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Red Dead's History: A Video Game, an Obsession, and America's Violent Past (Hardcover)

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A pathbreaking new way to examine US history, through the lens of a bestselling video game

Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption II, set in 1911 and 1899, are the most-played American history video games since The Oregon Trail. Beloved by millions, they’ve been widely acclaimed for their realism and attention to detail. But how do they fare as re-creations of history?

In this engaging book, award-winning American history professor Tore Olsson takes up that question and more. Weaving the games’ plots and characters into an exploration of American violence between 1870 and 1920, Olsson shows that it was more often disputes over capitalism and race, not just poker games and bank robberies, that fueled the bloodshed of these turbulent years. As such, this era has much to teach us today. From the West to the Deep South to Appalachia, Olsson reveals the gritty and brutal world that inspired the games, but sometimes lacks context and complexity on the digital screen. Colorful, fast-paced, and dramatic, Red Dead’s History sheds light on dark corners of the American past for gamers and history buffs alike.

About the Author

Tore C. Olsson is an award-winning historian of the United States since the Civil War, and a professor at the University of Tennessee. He has devoted much of his career to making serious history relevant and accessible to the public. In 2021, he taught the first-ever college history class on the Red Dead Redemption games, which provided the inspiration for this book. Born in Sweden, Olsson emigrated to the U.S. in 1990, where he misspent much of his youth behind a video game monitor.

Praise For…

"Informative and enjoyable...Olsson has much to say about connecting the past to the present in ways that are novel and fun."

"A landmark in writing about video games. Never before has a trained historian dived so deeply (and enthusiastically!) into a game's politics and milieu. From puncturing the sacred American cowboy myth to figuring out how violent, really, the West actually was, Professor Olsson effortlessly illuminates one of the greatest games ever made."
Tom Bissell, screenwriter, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

“Like taking a college class from a brilliant, funny professor—except the professor is also a gamer.”
Daniel Immerwahr, author of How to Hide an Empire

"Millions of people have imagined the United States of 1899 through the lens of the video game, Red Dead Redemption 2. Tore Olsson explores that virtual world with the sympathetic insight of a skilled historian and devoted gamer... Immersive, unflinching, and fast-moving."
Edward Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and President Emeritus, University of Richmond

"As addictive and compelling as the video game it examines....Red Dead's History is a great read, and it will delight both fans of the game and anyone interested in the consequential events that made America what it is today."
—Megan Kate Nelson, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Three-Cornered War and Saving Yellowstone

“In this remarkable book, [Olsson] invites students of history and devotees of historically situated video games to recognize what they can learn from one another.... Red Dead's History is an eye-opener for anyone interested in our culture and politics."
Steven Hahn, Professor of History at NYU and Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Nation under Our Feet

“Worlds collide in Red Dead’s History, where video game players and historians meet.... It’s a lesson in taking readers where you find them, welcoming them, and using familiar stories to give a truer account to an avid audience. Tore Olsson proves that history can be fun.”
Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History Emerita at Yale University

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250287700
ISBN-10: 1250287707
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 6th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English