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Things only adults notice in Red Dead Redemption 2

They say the devil's in the details, and Red Dead Redemption 2 from Rockstar Games has no shortage of devils or details. The ESRB is pretty thorough in their explanation of the "Mature" rating they awarded Red Dead 2, and a lot of the qualifying elements — such as "a spanking scene that is depicted from a distance and includes a fleeting depiction of male genitalia," "sexual moaning sounds inside a tent," and "male characters with exposed genitalia in non-sexual settings" — are easy enough for players of all ages to notice and comprehend. A few other sultry and shameful details linger farther beneath the surface of Arthur Morgan & Co.'s story of absolution.

So, whether it's the game's eye for detail when it comes to intoxicants, the socially progressive undercurrent of its Old West narrative, or a morbidly lustful romance between siblings, we're taking a look at things only adults will notice in Red Dead Redemption 2.

The hidden dig at Rockstar's labor dispute

Red Dead 2 made a lot of waves leading up to its release, and one story that garnered a lot of attention was Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser's interview with New York magazine, in which he discussed the company's rigorous and demanding workload. The phrase "100-hour weeks" has been haunting Houser since, as outrage and condemnation over Rockstar's allegedly unfair working conditions quickly swept the internet. We can only imagine Houser & Co.'s chagrin when fans like reddit user u/ObZenDF uncovered one particularly scathing Easter egg hidden among the game's Weaponry catalog.

The Cattleman Revolver ad proclaims: "We believe you will agree there is no more iconic well known revolver on the market today. A sidearm for many years of the US Army, it is manufactured at a factory we own and control in Worcester, Mass. It is made by skilled laborers who work tireless hours each week and on the weekends for little pay in order to bring you the finest revolver in the field today." With its veiled first-person account of what it's like to work for Rockstar Games, this Easter egg hits the publisher close to home. Its placement in the peripheral narrative is so sly, it's most likely only noticed by industry-savvy adults who've seen their own share of labor disputes.

How hilariously accurate the drinking scenes are

Despite its savage story of outlaw life in the Old West, Red Dead 2 is loaded with comedic moments that tie the narrative together like a fine oriental rug in a Coen Brothers film. One particular mission — "A Quiet Time" — finds you painting the saloon red with Lenny. As Arthur gets more and more intoxicated, it's clear that Rockstar went to great lengths to replicate some tried and true tropes of classic adulthood drunkenness. With or without this surprisingly good section of the story, the game sports an entire mechanical subsystem to measure the exact level of your inebriation. But what makes "A Quiet Time" so special as a mission is its staggering sense of realism.

As Polygon's Colin Campbell puts it, "The boys are having a great time, while simultaneously having an awful time. Drinking robs Arthur of his good sense, and of his ability to defend himself. There's an ugly sort of glory in the whole mess of an evening, which plays into macho ideas about getting wasted that are just as potent now as they were in the saloons of the 19th century." Meanwhile, VG247's Dave Meikleham suggests that "'A Quiet Time' is perhaps Red Dead Redemption 2's finest mission. It's certainly the open-world epic's funniest."

Bray and Tammy Aberdeen's incestuous relationship

Some of Red Dead Redemption 2's random encounters have a way of sticking with you for all the wrong reasons. The incident at the Aberdeen Pig Farm is one such diversion. Here, north of Pleasance near the Roanoke Ridge border, you'll meet a salacious brother and sister who are engaged in some major incest action. Only grownups fully understand what's implied when the sister Tammy says "I'd've fixed myself up nice," and her brother Bray replies, "You know you look perfect, Princess." And only adults comprehend the subtle gestures of sexual intimacy the two make as they stand there, slack-jawed, groping each other on the front porch.

After inviting Arthur in for dinner and drink, Tammy Aberdeen and her pig-faced brother make a few overt sexual advances with the kind of parlance you only pick up "in the field." If you drink the booze they have to offer, you'll find yourself drugged, duped, and left out to dry. As you pass out, the Aberdeens will loot your intoxicated body and leave you for dead in a corpse-ridden ditch south of the farm. If you return for vengeance and drag a hog-tied Tammy back out to the pit, she'll beg for mercy and cry for "Momma's" forgiveness with such zeal and abandon, you have to wonder whether or not Momma's corpse was the first one to hit the pile.

