Red Dead Redemption and Squandered Potential

The first article I wrote about Red Dead Redemption was on the heels of experiencing what is in fact my favorite video game ending of all time. Rockstar San Diego treated Marston’s coming home with pitch-perfect restraint and provided a subtle but shocking finale to an otherwise heavy-handed game. Of course, in that article, I didn’t talk too much about the rest of that heavy-handedness that spoils so much of the fun. I discuss that part in a recent editorial I wrote for my monthly GameSetWatch column, The Gaming Doctrine: Red Dead Religion.

Writing this one was a little more intimidating than the others I’ve written so far, primarily because I knew I would be taking a stance that many irreligious readers might find themselves out right disagreeable to. After all, many gamers and even game critics and designers see religion to be relatively indefensible hogwash. Why should religious characters give any other impression?

Then again for as long as I’ve been writing a blatantly religious column for GameSetWatch, I’ve never been outright attacked because of it. In fact, I’ve found that even the disagreeable comments have been tremendously thoughtful and courteous.

The truth is, this latest entry of The Gaming Doctrine doesn’t make any case that requires a religious bent to accept. It’s about treating all people in your fictional world with respect, something that Red Dead Redemption simply doesn’t always do. By crafting characters whose religion makes them stupid, pitiable or evil RDR refuses to acknowledge any alternative. While the rest of the game so masterfully keeps Marston’s opinions about folk to himself and allows the player to fill in the blanks, there’s no such luck when we meet a priest or his daughter.

RDR gets so much right, it’s a shame they got that little bit wrong. Because of the nature of Marston’s journey it sticks out like a sore thumb.

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