I confess, I only felt drawn to Red Dead Redemption because Wil Wheaton (who, coincidentally does one of the voices in the game) wrote a hilarious blog post about it a long time ago. He, and by ‘he’ I mean his character, had been out hunting coyotes on horseback, when one of the coyotes ran right underneath his horse. He followed the coyote’s movements with his gun, and fired… so he ended up shooting his horse.
That sort of thing cannot be hilarious unless you’re a gamer, so just trust me. It’s funny.
Therefore, over Winter break, I’m playing Red Dead Redemption, and you can read about it if you like. Spoilers incoming!
At the beginning of the game, I discover that I’m a bounty hunter on a mission to capture or kill some dude with whom I have a troubling, but secret, history. Instead of collecting my bounty and moving on, my bounty ends up shooting me in the ribs and leaving me to die.
A nice lady named Bonnie comes along, rescues me, pays a doc to patch me up, and lets me stay at her family’s ranch. She’s a little bit of a badass, but I suspect I’m supposed to also find her attractive.
She gets me back on my feet and teaches me the controls of the game. We shoot rabbits together, hunt coyotes (I don’t shoot my horse, but neither do I kill any coyotes), and we race around the ranch so that I can learn how to control my horse.
Thoughout our conversations, I realize she wants to know me a bit more than I want to be known because I’m dark and mysterious. I can tell this by checking out all of the legit scars on my face (I look like I’ve been mauled by a panther) and the metaphorical ones on my soul that pop up in conversation every so often. Eventually, I end up telling Bonnie that I’m married and have a kid; I just need to collect my bounty so I can return to the life I want to be living.
*Sidnote: I suspect my family will probably be killed during the course of this story, so that I have to fall for Bonnie, but that’s just a guess. We’ll see.
A few days after my gunshot wound has fully healed, Bonnie and I go into town, where I meet the Marshall. I’m trying to get him to help me go back to the place where I was shot, so I can collect my bounty and redeem myself, but he’s got other problems. The town of Armadillo is evidently falling to pieces, so I agree to help him out with some things in the hopes that he’ll return the favor.
This is a common structure in video games – there is almost always someone I need help from, who will only help me if I run off and do something he needs first. Early on in the game, it’s usually something stupid like collecting apples or talking someone into doing something. Later on, it can be several really difficult things. In this particular case, the Marshall wants me to help him get rid of bad guys, and, from what I can tell, there will be several missions I have to help with before he’ll help me. I suspect they’ll get progressively more difficult as the game goes on.
First time helping the Marshall: We end up out in the middle of nowhere, chasing some idiot off into the desert. We get into a firefight with him and his buddies. I kill him.
As I’m riding back into town, a mountain lion attacks me and kills my horse before running off. Not knowing what else to do, I stand over my horse and notice that the game only really gives me one option, so I skin my horse and set back into town on foot. Yes, there is a skinned horse carcass on my screen and I feel quite a bit of shame, but you live, you learn. In the future, I will be a quicker, better shot and kill the freakin’ mountain lion before it even gets close.
Hilarious sidenote: my character definitely yells at the mountain lion, “Hey! Stop it!” the same way he yells at hoodlums in the street. It cracked me up a bit.
This mortal horse thing seems like it’s going to be a consistent nuisance.