GIF: YouTube

The horses had all the hay they needed, the random bucket of water had been emptied into the wash trough, the cook had his sacks of grain or flour or whatever, and there were no more logs to split. The menial morning chores were done. And I thought, Shit, I guess now I gotta go have a thrilling Old West adventure. I hope when I get back from this damn action-packed multi-stage mission, I will get to lug some more bags of shit across camp. 

All the stuff in Red Dead Redemption 2 is at least fine, so far, and in some cases amazing. Some shit-kicker talked trash in town and I (or, well, Arthur Morgan, the game’s protagonist, at my direction) coolly shot him through the eye in a quick-draw gunfight, and it ruled. A giant bear attacked Arthur in the wilderness, pinned him to the ground with its paws, and mauled him savagely, and now Arthur wears that bear’s face as a hat. It’s all very well done, and good silly fun, and sometimes startlingly lifelike. And yet at pretty much all times, playing it, I am thinking I wonder if there are any more chores available back at camp yet.

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I promise I am not like this in my actual physical life. Right now my kitchen sink contains a soiled cutting board that has been languishing in there for at least 48 hours; I’ve walked past it countless times; the idea of cleaning it fills me with a vague horror. My internet service provider shipped me a new physical modem earlier this week with strict instructions that it must be installed in place of the old one by such-and-such date or we will lose internet service, and that new modem has been sitting in various front-of-the-house locations for like three days. I don’t like doing chores. (Maybe I will boot up Red Dead Redemption 2 so that I can simulate carrying a bale of hay from here to there, instead?)

I think these camp-site chores are supposed to register, to the Red Dead player, as tedium. Arthur gets rewards for doing these menial tasks—honor, or karma, or outlaw-gang chemistry, or whatever, plus I think maybe a boost to his magical ability to view events in Matrix-style bullet-time?—presumably as a simulation of the character-building that comes from sucking it up and performing the dull, tiring, recurring tasks of maintaining a home and a life, when you presumably would rather be off doing bank robberies. Like how, for example, my actual real-world psychological and physical health and well-being, as well as both the visual appeal and general accessibility of my real-world home would all improve if I went outside into the real world literally right now and pulled some portion of the 10,000 unsightly, out-of-control real-world weeds choking the real-world space between my silly real-world log house and my equally silly real-world garage, but I won’t do that, because I would rather scratch my butt for literally all the rest of my life than do that.

But in Red Dead Redemption 2, the rewards of these activities feel superfluous. I just like making Arthur chop the wood. I like when a log incompletely splits on the first blow from the ax, and Arthur does that thing where you lift the ax with the log still attached and bang it down again and then the log splits and the halves fall away. It’s impossibly satisfying. When Arthur does it. I would rather chop my foot off than chop firewood, here in reality.

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I don’t know what this means. It’s the most demented shit I can think of, and it makes me more certain than anything else ever has that humanity is doomed. Cool video game, though.