It's Worth Keeping 'Red Dead Redemption 2' at a Distance


This is the second letter in our series about Red Dead Redemption 2. You can read Austin's first letter here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


this letter series is a really excellent way to work through something like RDR2. it feels nuanced and serious and i’m really enjoying reading it. i don’t have much to add (i haven’t played it!) but it gets five bags of popcorn from me, martin.


This opening reminds me of the issues I had playing GTAV. I started playing after taking a break from a non-lethal run in MGSV and the opening mission just felt so antagonistic to the way I would play a game, or choices I would make IRL, that I very nearly stopped playing there and then.

It felt like the designers intended it to be such a moment, where you had to kill the guard, because he’d seen your face and it’s like, no, actually I could also not, especially as a criminal trying to get out, better to go down for attempted robbery, rather than murder? It was just a really cheap gotcha


God, you just reminded me how SO MUCH of that opening heist in GTA V makes no sense at all.

The assumption is that Michael was selling out Brad, Trevor, and the driver. So, once Trevor kills the guard, the police decide jumping them at the initial point was no longer an option and storm the bank. Well, Michael is killing police right along Trevor and Brad. Why… Why is he allowed in witness protection? They didn’t get Trevor, the target, and Michael killed DOZENS of people. He should have been put on death row right then and there.


I always wondered why GTA V got a pass from everyone for having such a nonsensical plot. Did anyone at Rockstar spend even the smallest amount of time trying to determine how witness protection actually worked and why the government would do it? Such a shame too after GTA IV, which didn’t have a perfect story but it at least held together on a cursory examination.


Just wanted to hop in and say that this letter series is really interesting, I think it’s illuminating some parts of the conversation that are normally overlooked. These letters that introduce more nuance and give space to really highlight the successes of a work and call out a work’s failings make me happy that I regularly come here for responsible criticism. Letter writing is a bit of a lost art and I think it works really well in this context.


I’m betting Natalie’s word is gonna be, “Inconsistency.”


I’m eager to hear from folks who have personal touchstones with elements of RDR. I grew up in the west, grandpa was a rancher, dad used to rodeo, and spent most of my free time in my youth hunting. And I have to say, there are just some things this game gets right, particularly Arthur. His stoic, violent masculinity is exactly how I was taught to behave. Do your work. Do it like someone is watching. Do your work quietly. Don’t complain. And if someone starts a fight, finish it.

It’s been 13 years since I left all that, those people, that environment, but seeing all that so accurately represented is leveraging a more emotional impact than I expected.


I think it has been near universal that the journal is one of the major highlights of the game. Arthur’s okish sketches and writing really humanizes him to the player, and it’s nice to see some inflection in the journal where Arthur keeps himself somewhat even-keeled. I have been going back and forth on really liking Arthur and then being frustrated with how he seems to be played the ‘centrist’ in dialogue.

For example, Arthur doesn’t really say much about the suffragette march he joins up with, but in his journal he talks about how he admires the change that these women are pushing forward. It really made me feel warm and smile to see Arthur acknowledge their movement like that.

On the other hand… Arthur just met up with the Native American characters in the game, and basically did the, “Irish people were slaves too.” argument. His exact wording was, “My people are on their way out too.” What… White people? No. Criminals? No… What are you talking about? I really fucking hated Arthur in that moment.


So after listening to the latest podcast, I realized I hadn’t really been checking that journal at all. I kind of just forgot it was even there with how many other things are going on in that game.

Do you have to go to sleep every day for him to write about the latest mission/current events? Or rather, if I haven’t been putting Arthur to sleep every night and just riding through the night or starting missions, will I completely miss out on that retroactively?


I think he updates it when you go to sleep after you done a bunch of missions.


I like the idea of him spending all night recounting a week’s worth of events in his diary! Definitely need to add that to the incredibly long list of things to constantly be interacting with in that game.