I’ve had enough mishaps to know riding into town with a bloody man draped over my horse is a poor idea. As such, I’m relieved the injured stranger is well enough to sit upright.
“We’re nearly there. Just hold on a little longer, alright?” I reassure him, steadfastly ignoring the fact that he looks like Carrie at the prom.
He groans as I urge my steed into a gallop, racing toward the St Denis doctor. But I put on too much speed in my haste, and the turns are too sharp, the roads too crowded. I swerve to avoid trampling a woman, swerve back to avoid collision with a carriage, and run my horse headfirst into a pole.
As I gracefully sail over my horse’s head I wonder, “Is this how I die?” It is not. But my passenger, similarly launched, is not so fortunate.
And then I get done for murder.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is an Old West video game that strives to emulate reality in many aspects. Weather changes. Horses poop. And, just as in real life, the world doesn’t care about your good intentions.
Despite everything about the game encouraging players to revel in crime sprees, I prefer to live and let live — unless those living are the KKK. Doing chores around camp, hunting deer, helping people I stumble across on my travels, I’ve avoided conflict wherever possible. Or, at least, I’ve tried to.
Through a combination of clumsiness, poor controls and misread situations, my altruistic endeavours have quickly transformed me into a horrible murder gremlin. I ride my one-man disaster parade across the fictional American frontier, dumping corpses in the middle of town and punching random horses. I’m like functionally immortal Lenny from Of Mice And Men, only I don’t have a friend who’ll get me to look at the rabbits.
It would be better if I could explain myself. But the population of Red Dead has a very strong gun culture — they prefer to shoot first and ask questions never. Nobody in the world of Red Dead cares that you thought the old house in the swamp was abandoned. All they see is a muddy interloper going through their grandmother’s chest of drawers.
Riding north, I stumble across a bedraggled man yelling and flailing about in the middle of a river. He’s clothed and appears to be in some distress, so I assume he isn’t just taking an afternoon dip. Concerned he’ll drown if I don’t act immediately, I grab my lasso and throw it around the man, intending to drag him to shore.
And then I get done for kidnapping.
Turns out the man wasn’t drowning, and he does not take kindly to my unsolicited rescue attempt. Not seeing any viable alternative, I hogtie my accidentally acquired captive for safekeeping while I figure out how to prevent him dobbing me in to the lawmen. I have no way to explain my mistake but I think I might be able to threaten him into silence, so I pull out my revolver. I’m then spotted by a passerby.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s controls aren’t great at the best of times, much less when you’re panicking. Short story shorter, I get done for murder. Again.
Good intentions are meaningless unless accompanied by good deeds, and good deeds cannot eventuate without the hand-eye coordination and cool head necessary to pull them off. With each attempt at charitable action, my fumbling fingers claw me further from the light.
Maybe I’m not made for human companionship. It might be better if I retreat to the hills, venturing only to the smallest towns to sell my pelts when necessary. If I simply refuse to interact with other people, I can’t accidentally perforate their lungs with lead.
I am an outlaw, a man on the lam, too wild for civilised company despite my best efforts. A true mountain man.
I killed a horse.
I didn’t know it was a horse at first. I’d been tracking a deer for an entire day, because I am a lousy hunter and an even worse shot, and when I crested a hill and spotted what I thought was the animal I fired.
Turns out you can’t skin horses. You can’t eat them either. So I was left standing over a limp horse corpse lying in the grass, unable to even assuage my guilt by ensuring its body was used for something meaningful.
When I finally did track down the deer it took me an embarrassing number of arrows to kill it, and by the end its hide was riddled with holes. I skinned the animal anyway, hoping to sell the ragged hide for whatever meagre sum I could. But when I tried to store it, I discovered I’d followed my quarry for so long that my horse was too far away to call.
So I gave up, set up camp where I stood, and slept for 18 hours.
This world has broken me. I tried to be a good man, but it’s a dog eat dog world out there. It’s yee or be hawed.
All I wanted was a quiet life. Living off the land, tending to my horse, taking in nature’s splendour. I’d fill my journal with sketches of birds and pet every single dog I met. On calm nights I’d find an isolated place to camp and look at the stars.
Instead, I am dodging vengeful gunmen as I haul my screaming, blood-soaked arse across the plains.
This is my lot in life, a fate that cannot be escaped. I tried to fight it, but all paths lead to damnation. The only difference is whether you have a horse to ride in on or if you shot it.