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Red Dead Redemption II – an existential perspective

By April 4, 2019No Comments

This personal reflection contains major plot line spoilers for Rockstar Games’ hit console game “Red Dead II Redemption.”

Red Dead Redemption II is a Western action-adventure game developed and published by Rockstar Games, described by David Meikleham,, as “The best looking console game there’s ever been.”  I have completed the game.  I enjoyed its depth, detail and meticulous world building, so much so that it has opened for me a metaphorical portal f that has challenged my way of thinking.  I guess this elevates it to the level of high art.  As such it offers a perspective on the meaning of life and also the nature of vocation. In doing so it causes us to reflect on the value of our chosen occupations and career.


The lead protagonist is a ‘villain’ and gang member by name of Arthur Morgan.  The gameplay allows you freedom (free will) to play the game in an honourable or dishonourable way (virtue or sin.)  Perhaps conditioned by other game-playing experiences I started my Red Dead journey obsessed with the acquisition of wealth and self-advancement.  I would seldom miss an opportunity to loot a corpse for anything useful and upgrade my possessions.  Every now or then the plot (providence) showed me that working selflessly on behalf of my gang or fellow human led not only to a sense of contentment but also offered doors to unforeseen adventures and opportunities. My reflections led me to consider the initial progress of my own career and direction in life.


Then came the big plot shock that changes everything (road to Emmaus moment).  Arthur contracts terminal tuberculosis, a diagnosis that can be traced back to his/my decision to beat to death an impoverished debtor.  There is now a quantum shift in terms of perspective in how one now plays the game, or how Arthur chooses to live out the rest of his life.  The ultimate conclusion of the story is pre-set (pre-determinism.)  Arthur will either die in a selfless act and passes in the first rays of a glorious dawn, or he chooses a last gasp grasp for wealth and perishes in the dark, stabbed by his nemesis.  Either way, Arthur, like us all, leaves the world with nothing, even his beloved horse is left behind.  His life is either forgotten quickly or treasured in the memories of those he has helped.  This plotline added a transcendence to the story.  I realised that I was reflecting on the meaning of my own life and career, positing such existential questions as “what happens after death,” “what is the motivation for my career,” “why do I act in the way I do,” and “how will I be remembered?”


Shortly before his mountainside demise Arthur confides to Sister Calderon that he is “afraid” (of death) – (“I have looked into the abyss”) and that he is not a believer in anything.  Sister Calderon responds, “Take a gamble that love exists, and do a loving act!”

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