Why Sonny the stranger is so ... "friendly"

Some of Red Dead Redemption 2's NPC Strangers are friendlier than others. A few of them are arguably a little too friendly, in the sorts of ways only mature audience members can truly comprehend. Picture Sonny, for instance, who takes advantage of your personable nature with a perverse reveal of his own. In a cabin Southeast of Lakay in the Bayou Nwa, you'll encounter a certain lecherous stranger, who (it is heavily suggested) lures Arthur Morgan into his home and rapes him. When you meet the barefoot and shirtless stranger Sonny, he asks if you're looking for a friend. "I'll be your friend," he says, "if you let me. Folks don't normally want to be my friend." After inviting you inside for a bite to eat, Sonny will clobber you over the head and whisper a few sweet nothings before leaving you in a rather suggestive and compromising position in the middle of nowhere.

Naturally, you can return to take your revenge. And if you hogtie the scoundrel in his own house, he'll also utter things like "Tied up and a new friend? Best day ever!" (among even more suggestive exclamations) to betray his sexually deviant intentions.

The hidden pressures of loan sharking

From train robbing to head hunting, there are several sordid ways the protagonists of Red Dead 2 can earn a living. But only adults will notice the brutal condemnation of classism on display in RDR2's money lending missions. Lead writers Dan Houser, Michael Unsworth, and Rupert Humphries seem to harbor a certain amount of contempt for a certain kind of bourgeoisie attitude that lurks behind the darkest notions of Manifest Destiny. This counter-philosophy is inherent in everything from the acerbic dialogue to Mr. Strauss' houndstooth jacket and sharp-brimmed hat.

The lone shark himself, Mr. Strauss, tells you, "It's legal work, Mr. Morgan. Debtors belong in prison... we are doing them a favor." Arthur replies that he'll "make sure they see it in those terms." Behind the subtext of this casual exchange is the cold reality of what it's like to owe the wrong people an uncomfortable sum of money. After all, Strauss says, "people are happy to borrow off someone like [him], but more enthusiastic paying back to someone like you." So it goes that, over the course of "Money Lending and Other Sins", the audience is treated to a raw slice of what Rockstar is really thinking when it comes to classism in America.

Madame Irene's fortunes are more truth than fiction

South of the second "A" in "Manzanita Post" on your map, you'll find the remnants of a carnival wagon train. Strolling past the skeletons of conjoined twins, you'll discover a wagon housing the Madame Irene fortune telling machine (which is sure to evoke ominous pangs of nostalgia for any seasoned Tom Hanks fan). "Behold and hear your fortune," Madame Irene proclaims if you strike the machine with your fist, before offering you an oracular reading. Interestingly enough, a keen observer with the wits of age and wisdom will likely notice that Madame's fortunes are actually more truth than fiction.

As Madame Irene consults "the clouds" for your guidance, the game draws from your player statistics to compose a personalized message. For instance, if your facial hair is getting a bit unkempt, she'll let you know that "You do not gain wisdom from growing your beard long. Men stroke their beard because it itches, not because they are wise." She'll also allude to the game's overarching narrative with statements like "A crone and a strumpet will give you equal guidance on your journey," as well as provide Rockstar's patented brand of anti-establishment commentary — "You cannot produce an endless fountain of wisdom simply by tossing coppers, this is the only way of producing endless loyalty amongst the political class." Not only is it an uncanny judge of your character, the Madame Irene fortune telling machine found in RDR2's western wilds is actually full of accurate and insightful proverbs.

The subversive racial commentary

Among Red Dead 2's most mature elements, the subversive commentary on modern race relations is one that younger gamers might not focus on. It lurks closer to realization for older audience members who've seen various ebbs and flows of one of America's most challenging sociological conversations. Rockstar Games, for their part, seems to impart a certain amount of progressive thinking into its protagonists. For instance, during one random encounter with a eugenics supporter, Arthur proudly explains his progressive point of view on the subjects of "purity" and "co-mingling": "I got friends who's Mexican. Friends who's Indian. I've known blacks, Irish, Italians... good and bad in all. I've known good white people and bad white people. And above all... dumb white people."

