I Can't Stop Talking With This Red Dead Redemption 2 Character

There’s a lot to do in Red Dead Redemption 2. There’s so much going on that even when I head into a town for a few errands I’m besieged by things to buy, strangers to help, and places to rob. But there’s a guy in Valentine I always make time to speak with, whether I want to or not. It reminds me too much of a situation in my real life.

My first time in the town of Valentine, I spotted a one-armed man sitting on the ground begging for food. He appears to be a wounded Civil War veteran.

Having studied a bit of the cultural history of the Civil War (I cannot recommend enough the fascinating This Republic of Suffering, a history of how the Civil War changed Americans’ understanding of death), I went over to see if he had anything interesting to say about the time period or the war’s after-effects. He was effusive and chatty, and he seemed a bit unusual but generally harmless (something you can’t say about a lot of strangers in the game).

He told me a convoluted story and got a bit overly friendly. As protagonist Arthur, I made small talk and then went on my way.

On subsequent returns to Valentine, I felt like I suddenly saw this guy everywhere. There he was by the train station when I just needed to pay my bounties. There he was in the saloon when I just wanted to play bar games. I’d see him coming and think, I don’t have time for this right now ... and then I’d go over and enter into an interaction with him.

It wasn’t for the honour boost of talking to people in town (though I’m badly in need of honour, given all the people I keep running over with my horse). Even though he’s just a video game character, avoiding him felt overwhelmingly rude. It seems like our interactions matter to him, and I don’t want to be impolite.

My inability to avoid this character in some ways mirrors a situation in my real life. Around midnight several months ago, I got in a conversation with a person in my neighbourhood that went a bit too far. He told me he needed help getting a room at a nearby shelter, and I was naively happy to try to help him navigate the bureaucracy.

This task then grew to require multiple stops, various people, and a lot of complications that I didn’t think added up. Things started to feel more and more sketchy until my common sense prevailed and I excused myself, though not before giving him more money than I felt comfortable with.

After that, I saw him in the same area most days, and he’d pushily corner me with a new mishap that required more money than the time before.

When I mentioned the guy to my neighbours, they said they’d been hearing the same stories from him for years. Many had given him a lot more money than I have or become overly-involved with him before cutting him out of their lives.

He’s been threatening to several of them, but no one is particularly scared of him. Everyone advised me to be firm about my boundaries and not let him rope me in further than I wanted to go.

As I see it, this person in my neighbourhood is just someone doing what he needs to do to survive. He might not make his money or access shelter in the way that I do, but I don’t want to judge the circumstances that led us to do things differently. I don’t like feeling lied to, but no one wants to be thought of as a sucker.

Homelessness is a systemic problem, and I don’t particularly care what he does with any of the money I give him. But I still dread our long conversations and the awkwardness of wanting to dispute his stories but being too meek to do so. I don’t know how to stand my ground.

I know I’m capable of setting boundaries, but in this situation, I keep failing to call on any of those skills.

The veteran in Red Dead isn’t lying to Arthur, as far as I know (I have a lot of game left to play still). I haven’t found a real reason to avoid him besides it reminding me too much of my real-life situation. Arthur is a much more confident, standoffish person than I am, and the last time I saw Red Dead’s veteran, I wondered if I could use the moment to practice setting boundaries.

I saw the veteran coming and decided this would be the time I avoided him.

I had things to do, and I didn’t owe every character in this sprawling game my time or attention, and it didn’t mean I wouldn’t help him in the future if he needed it. But I immediately felt bad. As I tried to work up the motivation to turn the corner and get away, the veteran approached, and I clicked the button to interact with him. I sighed at myself and waited out our dialogue.

People in real life are of course more complicated than characters in games. They don’t run out of things to say and go on their scripted paths, and there’s no programmed end state to our interactions. Red Dead’s veteran reminds me of something that’s stressing me out in my real life, a less fun kind of roleplay than games can sometimes provide.

I know there are “fake” beggars in the game, though I haven’t gotten to them yet. Maybe when I run into them I’ll be able to practice setting boundaries. But for now, I take the long way home to my apartment and always stop to talk to that guy in Valentine.


Comments

    *spoiler*

    He is lying. Near the end of Arthur's story, he admits he was never in the war and has lied and felt bad for it.

      I remember an incident back in 2001 when, thanks to a real short day at work, I busted a 'homeless' beggar bragging on their mobile to a friend that they'd had a reasonable day begging. They'd made about $500.

      I've been suss of most beggars since. 2001 was well before mobiles were a default accessory. Today even homeless have em, but not then. Having one was still somewhat of a status symbol.

        The documentary series Drugs Inc has made me suss of beggers. I pretty much expect any money I give them will go to drugs.

          Always a risk. When I busted the guy in 2001 though, it made me realise how much money a dedicated beggar was actually making. Even a quarter of the amount that guy made (it was Redfern, so a peak location) would have been $600 a week. I can tell you today that $600 a week is plenty to live on when theres no housing costs, and 2001 was a hell of a lot cheaper than today.

          Then when you toss the drugs and alcohol issues on top of that, I just dont trust beggars period. I have no doubt some really are destitute, and there are some I help, but in general, theres so much risk of bullshit that I just give nothing.

          As I'm like most and rarely carry cash these days (or at worst, pretty much only $50's) its kinda a moot point anyway. The worlds moved on to the point people simply dont have spare change any more.

      In my final interaction with this fellow as Arthur, Arthur told him of his sickness and impending death. In response, not only did he confess to lying about his military service but he also thanked Arthur for being kind and taking the time to talk to him. He said Arthur was, deep down, a good man, that their conversations were something he looked forward to and that Arthur was the only one in Valentine that treated him with respect. He seemed genuinely upset about Arthur and said he would be sad when he died. It was a grounding moment and a reality check for Arthur, showing that he had made a difference in the world by being kind with no strings in contrast to Dutch's self serving idealistic slogans - "Rob those that need robbing and help those that need helping" - and manipulation of people around him. In my mind, at that point of the story, this conversation galvanised Arthur's shifting view of his relationship with Dutch and made the carnage to come inevitable.

        Maybe it was because Arthur is never mentioned in RDR 1 (and what Marstons fate was in the original game) but it was always a dreaded foreboding that lingered over Arthurs journey. There was only one way the game could end. Mind you I was shocked at how effected by Arthur's sickness I was towards the end. Watching his reactions and revelations as he starts coming to terms with what he's done, the life he has led and questioning Dutch's choices etc. I found it all very emotional and was quite moved by it. I used to think John was a cold hearted bastard for turning on his old gang but that's completely changed.

    I often speak to him, the old blind soothsayer (dudes criptic but his prophecies clearly relate to you and others folks in your camp) an just about every homeless person I've helped has told me a secret or place to rob.

    Jokes on him I just shot him in his other arm when I first saw him.

    ...and he still came back asking for coin O_o

    I believe that I ran into a 'fake beggar' near the end of the story missions in Saint Denis. Apparently he was 'blind' iirc, however, when I aimed my pistol at him, he reacted to it. Could just be Rockstar weirdness, but I'd like to think it was intended.

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