he wrote about it? He said that he envied Charles because Charles was inherently good, and he, Arthur, had a struggle between the good and evil in him. He implies he wants to be more like Charles, that he wishes he was good. Even Charles, on their ride, calls bullshit on Arthur when Arthur’s all “Hey, I’m just a dumb killer, I’m terrible, I suck, blah blah blah.”
And before we hold up Charles…Charles, yes, insisted on helping, but Charlies is also a member of this gang. He went a little nutsy and shot that poacher (and our Arthur let the other go). Charles is, by any objective measure, just as bad as Arthur, but, as to who he is inside, it’s more complex.
I think that’s in line with the metaphor of the game. Sure, it’s easy to pooh pooh that old right wing Americana as icky, racist, whatever. It’s also easy to hold Native Americans up as these peaceful, in tune with the earth innocents who were just sitting there having pow wows until whitey showed up. Of course, it’s all a lot more complex than that.
Uh….didn’t think of that, with the family and the gold. But here’s a question: You, and I, both wanted to think they turned out ok. That said, these dudes were, pretty much, just like Strauss. Objectively, these were rich(ish) German immigrants who needed help against the big strong cowboys, who were going to go on to be financiers and miners and whatever. That said, we both liked them. They were portrayed in a way that was FAR more likable than Strauss, right after we had a bit of Strauss being very unlikable, indeed.
We are enabling the future. But see, that was unclear to Arthur (and us) until the end. Until the end, we don’t know that these are rich folks. We know they’re scared, living rough and alone. They’re strangers in a strange land. Sure, he was kidnapped, but we’ve robbed poorer people. We’ve beaten up poorer people. It’s totally conceivable that someone kidnapped this guy because he was scared and alone and helpless, and all they thought they’d get was his silver belt buckle. Outlaws usually are ok with that. It wasn’t until the very end that it was revealed that “Hey…..dude’s rich…..” We enabled the future we’re trying to escape without realizing it until it was too late.
Yeah…I don’t want to completely belabor the fact that they’ve got this thing going on where Strauss is a possibly Jewish German-speaking immigrant and presented as a wimpy sniveling usurer, but those blonde, Aryan-looking German-speaking immigrants with money were presented as a sympathetic, wholesome family…but…they’ve kind of got that thing going on. And you’re right, they COULD have just made it obvious that Strauss is not in fact Jewish. We don’t know that he is. The fact that they’re leaving that open to interpretation, when the potential interpretations are so fraught, is either lazy, or intentional. I’m not sure which, or to what end if it is intentional. Are they trying to make a point? What point? We should, obviously, wait until we get to the end to really pass judgment–we can’t really say what they might be trying to do until we see what they actually did. But it’s…it’s interesting, all right.
And yeah, I almost said “maybe Arthur was right not to want to help them, they’re bankers!” but as you said, neither he nor we knew that until the end, so it’s not as if he was making a stand for his principles or anything (other than the principle of being a jerk).
And also yeah, I thought it was a bit implausible that Cornwall himself came out there to challenge Dutch. I suppose he’s trying to send a message to all the other gangs as well, but still, not usually the behavior of a guy who owns railroad cars and what not. These are the guys who usually hire Kevin to do their dirty work!
It is….interesting. I, too, will withhold judgment, but it’s troubling.
What’s also rather troubling is that I haven’t seen a single article about this issue in the press. The press, of late, has been very good at calling out games on their treatment of women, homosexuals and people of color. All that’s great! That said, I haven’t seen a single drop of ink spilled on how this game, or any other game, for that matter, treats Jews. Granted, this does not come up all that often in games, but it seems to have come up here, and I can’t think of anyone else that’s talking about it.
I really haven’t read many reviews of this game other than the ones that mentioned killing your horse by leaving the road (which I have yet to do!), but it’s certainly true that I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere. Hm.
Well, we’re going to meet this unfilled need, then. It’s what we do! Occasionally, in between complaining about the lack of nudity.
Still no nudity. Just saying.
I would rather have nudity than anti-Semitism.
But I’m too happy right now to care. Mrs. McP has a conference in Nashville in April, and my parents have offered to TAKE THE KIDS FOR FIVE NIGHTS so I can go!!!!
I gotta type it again. Indulge me.
My parents have offered to TAKE THE KIDS FOR FIVE NIGHTS so I can go!!!!
I don’t even know all that much about Nashville. It likely has a lot of country music. But that’s ok cuz NO KIDS FOR FIVE NIGHTS!!!
Ok, ok, I’m calm. I’m ok. I’m breathing NO KIDS FOR FIVE NIGHTS!!!!
OH MY GOD MAN THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!
Nashville for FIVE NIGHTS???!!! Who CARES what they have there! You know they at least have booze, so it’s already guaranteed awesome with FIVE KID-FREE NIGHTS. Wow.
I’m also firmly onboard with the Nudity YES, Antisemitism NO platform. It even fits very nicely on a sign.
They have booze. That they do.
And dude, it’s a conference so we don’t even have to shell out for the hotel or Mrs. McP’s plane ticket! Or her food!
This….I can’t even….dis tew much…….
Man, that’s going to be great. Congrats.
