I wouldn’t consider myself to be emotionally unstable, nor an emotionally inept individual, contrary to popular speculation. Sure we all experience those fleeting moments of distress, and our cool refined facades betray us; like weeping uncontrollably when the Iron Giant is destroyed in selfless, sacrifice to protect Hogarth from impending disaster, or the regrettable moment that my eyes became shrink wrapped in tears when England were deservedly knocked out the European Championship, on penalties, again! But there is something so genuinely captivating in the way Red Dead Redemption executes its narrative, and the first instance that I have become emotionally sensitive to a video games story.
I shouldnt experience these sensitive sensations? I should be content with skinning those unscrupulously sly cougars (the animal, not the sexually frustrated female equivalent), and roaming the destitute state of New Austin in search of bandits, thieves and wealth. But the most seductive aspect that continually willed you on was none of these intricate distractions, but the same reason that motivated John Marston, the search for his wife and son.The emotional attachment is initially a very subtle thing, with Marston seemingly portraying the familiar maverick that is appealing, but somewhat one-dimensional. But as the story progresses, so does Marston’s personality. Rockstar could just as easily of created a deplorable, petulant anti-hero, and sure he may not embody the same likeable charm akin to Nathan Drake, but the pensive attitude and blazay stance has a certain charm, which is integral to the virtual bonds you can’t fail to make with Marston.
Then there’s the journey he’s forced to undertake, seeking out various outlaws, initiating multiple, merciless killings, whilst simultaneously being manipulated by a largely anonymous marionette. He is tireless in his pursuit of his family’s safety, in a less than hospitable world where laws are enforced, but rarely adhered too. The journey is tough, but the elation that sweeps over you, though brief, is something of a revelation, as your feel considerably more satisfaction from the reunification of the Marston family, than the combative aspects that are fulfilling, but never offset the emotional attachment affiliated with Marston’s plight. All these turbulent aspects, makes Marston’s demise all the more poignant and heart breaking.
It didn’t seem fair that Marston is killed, double crossed at that, and it was this moment that left me so despondent. Never has a game left me so bitterly distressed, and one of the few instances where a lead gaming character has perished. If this had been executed by any other developer (with Naughty Dog obviously exempt), it would have left me seething as well as dramatically scarred, but the care and attention that Rockstar devoted to this sensitive incident is so well orchestrated, that it’s instantly forgivable. They just seem to know how to create an engaging cinematic experience, in a game. Sure, the story may not be considered on par with narratives portrayed in classic works of literature, but it’s certainly a monumental stride in gaming story telling.
You grow such an affinity with a character whose anguish readily affects you and the way you play. He’s death is my first instance of gaming sobriety, and an unexpected experience, but one not soon forgotten.
RIP John Marston, in death I hope you find redemption *whips away tears*.