Red Dead Redemption was the story of John Marston’s way of life dying out in the face of the endless march of human progress, but it was also about nature’s last hurrah against that same force. This was the last era in American history in which man truly had to fear the wilderness, and nothing symbolized that better than when you were strolling along, minding your own business, and a bear or eight appeared out of nowhere and wiped out your progress by slaughtering you before you realized what was going on.
For Red Dead 2: The Masque Of The Red Dead to have the same success, it too needs to embrace the allure of an unpredictable wilderness, and not be afraid to cheaply kill players with attacks by animals that are seemingly possessed by a vengeful god.
Unpredictably, after all, is part of what made Red Dead so great. You’d never know what you’d run into if you just wandered around frontier America. Maybe you’d stumble across a robbery you could foil. Maybe a stranger would send you on a mysterious quest. Maybe you’d encounter a cart pulled by a horse which had somehow ingested so much caffeine that it vibrated itself into the stratosphere.
I think the thing that gets me the most about Detective Pony is the fact that there are three Pony Pals.
Dirk has three friends.
One Pony Pal (Pawnee) is implicitly identified with one of Dirk’s RL friends (and his guilt about his relationship with said friend) through the alcoholism schtick.
Dirk’s Detective Pony is the story of three innocent children being corrupted by Dirk’s insidious influence… and the happy ending is one in which Dirk and his influence are entirely removed from their lives.
All of the Alpha kids are explicitly very mentally ill.
They definitely hurt each other in a pretty vicious cycle during the events of their session, especially towards the end, but that doesn’t make them bad or toxic people. Demonizing any one of them as some sort of villain to the others is unfair, but it is unfortunately something that I see a lot.
The Alpha kids dealt with a session unlike any other. Of course they ended up falling apart, they were stuck in their session for almost half a year! Most sessions are much, much shorter than that, and even though they faced very different challenges than other Sburb players, they were extraordinary challenges nonetheless.
Such a long gauntlet would wear on even the most mentally healthy of parties, but considering the Alpha kids, who all have so many demons to wrestle with and turmoils to face, as well as their neurodivergencies? Of course they ended up hurting each other.
But I want to reiterate, that does not make them bad people, that does not make them toxic, and I can’t help but feel that it is unfair to claim otherwise.
There is no doubt in my mind that they made up and became an even stronger group of friends after the nightmare that was their prolonged void session.
The villain wasn’t Dirk, it wasn’t Jane, it wasn’t Jake, and it wasn’t Roxy.
They all hurt each other, as friends sometimes do, especially friends that were no more than 15-16 years of age and mentally ill to boot! And playing Sburb on top of that? Gosh, it was inevitable.
The antagonizing factor was the awful circumstances that they were put in, and despite these awful circumstances, they survived, and became better, stronger people, truly deserving of their godhood and the Ultimate Reward that they played a very important part in creating, equally as important as all of the Sburb sessions that preceded theirs.