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Why You Wouldn't Survive Life In Red Dead Redemption 2

After playing Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption franchise, you might fancy yourself something of a cowboy or an outlaw. Because of the immersive nature of Red Dead Redemption 2, it wouldn't be surprising if you dreamed of a simple life out West, back before technology made things complicated. Wouldn't it be nice to spend an evening riding out to a meadow, making camp, and falling asleep to a sky full of stars without having to worry about email or texts?

Sounds great, but here's the thing: even with all the mud, blood, and horse excrement included in the game, Rockstar has put a pretty polish on life in the Old West. The late 1800s were an unforgiving, brutal time that led to hard, short lives. After sinking a few dozen hours into Red Dead Redemption 2, you might think you'd fair fine in that era, but here's just a few reasons why you wouldn't survive very long.

Diseases, diseases, diseases

Spoilers ahead, partner. Red Dead Redemption 2 does a good job of illustrating how wasting diseases like tuberculosis can easily spread and spell the end for even the most sturdy of outlaws. It wasn't until the 1950s when a cure for the disease was discovered. Before that, a diagnosis of tuberculosis was a death sentence. Arthur Morgan, the game's protagonist, doesn't have long to live after discovering he contracted the disease. 

A variety of other ailments plagued the Old West. The moment you walk into town in Red Dead Redemption 2, you're walking in filth. Settlements in the late 1800s hadn't yet set up waste disposal systems like sewers, so the streets were filled with all sorts of nasty material. This created the perfect breeding ground for diseases like typhoid fever, diphtheria, dysentery, and cholera. According to the Center for Disease Control, these ailments — easily avoidable today thanks to water treatment practices and modern infrastructure — claimed more lives than injuries or outlaws ever did.

One injury can spell the end

Speaking of injuries — you'd be correct in thinking they were quite common in the Old West. Horses, guns, and crime make for a dangerous combination. In the world of Red Dead Redemption 2, doctors — real doctors, not snake oil salesmen — are hard to come by. Hospitals are few and far between. Often, injuries were taken care of on the homestead by untrained hands. Even the best doctors of the day sometimes made things worse. No one wore gloves, and penicillin didn't come about until 1928. Got shot? Infection was likely to set it. 

Just look at some statistics from the U.S. Civil War. Since its end in 1865, medicine hadn't yet had a chance to progress very much. According to The American Battlefield Trust, most soldiers died of disease and festering injuries rather than out on the battlefield. Red Dead Redemption 2 allows players to recover from getting shot a time or two, but a more realistic portrayal would involve a frighteningly slow death thanks to gangrene or sepsis.

No horse? Big problems

There wasn't much infrastructure in the late 1800s. While the West was indeed becoming more tame, building the same roads, towns, and cities from back east took a lot of time. This left people to rely largely on horses to get from place to place. Sometimes those places were separated by miles and miles of wilderness filled with predators and the danger of the elements. If you didn't have a horse, you were more or less screwed, to put it bluntly.

In Red Dead Redemption 2, players can often just pick up a new horse following an accident or even steal one. Often, horse thievery was considered one of the worst crimes in the Wild West. Even if it wasn't a law on the books, vigilante justice called for horse thieves to be hanged for their actions. Why would someone steal a horse if it put such a heavy price on their head? Because horses were expensive. Unless you found yourself flush with cash, you were out of luck and options when it came to procuring transportation.