A few weeks back I raved about the cowboy game Red Dead Redemption 2. You’re a cowboy criminal, you can go anywhere, do anything, and it all feels so real.
Well, last night I finished chapter 2 and entered 3 of the game (I’ve been parsing it out gradually), and was made to feel pretty queasy at my role in all the criminal escapades.
Spoiler alert – chapter 2 ended with a big shootout in the town of Valentine, after Leviticus Cornwall, a rail magnate whose train we’d recently robbed, turned up with some Pinkertons to arrest the leader of my gang, Dutch.
So, we shot them all. We shot up the town, where I’ve been hanging out for weeks now, chatting to people. But that isn’t even the worst bit. The worst bit are the 3 events that followed immediately after.
1. We saved a German guy who’d been kidnapped, and helped him find his family. But why? It’s this pretense of being decent that gets to me. Yes, it is nice we helped that guy, but is that occasional niceness allow us to be criminals the rest of the time? I’m trying to figure out the moral scales at work here. Does it somehow make up for our criminality?
2. After this, we rolled to a new town, sidled up on the sheriff, and offered to help him. A criminal gang (just like us) had escaped jail and I had to bring them in. Of course the gang leader begged me to let him go. This is all very confusing. He’s just like me. Where is my code of honor in this?
You think there’s honor among thieves, but not here. We are nakedly out for #1, ourselves. Worst of all was how happy the lawmen were to welcome us as ‘good men’ in their midst. I want to be good and not just a faker! I want to be welcomed in towns rather than have people always saying ‘None of your trouble now, you hear?’ when I come within earshot.
3. The cherry on all this was when Dutch was talking down any hint of rebellion in our group, in the aftermath. I’m getting the feeling that this is our style now. We go to a new place, bleed it dry, wreck our reputation, then move on again. But Dutch has some BS explanations for this.
He says some stuff about wanting a brighter, kinder, gentler world. That’s what we’re seeking.
I just had a storyline where I freed a guy from a religious cult talking trash like this. Dutch talks sweet to us, then we commit crimes, and we lie to ourselves about how amoral we are, and it’s all for some greater good, while we’re out there killing folks. Then we all went fishing together and had a merry old time.
It’s pretty distasteful. When I realize the reason Mary never married me (my character!) is because I’m a criminal, I felt bad. I ruined her life and my own with this lifestyle. I was raised by Dutch, and I was brainwashed to think this is a good lifestyle. But I could do anything. Be a cowboy. Run a store. Be a decent man instead of grumbling about being a bad one.
And then, in the new camp, it’s right back to breaking legs for our resident loan shark. I would hate these people, if I wasn’t one of them!
Well, I could always stop playing. I wonder if the story is setting up a fall for Dutch from within. Maybe I will sell him out to the Pinkertons. That’ll be a tough one to live down, but maybe the right move.