When virtual, real worlds collide

By Shepparton News

There comes a time when your bones are too tired to spend whole days in the saddle, so you have to buy an XBox to live out your dreams.

As a youngster, I watched John Wayne drawl his way through the wild west teaching Indians and horses to behave themselves.

Then Clint Eastwood showed us young blokes how to talk through your teeth while chewing a cigar without falling off your horse.

For years I rode a motorcycle with spaghetti westerns and bleak Ennio Morricone tunes playing in my head.

As a London despatch rider, I would swagger into offices of timid typists and throw an envelope onto the boss’ desk with a snarl.

If he looked up and smirked, I was ready to turn his desk over and spit tobacco at him.

Lucky for those bosses they just whispered ‘‘thank you’’ and let me go on my way.

Then life took over and a mortgage arrived and I became a timid typist cowering in the shadow of my children and grandchildren.

But just when all my dreams of gunslinging grandeur were about to fade into the sunset — along comes Red Dead Redemption II by video gamemaker Rockstar.

People are often surprised when I tell them I have an XBox.

People assume a sexagenarian male should wear striped T-shirts and sit on bowls club committees and watch Midsomer Murders with a cup of Milo.

Nope, not me.

I have always wanted to punch men in big hats around a card table and throw empty whisky bottles out the window at passing teetotallers.

Now I can.

Red Dead Redemption II is a massive wild west adventure that virtually leaps out of the screen to grab you by the bandolier and hurl you into a terrifying time at the end of the 19th century when gunslingers and gangs were being tamed by sheriffs and decent citizens.

Of course, you are an outlaw called Arthur Morgan — the rough-tough drawling last of the maverick gunslingers who either has a decent or a mean streak — depending on the choices you make. The detail of this experience is incredible.

You can wander freely across deserts, snow-capped mountains and prairies, hunt deer and catch fish or hustle your way through smokey towns packed with drunks and card sharps, carriages and trams.

Day turns to night, sunshine comes after rain and autumn turns to winter.

But nothing comes easy in this swaggering, unpredictable world.

It is all controlled by a few buttons — press the wrong one at the wrong time and you find yourself dealing with a whole lot of unforseen events.

For instance, I was in a train station ticket office just having a look around when a nice old lady said hello to me.

Unfortunately I pressed the wrong button and instead of saying ‘‘Mornin’ mam’’ I smashed her in the face with a giant cattleman’s fist.

She ran off screaming and the stationmaster reported me to the sheriff.

The next thing I knew I was being chased out of town by gun-toting locals.

I joined a gang of robbers who seemed friendly enough until it came time to rob a train and everyone had to wear a bandanna to cover their face.

It took me 20 minutes to work out how to put my bandanna on — meanwhile the boss was cursing me saying the train was coming and we were going to miss the chance for a big payday all because of my clumsy oafishness.

Then I accidentally punched my horse after spending weeks bonding with it.

Understandably, it ran off and left me stranded.

I have now decided to give the virtual world a rest.

It is too much like my real life.

John Lewis is News chief of staff.