Red Dead Redemption 2 Mapped Onto My Dumb Dating History
Welcome to Everything Is Gaming with Carolyn Page. You guessed it, I’m Carolyn Page. My qualifications? I pretend to be a robot going in for maintenance whenever I go to the dentist. I’ve also made my living writing and talking about video games, ever since I left my old life of crime behind. Games are the newest, most important art form we as a collective species have right now. And art imitates life folks, that’s why everything is gaming and gaming is everything. Today I’m talking about the cowpokes who trampled their wild horses all over my heart. Spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2 and my messed up romantic past.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the greatest open world games ever made. The emotional journey of Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang is also an accurate depiction of what being in a sh***y relationship feels like. The high of feeling like you’re the only one who matters, the low of realizing it’s all a lie. The game is divided into 6 chapters and a big old epilogue, each echoing a low key romantic trauma for yours truly.
It’s the wild west, the Van der Linde gang is searching for freedom and so was I. Having left my repressive, square, small town roots behind, it was time to date exciting people in New York City. But at first the snow is falling and Arthur Morgan and the gang are trapped in a bad winter storm, just trying to survive. This is me, trapped in Tinder hell in a new city, desperately trying to escape my own loneliness. Neither the Van der Linde gang or I knew that being isolated might be lonesome, but it also means no f***boys/Pinkertons are coming after you.
The gang settles in the aptly named Valentine, and it seems like love at first sight. After all, that cool, hot drummer slash charming little town seems perfect. A small place to settle for the gang, a big city musician for me. What could go wrong? This is it, this has got to be love, right?
Then the gang realizes that the Pinkertons are after them and they won’t stop coming. And I realize that that drummer is never going to wash their sheets or clean the bathroom floors. Then I catch them checking their active Ok Cupid profile on MY laptop while I WAS COOKING THEM DINNER. And I realize it’s time to get out of dodge and that the old west/affairs of the heart might be a little more complicated than I thought.
The next relationship will be different, I told myself. Just like Dutch tells the gang. And it was different, but then you’re knee deep in ‘gators. The gang went to meet Angelo Bronte and I started dating a different drummer. Surely this rich gangster Angelo Bronte will be easy to swindle. Surely this drummer will be upstanding and true and never lie to me.
The night’s not dark, it’s gaslit. The gang is scattered and washed up in Guarma. And I washed up on the shore of liar island. Arthur realizes Dutch saying “it will get better when we go west” was code for “I don’t know what I’m doing.” I began to realize that drummer #2’s reasoning of “not wanting to be public about us dating on social media because it’s bad for my career” was code for “I have a side piece in Inglewood.” After some furious fighting and more than a few tears, Arthur made it back to the mainland and I made it out of that relationship.
The Van der Linde gang has come to see that Dutch may not be the visionary he sells himself as. Arthur realizes that daddy Dutch has someone else as the apple of their eye: Micah. All notion of brotherhood is out the window. I was through dating drummers. But just like Arthur if you choose the ending where he goes back for the money, I just had to try one more time to date a free-wheeling musician. The heart wrenching scene of final betrayal in Arthur Morgan’s story was almost as heart wrenching as hearing, “I’ll never love you as much as I love my music,” which is an actual quote from the dj I started seeing post-drummer. My old life died and so did Arthur.
The end of this tale is all about re-birth and moving on. John Marston picks up the pieces and starts a new life. A safer, quieter life. A life with a fun building mini game and a good woman. For me, this represents the old self dying in order for something new to emerge. I decided I was done with dj’s, done with drummers. The lesson I learned: instead of going after the outward trappings of how people present themselves, look at how they actually behave and treat others. A novel, groundbreaking idea. Almost as novel and groundbreaking as killing your main character and replacing him for the end of the game. Like John and Abigail, I decided to build an honest life, with honest people. Sure there would be hardships, there are still wolves out there in the world and legendary creatures which will chomp you up if you stand still for too long. (Legendary creatures in this context represent personal hang ups and personal flaws I guess?) But as long as you stick to the moral high ground and do your best, in the end it’s all ok.
Oh god I just realized that Red Dead Redemption is functionally a sequel to this game and is not a happy story about happy people living happily ever after. I’m doomed.