PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Games

The Dastardly Achievement

If you have to draw the line concerning virtual misdeeds somewhere, I guess mine is at the railroad tracks.

Like you, I had heard about the “Dastardly” Achievement, and I thought that it was all kinds of clever. I mean, even the name of the achievement is great.

Of course, how I heard it (several times mind you) was that you unlocked an achievement for tying up a woman in Red Dead Redemption and placing her on railroad tracks.

Horrible? Sure. Over the top? It is Rockstar we're talking about here.

And like all Rockstar titles, why would I expect these guys to skimp on sending up classic Western motifs (in this case, more specifically a motif of the melodrama), especially something so overtly misogynistic, and finding a way to work it into their game?

So, after I had played the game for a few hours, I turned to my wife and pointed at a nun. “Railroad tracks?” I grinned. “No,” she snarled back, which I couldn't disagree with. I needed a more deserving victim.

A few more hours in and I found my gal. A woman cried plaintively near a stagecoach for help, a woman serving voluntarily as bait for what were essentially a turn of the century version of carjackers. She was attempting to lure my unsuspecting gunslinger into the crosshairs of a group of bandits hiding behind the coach. After dispatching them, I swooped in, hogtied the woman, and deposited her on the back of my horse, and I was off to find a convenient set of tracks.

Having set her down, I waited for my achievement to unlock, which, of course, it didn't.

Then it dawned on me. I was going to need to wait for a train.

I cut her loose. It wasn't funny anymore.

Now I have done some very bad things in games, usually in the name of moving the plot forward or in experimenting to see what is possible in a game world. In particular, I have done so in Rockstar games (which I still am undeniably a fan of). I can usually chalk such moments up to the lack of reality of pixelated violence and generally shrug that sort of thing off. It is fictional and comically absurd, like a Tarantino film. Sure, I'm complicit in a way that I am not when watching a movie, but pixels still have merely representational value. I am not still feeling guilty about all of the assassinations I perpetrated as a 10-year-old ninja, for instance.

However, I am not one of those, “hire a hooker, do the deed, beat her to death, take back your money” kind of guys. It just pushes the envelope of good taste for me personally. I think that it is interesting that Grand Theft Auto has such consistent logic within its world. However, that doesn't mean that I want to or need to follow all optional activities to their logical conclusions in open world games, especially if they are ones that really fundamentally bother me. Watching a woman die under the wheels of a train is one of those activities.

These moments in games always bring me back to acknowledging the power of representation and its relation to the real -- that representational moments signal and illustrate actual consequential actions and activities. While it is just digital justice and injustice that we play around with, play allows us to consider these actions through representation and acknowledge the gravity and weight of them. Sure, it's a game, but it still means something. Games that make me make decisions of moral weight still make me really reflect on what I think about consequence. As much as some folks decried the “No Russian” sequence in Modern Warfare 2 as so much salaciousness for the sake of salaciousness, I think that the representational struggle that the player is embroiled in during that segment of the game is still an interesting and useful one ("Uniforms Are Relics: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2", PopMatters, 18 November 2009). For me, sometimes the most compelling moments in a game come in choosing to not to do something, rather than to do something. If there is to be an ethical criticism in video games studies, let it at least be a self reflective one on the part of the player.

Hearing about the Dastardly achievement initially conjured images of Snidely Whiplash and Dudley Doright, which sounded fun and funny, but upon realizing what I needed to do to gain this “achievement,” I realized that a blonde haired, blue eyed handsome hero with gleaming teeth was not about to show up in this scene. I don't think that I ever really thought out the rather dire threat that “if you don't give me the deed to the ranch, I'll tie you to the railroad tracks” really is. I can appreciate the absurd melodrama of the vision of the classic sequence and the suspense that it conjures for the sake of such over the top theatrics. The horror of such a reality, even a digitized version, is a bit much for me.

I love the gritty realism of Rockstar's games coupled with cartoonish satire, but in this case, I guess the joke is really on me. I figured out rather quickly that I want the original image out of the melodrama, not some kind of experience of the “real” consequences of the Old West.

This achievement is very simply not one that I need, so I'll opt out. I kind of appreciate Rockstar putting me in the position of having to decide whether or not an achievement is worth it, though. If you have to draw the line concerning virtual misdeeds somewhere, I guess mine is at the railroad tracks.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.