I should probably start explaining.
My teenage son turned me on to the game "Red Dead Redemption 2" (RDR2 as the kids call it) one weekend early this summer. I noticed that he was coming out of his room less for snacks and drink re-fills. I knocked on his door in search of proof of life. Instead of finding him bouncing up and down, engaged with his friends, yelling into his headset while playing Fortnight or NBA 2K20 --- he was quietly sitting at the edge of his bed. His attention was intently focused on what looked like a desert mountain scene from an old John Wayne movie. "Son, " I asked, "what are you doing?" His concentration was solid; he didn't move when I spoke. "I'm trying to find the Legendary Buck, Dad," he replied in a hypnotic trance. That's when I sat down to watch a few minutes of gameplay.
On the screen was a cowboy with a horse in a fictitious world set during the turn of the century Old West. This land was complete with wild animals, ruthless border gangs, Native Americans, saloons, and even infectious diseases, like cholera and tuberculosis. My son has a bit of my history nerd gene; it was easy to see how he was hooked. When he handed me the controller during one of his snack re-fill breaks, I was too. I wanted to play the story of Arthur Morgan, an outlaw with a backstory full of tragedy and missteps that led him to seek a better life. As Arthur says during his interactions with other game characters, he's not a bad man, but he has done some bad things.
I'm not the only man in his early 40s who plays video games. But after dinner, instead of sitting on the couch for another binge session of a Netflix series that I'm never going to get past the first episode of, my wife makes "that" face when I slip away to play this game. It's addictive because it's so immersive, you feel like you are living through this character - not controlling him. You make decisions that will affect his storyline, yet, you don't pay the consequence for bad choices. If you were a fan of the first season of "Westworld" on HBO or the book (and movie) from Michael Crieghton, this game's morality component would capture your attention. Then there are the graphics and sound production. You can actually see the wind blow through the trees. My dog comes in the room when she hears a distant gray wolf howl. Every detail is painstakingly accurate, even down to the historical references and connections.
Get ready for the Masonic connection because it's coming.
Not to spoil your interest in the game, but what turned me from a casual player to die-hard fanatic --- the kind of guy who watches RDR2 YouTube videos now on his lunch break --- was the plot twist in Act 2. This occurs in the fictional town of Saint Denis, representing New Orleans, where Arthur passes out in the street. It's a pretty scary experience because you "control" him during the coughing fit, leading up to him dropping unconscious in the street. Cut to a scene in a doctor's office where you are diagnosed with tuberculosis ("consumption") and are told to move somewhere dry and warm. Tuberculosis (TB) was the leading cause of death in the 1800s as no medicine existed for treatment. Penicillin wasn't discovered until 1928, leaving patients around the turn of the century with a disease that caused massive weight loss, a nasty cough that led to hacking up fluids, and eventual death.
This news is saddening on many levels! First, the diagnosis scene is nothing like you will find in any other video game. The emotions are a real break in the storyline; something would experience in a movie or book - not a (stupid) video game. Second, watching Arthur stagger out of the doctor's office left with memories of close friends and loved ones have said to him over the years as he contemplates his life is moving. Finally, this event takes place after you have invested a good 60 hours of gameplay; it totally knocks the air out of your sails. "Are you kidding me? He's going to DIE!" I wanted to yell out loud.
I was sitting at dinner with my wife, who coyly asked, "are you going to play your (stupid) game again tonight?" It was embarrassing to say this, but I looked at her and calmly replied, "I just want to spend some time with Arthur tonight." I then gave her the Reader's Digest Version of what I have just shared with you. She wasn't impressed. As my gaze fell to my empty dinner plate, a second thought came to mind. "Ryan was right," I said out of nowhere. My wife's look is probably similar to yours right now, dear reader. If you feel like you missed something, you didn't.
Brother Ryan Cerone, the Secretary of my Lodge, invited me over to his house for a social-distanced Memorial Day gathering. Nothing says "Summer 2020" like celebrating with hamburgers, hot dogs, and beers in lawn chairs six-feet apart. During our conversation on our feelings on Freemasonry, Ryan shared his belief that "Freemasonry can found anywhere, and in everything, you can find Freemasonry." Okay, I gave him more line instead of reeling him in. I asked, "like esoterically?" "It can be, but my point is much simpler than that," he continued. "Say you are into video games, sports, or whatever there has to be something in that, that can relate to Masonry." His point summarized the lesson in the EA degree on dividing one's time. Ryan honed in on the amount of time we invest in our hobbies and interests. "If it brings joy in your life, you can relate that to Freemasonry."
And that's where he got me.
Ask anyone who has played RDR if they played the game differently KNOWING that there was a real chance Arthur wouldn't make it until the end of the game... and I will point to a group of men pursuing the virtues of a legendary Master Mason during the building of King Solomon's Temple. Sometimes the hero doesn't make it to the end of the story, and it falls to his Brother to continue his work.