The Hollywood Reporter further elaborates: "While Red Dead Redemption 2 isn't about [the history of racism], per se, it willfully acknowledges it. You spend a fair amount of time in a gang of outlaws, which include ex-sharecroppers chased off their land and Mexican banditos looking for opportunity north of the border — and riding with them brings comments from other people in the world. Some wish the South had kept rising, others wonder why their fancy riverboat had to start hiring Mexicans... Maybe some players won't get the satire, maybe they will just see what they want to see. But for Red Dead to strut into our world, at this particular time, and offer this much subversive racial commentary really is something."

RDR2 is more historically accurate than it seems

When it comes to immersion in video games, Red Dead Redemption 2 makes every effort to raise the bar. A large part of the game's verisimilitude stems from the historically accurate details to be found in every nook and cranny. But it takes a fair amount of research (read: a high school education) to understand that Red Dead 2 is about as historically accurate as games come, especially those featuring the American Old West. And if you've already endured the rigors of higher education, chances are you'll notice these accuracies as soon as the narrative so expertly presents them.

For some analysts, this depiction isn't as well-rounded as it could be. BBC's History Extra notes that "it seems that to make a video game about America's western past, developer Rockstar Games is intent on offering tales of the brutal Old West that mostly revolve around violence and male outlaws." But, as IGN's Jared Petty maintains, "Very few video games have so lovingly succeeded in recreating a different day and time to such a flavorful and granular degree... Here's hoping that Red Dead Redemption 2's success in deriving such a measure of historical reality paves the way for more period pieces in gaming that vault us into an illusion of life long past and reward our curiosity with learning and discovery."

The nihilistic plight of Arthur Morgan

Similar to games like Destiny and Dark Souls, Red Dead Redemption 2 has found a way to subtly hide an RPG experience beneath the surface of an otherwise straightforward action adventure title. There are two well-documented and distinct endings to Red Dead 2's peculiar story about the waning days of the Wild West. But (as an echo of our experience in real life), no matter what choices you make — or their inevitable outcome — the game serves up an understated examination of existential nihilism through Arthur Morgan's harrowing story: that human life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.

As Rockstar North Studio Co-President Rob Nelson explains, "Being immersed in a credible world with a captivating story, capable of engaging the player, while giving them the freedom to lose themselves, then returning to the main quest in a natural way, is something important for us." Interestingly enough, noted philosopher Søren Kierkegaard posits in The Sickness Unto Death that "the greatest hazard of all, losing one's self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss — an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. — is sure to be noticed." And whatever Arthur's final outcome, the aged among us are sure to see these melancholy parallels at play.

The barnyard romance at Guthrie Farm

Some locations in Red Dead Redemption 2 are better left to the prying eyes and insinuation-prone minds of an older audience. Enter: Guthrie Farm, west of Emerald Station and south of the western edge of the Heartland Overflow. Players will likely find this unassuming estate in the Heartlands of New Hanover while searching for the George Dixie cigarette card, but there's a much more awkward discovery waiting on the fringes of the farm for players who take the time to look (and are old enough to put together the sordid clues at the scene).

While exploring the barns at Guthrie Farm, players can find the rather questionable looking remnants of a dead man face-down next to a prized sheep. Observant players might notice this deceased fellow's pants are down, and may also find a gold wedding ring they can loot from the sheep's body. An adult mind immediately sums up the perverse relationship between man and beast, which grimly suggests the poor chap perished after consummating their unwholesome union.

It's hard to keep your wallet full of cash

Arthur Morgan works hard for the money. Whether you're trading with trappers, helping out strangers, or hauling in bounties, there's a lot you can do to keep your cash up if you actually put your mind to it. Some of your endeavors, including the Van der Linde Gang's notorious crime spree, don't always pay, but they will teach you some harsh lessons from the school of hard knocks. This hustle of harsh gains is a distinctly adult one, and is yet another contributing factor to Red Dead 2's radical sense of realism.

Furthermore, the living and breathing world of the Old West that surrounds Arthur Morgan has its own capitalist ecosystem. And, much like the real world, it's not all fun and games. Take the hard-earned wages at Annesburg, Roanoke, for instance. As the official RDR2 website explains, "Life isn't easy for the miners and their families in Annesburg, which has been providing coal up and down the Lannahechee River for almost a century. Working conditions are terrible for little pay, and many men have lost their lives down the pit." No matter how you decide to earn a living as you make your way through Red Dead 2's fictitious frontier, chances are you'll recognize the telltale signs of adulthood littered throughout the narrative... if you've actually lived a little yourself.