Red Dead Redemption: Video Game PTSD


Post traumatic stress disorder, more simply known as PTSD. It can cause all kinds of issues for people who have survived stressful and traumatic ordeals. Just about anyone can suffer from PTSD in a range of different degrees. There may be someone who had previously been beaten so they shy away at sudden movements. They could have been involved in a war. A sexual assault, car accident, bullying, drowning, and so many more. There's a ton of ways people can be traumatized.

One way I hadn't considered was video games. That sounds ridiculous and I thought it was ridiculous until I played Red Dead Redemption II. If you haven't finished the game yet, turn away, there will be major spoilers ahead for it as well as the original Red Dead Redemption. This is your last chance.

In Red Dead Redemption, the original you play as John Marston. Your family is taken hostage and you are forced to track down former members of your gang. John does so and is finally happy with his family. However, Agent Ross decides that there is one last enemy that must be destroyed. There is one last member of that gang that needs to be wiped out. That member is John Marston, despite having gone straight and law abiding for almost a decade at that time. John sends his family out of the back of the barn to escape. When you take control of John again he's left standing in the barn. The only sound is his breathing and there's only one way out.

John steps out of the door and he's murdered by a makeshift group of military, sheriffs and bureau agents. John falls to the ground, without a doubt dead and Agent Ross leaves satisfied with his vendetta finally put to rest. John's family rush back after hearing what must have been hundreds of gunshots and find John dead. They bury him on a hill overlooking Beacher's Hope, their ranch. I played through Red Dead Redemption multiple times, and saw that ending plenty. That was John's redemption, dying so his family could finally live a peaceful life.

It was the first time I remember playing a game where the main character died at the end. It stuck with me and I whenever someone asks for my favorite games, Red Dead Redemption and Sleeping Dogs are the only two that never leave the rotation. I always remember that ending vividly. Fast forward nearly a decade and the sequel, that's actually a prequel arrives.

In Red Dead Redemption II you play as Arthur Morgan. One of the top gunmen in Dutch Van Der Lin's Gang alongside Bill Williamson, Javier Escuella and of John Marston, family included. Arthur is hard on John, but reading his journal, it's from a place of love and eventually they get it all in the open. Arthur is more of a big brother to John. In the conclusion Arthur gets his redemption by sacrificing himself so that John can get out alive and make it back to his family.

After that, we pick up as John Marston. This time we go through the process of buying and running Beacher's Hope. During that time the missions are relatively boring and aren't necessarily suspenseful until the family returns and old gang members start marching into John's life again. Despite that, this might have been one of the most tense times for me.

Making the ride from Blackwater to Beacher's Hope, a ride I had done dozens of times in the original, I couldn't help but feel troubled. I know that ride. It's the ride Jack and Abigail made when John was being murdered. I remembered the way there without looking. It's ingrained into my memory but that's not the only situation. After building the barn you'll have to walk through it to get to a mission marker. I'd be lying if I didn't tense up in anticipation when opening that door. Despite knowing better I was half afraid that there would be rifles pointed at me on the other side.

I'll tell you the moment that really got me. During there original there is a set of stranger missions from an odd man. Some hypothesize to be the devil, other believe to be a god judging John's soul for good or bad. Regardless, on the third occasion we meet him he will remark how great a spot he's standing in is. This will later be the spot that John is buried at. A hill overlooking the ranch. Repeatedly Rockstar forces us into that spot. It's where John stands when he wakes up in the morning. It's the spot John and Abigail share a kiss at. It's the spot that John and Abigail praise the ranch at in the final conclusion. Every time we were forced to stand in that same spot where John's body would ultimately land, I became a bundle of nerves despite knowing that for now, no harm would come to John. The game does this to purposely disturb you. Upon first entering Armadillo's general store you will notice a picture of the Strange Man behind the counter and John will remark about how odd the picture makes him feel.

Never in my life has a video game given me that feeling of constant fear of something I knew logically would not happen. I knew John would not be buried at the end of this game. I knew he would not be murdered in cold blood. I knew better and still I worried, still I stay clear of that barn, leaving cows unmilked. Congratulations Rockstar, you have revolutionized the art of video game story telling, by making the player not only witness PTSD, but feel it as well.

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Red Dead Redemption: Video Game PTSD Red Dead Redemption: Video Game PTSD Reviewed by Darrell S. on Monday, January 07, 2019 Rating: 5

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