Dreaming of Zion

The American West as Place or Process in Fallout: New Vegas’s Honest Hearts DLC

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As a Western set in a post-apocalyptic Mohave, Fallout: New Vegas demonstrates that the big questions that drive Western history are durable and malleable enough to survive even the (fictional) nuclear demise of the United States itself. The fourth iteration of the Fallout franchise is set approximately 200 years after a civilization-ending nuclear war but is valuable for teachers of American history because several major themes of real-life Western historiography are embedded in it. In fact, as I will demonstrate in this essay, the game, and particularly the Honest Hearts DLC, can be used to not just demonstrate, but to allow students to feel why the questions that underlay the study of Western history have real resonance. Continue Reading

Modern Masculinity In Red Dead Redemption 2’s Old West

How Arthur Morgan’s Vulnerability Is His Biggest Strength

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By virtue of its thematic setting, Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games, 2018; hereafter RDR2) is inherently anachronistic, in that video games are typically thought of as cutting-edge media technologies, while the Western genre has a more historical appeal. Not only historical in that the game takes place in 1899, but in that Western movies and TV shows had their boom in 1950s-1960s with a post-war “injection of violence” (Cook, 1999, p. 134) into popular media. The Western genre has in fact had several bursts of popularity, with a rich literary history beginning when the frontier still existed in the late 1800s. Red Dead Redemption (hereafter RDR), while not the first Western video game—Wild Arms, Call Of Juarez and RDR’s spiritual predecessor Red Dead Revolver all came first—was the first Western video game to have such a significant cultural impact. Continue Reading