Red Dead

Why America Needs Red Dead and All of Its Political Satire

Beautiful landscapes, bloody shootouts, and morally grey outlaws would seem to make the Western the perfect genre for video games. However, gamers can probably count on one hand the amount of truly great Westerns in games. That list usually begins and ends with Rockstar’s open-world adventure Red Dead Redemption.

Released six years ago, Red Dead Redemption was the perfect blend of new and old for Rockstar. It took the open-world, colorful characters, and great writing of the Grand Theft Auto series and mixed in the tone, setting, and horseback riding of the Wild West. In the process, Rockstar created one of the best games of last generation. A lot of excitement surrounds the long anticipated sequel, which Rockstar has remained quiet about.

The Magnificent Sequel

The rumor mill has been churning for some time with rumored release dates and titles for this unannounced sequel. An early version of the map was leaked earlier this year (which TechRadar verified according to some inside sources) revealing some possible information about the game’s setting. However, due to Rockstar’s silence about the new Red Dead, a lot is still unknown about the unannounced game.

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One thing that’s certain is that the game will maintain Rockstar’s streak of sharp satire and social commentary. Rockstar’s two most recent high profile releases – Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto 5 – satirized American culture both past and present. Red Dead Redemption took on the myth of the Wild West, while Grand Theft Auto 5 pointed fingers at everyone from conservatives to liberals, the Minutemen to health gurus, and Wall Street bankers to West Coast gangs. Clearly this is a developer that isn’t afraid to say something.

And that’s what games need now more than ever.

Back in 2010, Red Dead Redemption was already talking about racism, U.S.-Mexican relations, and ignorance. Now, with a Presidential contender running on a platform driven by fear, hate, and bigotry gamers need a game that speaks up. Every form of entertainment has weighed in on the current wave of bigotry and hate that’s sweeping across America. Why should games be silent? This is a medium that has the potential to really point out how ridiculous and harmful this kind of prejudice can be by making people experience it actively, rather than passively.

This is where the new Red Dead could really affect the conversation. Like with most Rockstar games, the satire in Red Dead was not always subtle, but we’re well past the point of a subtle political conversation.

With the new Red Dead, Rockstar has the potential to bring games into the current political conversation. More importantly, Rockstar also has the potential to let players of every political party experience the ugliness of prejudice that has remained in America since at least the days of John Marston.

The American Myth

Right now, Red Dead is the game that both gamers and America need. Like Unforgiven, or any number of neo-Westerns that it takes inspiration from, Red Dead can strip down the myth of the American past. Rockstar could engage players in a reexamination of what America is, while still providing a fun and enjoyable experience. This untitled sequel could be a game that’s current and relevant in a way that few games are.

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Let’s just hope Rockstar doesn’t miss its chance. They haven’t been present at E3 or Gamescom this year, which might mean they are planning on revealing the game next year. Sony is holding its PlayStation Meeting on September 7, which could provide Rockstar another opportunity to reveal Red Dead. At this point, fans can only speculate about this game, but Rockstar knows what it has in Red Dead. Rockstar has never been afraid to speak up, satirizing American politics or drawing attention to the ugly part of American culture. Hopefully Rockstar speaks up again, sooner rather than later.

Cody Mello-Klein
Cody Mello-Klein is a writer, gamer, part-time baller, and full-time shot caller from Boston. He's a sucker for a good story and is still waiting for another Cormac McCarthy novel. He has worked as a narrative designer and has an interest in the ways games can tell unique, emotional, and provocative stories. Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer for occasionally witty remarks.

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