Stranger in a Strange Land

My (first) playthrough of the narrative of Red Dead Redemption is gradually winding to a close. Part of this is finally leaving Mexico (which I was pretty sick of) and headed back up North to the home country. And a very important part was heading to Blackwater, where the game ostensibly started, but where I, as player, have never been.

At first I was just glad to be riding somewhere new – Mexico’s scenery and revolutionary war had been wearing somewhat thin and it was nice to guide my horse out past the previously furthest explored point and into the unknown. Then I got to Blackwater, and things got yet more interesting.

Actually, it might be more accurate to say that things became tinged with sadness. Blackwater is the game’s most modern town, and riding in I saw a store selling cars, paved roads, and imposing architecture. I saw men in suits, large, open squares, and neatly gridded streets. As I rode through these streets, I felt extremely out of place in my cowboy gear with my horse’s hooves striking the paving stones sharply.

In other words, Blackwater manages to evoke that sadness associated with the passing of older times into new – in this case, the modernisation and taming of the Wild West. Whether or not you think that was a good period in history, the avatar, John Marston, very firmly belongs to the old world. And, having ridden with or as him for the past twenty or so hours, and always in the wild open country or in small gritty towns, shooting bad guys, dueling, herding cattle, this new modern world took me aback. It’s not so much that I didn’t like it, but it was more, as I said, the very tangible sensation of not belonging.

Frankly, I found it to be a rather beautiful experience.

28 June 2010
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