Guns ‘n’ Money

A very brief post this evening, since I’ve left it so late while watching the USA-Ghana match at the World Cup. Today was kind of interesting with regard to Red Dead Redemption because the narrative involved a kind of appropriate commentary on the nature of the gameplay itself. John Marston himself (the avatar) says to a friend, “While there are guns and money, there won’t be any freedom, Luisa.”

How apt, I thought to myself, as a statement about the nature of freedom in these kinds of games. Perhaps we should amend it to, “while there are only guns and money,” though. The concept of freedom in games, and particularly sandbox games like RDR, is bandied about quite a lot. The idea being you can go where you wish and do as you please. But of course you can’t really do much.

And to that extent, “guns and money” characterises rather well the basic nature of one’s “freedom” in RDR. Your basic form of expression comes in shooting people (guns), or in spending your hard earned money on various items (money). It’s interesting, then, to see the game talking about the limitations on freedom of two overpowering and powerful aspects of life in Mexico. It’s almost as if the writers are inviting us to read the similar limitations on freedom, which we willingly agree to on playing the game, implemented in the game’s code. In playing the game, we somewhat become the same kinds of operators as the craven despots and the desperate rebels – driven by guns and money.

(Of course, this isn’t entirely fair, because, in reality, the genuine expressiveness in the game comes through the navigation of space. But I need to make some kind of point in this post. Deflation!)

26 June 2010
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