I Hung My Head, I Hung My Head

I started playing Red Dead Redemption at long last today and have put a reasonable amount of play and note-taking into it so far. If you want a very basic impression: it’s a very good-looking and very cleverly designed game.

Writing about it, my thoughts immediately turn to my previous post wishing for an “I Hung My Head” moment in the game: that I would do something in the world that I’d sincerely regret, to get away from the kind of avatar who’s either non-stop heroic or is indifferent in the face of suffering.

I’m pleased to say that RDR has already provided me with a good number of these kinds of experience. While perhaps not yanking on my heart-strings, it tweaks them. The game has a quite pleasing “interactive portrayal of failure”. Note, too, that these failures I’ve experienced didn’t take place as part of the scripted narrative, but as events which “just happen” in the environment as I move through it.

So, for example, I saw a guy being attacked by cougars at night. I went to his aid, shooting the cougars. Buuuut… he died from his wounds. I failed him – I tried to do a good deed, help out a fellow human, and I wasn’t able to pull it off. I felt bad. Likewise I tried to rescue a treasure hunter from some bandits – same result, I got the bad guys, but didn’t save the victim. The most affecting one, though, was when a guy raced up to me on his horse and asked me to help him save his friend, about to be hanged for no good reason. I tore after him in an exciting race against time – we made it to the site and we took out the bad guys together. But when the dust settled, the victim was dead, hanging from the tree. The man fell to his knees and wept at the swinging feet of his friend.

In all these cases, but particularly the last, the game encouraged me to set about some task with good intentions, and often some considerable excitement, and then also allowed me to fail to bring about the justice or assistance I was aiming at. There was no “mission failed” screen or anything like that, just an actual failure in the world.

A man crying for his unjustly killed, unsaved friend. I hung my head.

15 June 2010
← next words previous words →