Professor John Wills’ new book contextualises the Red Dead Redemption franchise

John Wills, Professor of American History and Culture, has this month published a new book with Esther Wright, Lecturer in Digital History at Cardiff University.

Red Dead Redemption: History, Myth, and Violence in the Video Game West offers a critical, interdisciplinary look at the cultural phenomenon Rockstar Games’ Red Dead franchise.

Drawing on game studies, western history, American studies, and cultural studies, the authors train a wide-ranging, deeply informed analytic perspective on the franchise. Their intersecting chapters put the game in the context of American history, culture, and contemporary media, with inquiries into issues of authenticity, realism, the meaning of play and commercial promotion, and the relationship between the game and the wider cultural iterations of the classic Western. The contributors also delve into the role the series’ development has played in recent debates around working conditions in the gaming industry and gaming culture.

In its redeployment and reinvention of the Western’s myth and memes, the Red Dead franchise speaks to broader aspects of American culture—the hold of the frontier myth and the “Wild West” over the popular imagination, the role of gun culture in society, depictions of gender and ethnicity in mass media, and the increasing allure of digital escapism—all of which come in for scrutiny here, making this volume a vital, sweeping, and deeply revealing cultural intervention.

The book is available to purchase from The University of Oklahoma Press.