I mean, Mrs. McP is busy all day, so I’ll be on…..my……..
It’s like…what will you even DO? Who knows, but it’s going to be amazing because…just you…hanging out…nothing to clean or cook…NO KIDS…the mind reels with the sheer awesomeness of the thing.
Maybe you can go to a movie! Or a museum! Or take your PS4 and just play games ALL DAY LONG!
The possibilities are almost literally endless.
There’s an art museum….there’s a waterfront park…..
Shit, I’d even hit the country music hall of fame (which is there) just for the peace and quiet. Or something.
Or just lie quietly and nap all day. It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, it’s going to be great.
You’re gonna love it. Really.
I’m still in some degree of shock. These things NEVER work out.
Well, I suppose if a good day of bloggage is gonna derail, at least it derailed for the right reasons.
But back to games.
You didn’t get that bug with the companions again, did you?
I’m still stunned with vicarious glee.
But no, I didn’t get the bug again…’course, I didn’t play at all, so that’s not saying much. I’ll try to get to it tonight.
Please do. Cuz I’m still worried. I worry.
You know me.
I’m slightly worried too, just because the way this game has been going for me, that’s just what we would expect to happen–absolute disaster.
But it will probably be fine. Fingers crossed.
Just go back to an earlier save. Things like that only happen if there’s, like, a perfect storm of events. So load an earlier save, putz around doing whatever for a while, then proceed.
But it’ll likely be fine.
Oh, and on newspapers? I found a guy last night. I, too, was near him and triangle was all greyed out and I thought “Hmm. Femmy said this happened to her….” but then I got REAL close and I could buy from the guy.
Maybe they’re hard of hearing.
“”Hey, pardner, can I get a paper?”
“No, not pardner, paper, pardner.”
“THAT! In your hand! That you make your living selling?”
“Oh. Why didn’t you say so?”
“You want another paper?”
“No, I said….never mind.”
All right, I’ll get right up in his face next time.
“PAPER!!!!! HAND IT OVER!!!”
Then I’ll probably bump into him by mistake and knock him down and lose honor/get beaten by the townspeople for attacking him. Because that’s how it goes.
Or try to talk to him and hit the wrong trigger and shoot him. I do that all the time.
Just yesterday, I was doing the herd sheep bit (which I also had thoughts on, but Nashville cleared my head), and I was TRYING to scare a guy away by putting a shot near him, and he moved and I shot him dead.
John said “Or just ignore me and shoot right at him!” Arthur replied “Worked, didn’t it?”
It’s a wild place, the west.
Yes! I do that all the time. I’m either trying to talk to someone and shooting them, or trying to ‘study’ a horse and punching it…life is dangerous in the west. At least around me it is.
I didn’t hit the guys defending the sheep, but it was mostly luck.
“Or just ignore me and shoot right at him!” is the best NPC line during a tutorial ever.
On the sheep…..
I thought it was a great touch that that rather mellow, pedestrian level was right before all hell broke loose. If you did it right, you didn’t even kill anyone. That was a great calm before the storm moment.
It sucks on many levels that you have had bad technical luck with this game, cuz you must admit it’s very good narratively.
It was kind of mellow. Just scaring people off, chasing sheep around. Getting suspicious looks from the guy running the auction, almost getting in a fight but walking away from it. Just a little livestock-rustling, nothing major, everything’s going fine.
And then all hell breaks loose and now you can never be seen in THAT town again!
Although you can actually pay off the bounty and go back, it’s fine. If you really want to.
Wait bounties work for dead or alive places? I thought if I paid off the bounty I could go back to the state but not valentine (that is, the dark shaded area).
Are you wanted dead or alive in Valentine? I just wound up with a $300 bounty or something. I paid it off so I could go back and take what’s-her-name, Ellie Anne Swan, back to collect another bounty. Ironically, perhaps.
Here, take my money so I’m free to walk the streets and you can give me some money!
Maybe you killed more people than I did or something.
Yeah, man! I’m full on dead or alive!
I just killed everyone with a red dot! I even tried not to, but dudes got behind me and I died!
Ironically, I only have, like, a sixty dollar bounty everywhere else.
Huh. That’s interesting. I still have Dead or Alive in Blackwater, but for Valentine it was something I could walk into the nearest post office and pay off, so I did.
Maybe it was because I had that bounty quest open and the game politely didn’t want to lock me out of that experience? Seems a bit implausible–I would honestly not have felt I had any ground to stand on, objecting to not being able to finish a quest because I shot up the entire town where I got it.
But hey, I guess…that was nice of them.
Or else I somehow managed to not kill as many people, although I, too, pretty much killed everyone with a red dot, so it certainly wasn’t from lack of trying.
I dunno, man, but I am very much Blackwatered in Valentine now. Very, very much so.
Maybe you had the sense to wear a bandanna?
“Well…..MIGHT have been you, so, let’s just call it 300, ok?”
But I’m only out sixty in the rest of the state.
In other news, I read today’s post, and I was going to say “Elusive nudity” is a good name for a scented candle, which I will say here and now, now that I know I’m replying to you, instead of hitting reply to the email above with one, which was to my kid’s school Parent Teacher group.
Close call, that.