Red Dead Redemption by Matt Margini
First garnering both dismissal and intrigue as “Grand Theft Horse,” Rockstar Games’ 2010 action-adventure Red Dead Redemption was met on its release with critical acclaim for its open-world gameplay, its immersive environments, and its authenticity to the experience of the Wild West. Well, the simulated Wild West, that is.
Boss Fight invites you to find out how the West was created, sold, and marketed to readers, moviegoers, and gamers as a space where “freedom” and “progress” duel for control of the dry, punishing frontier. Join writer and scholar Matt Margini as he journeys across the broad and expansive genre known as the Western, tracing the lineage of the familiar self-sufficient loner cowboy from prototypes like Buffalo Bill, through golden age icons like John Wayne and antiheroes like Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name,” up to Red Dead’s John Marston.
With a critical reading of Red Dead’s narrative, setting, and gameplay through the lens of the rich and ever-shifting genre of the Western, Margini reveals its connections to a long legacy of mythmaking that has colored not only the stories we love to consume, but the histories we tell about America.
Matt Margini is a writer whose essays on games, books, and movies have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Kill Screen, and Public Books, where he serves as video game editor. In 2018, he earned a PhD in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He currently lives in Miami, FL, with his wife, Christina, and two sons, Raymond and Nicholas. This is his first book.
“In this extraordinary book, Margini shows how the fusion of the myth of the West with open-world design created the ultimate modern game.” - Michael Clune, author of GAMELIFE
‘A deeply thoughtful and provocative contemplation, equally celebratory and interrogative, of a work that drew from American cinema’s idea of America’s past, even as it redrew video gaming’s future.’ - Simon Parkin, New Yorker contributor and author of Death by Videogames
“Insightful.” - Javy Gwaltney
“It’s quite arresting in its attempt to explain the mythology behind the west, and how the game channels that to make it what it is, a eulogy to the genre. Treats the material with a respect that I did not expect a video game to get. Great read!” - Ujjwal Mohindra
“An essential read for anyone who’s really gotten into the game, and also for any fans of the Western who are interested in reading about how the genre can be interpreted through 21st century media.”- Dial H for Houston
“Broadly but sharply observed, looking at the game as the product of not just its own medium and the Western films and novels it pulls from, but as a work twisted up in the history of America, past and present, and a reflection on how videogames relate that history. The final chapter, dealing directly with history as its subject, is likely the best I've ever read on how the past is related through games. Essential reading for anyone interested in that topic, especially.” - Reid McCarter
“Lots of deep thought on the history of the Western and American Frontier and how RDR fits in.” - Simon Carless
"Takes a seemingly benign topic and uses it as a catalyst to explore something much greater.” - Caleb J Ross video review
More Reviews: Goodreads