When I first heard about the still unpatched (as of this writing) Red Dead Redemption 2 gold glitch, I dismissed it as a temporary mistake Rockstar would patch before an opportunity presented itself for me to exploit it. I also contemplated if I wanted it to dictate or shape my experience by using said glitch knowing it creates a route of easy access to shop items, clothing, stable and camping gear not currently available to me through my current progress point in the game. The life of a cowboy meant scraping by from job to job, day to day, and often robbing out of necessity (but not always). Finally I caved in, headed to Limpany, ran myself through IGN’s YouTube video on the subject, and stowed away 30 gold bars. But as gold filled my satchel, a creeping remorse filled my heart, and Arthur stood there seemingly indifferent.
Had I broken the game? Was I, in a game filled with intentional cheats, stealing away from the immersive world Rockstar had crafted and intended for players to experience, defiling it? I remained unsure, particularly since I had not even accessed the stagecoach heist yet as part of Chapter 2 (I did not know at the time this had locked up the fence at Emerald Ranch until I completed that mission), and had only scratched the surface of the game.
Arthur climbed on his horse. As he prepared to ride off, satchel filled with gold, I took an extra moment to check that auto save was off before leaving the area in case the glitch created chaos. As I tasked Arthur with riding from Limpany to Emerald Ranch, I heard a cry in the distance. Quickly turning off the path, I assumed I would find a citizen in tow underneath their horse, or one stranded by the roadside with horse running off for retrieval. After all, this defined the modicum of my experiences thus far, and surely these, even with autosave off, put me in little harm of losing my gold bars and attempting the glitch again. After all, I remained hesitant about even performing the glitch in the first place, let alone ensuring I would have no issues upon death, respawn, and reload.
I rode up to the distressed, white dot blipping on my map, and before me a stagecoach robbery involving two men. Luck appeared on my side, I knew toggling autosave or making another manual save was not needed; the two robbing gang members had their back to me, threatening the coach’s owner. A quick couple of shotgun blasts and I moved on, confident that I could now cash in my gold bars, turn back on autosave, and call it a day.
As I rode on, I saw a deer running ahead of me, and by proxy Artemis (my horse’s name), and thought, why not? Pulling out my bow, Artemis galloping full speed, I fired off a shot. The deer collapsed almost in a roll, and with one shot in real time I had slain what was a food and gear source for myself. My stroke of luck continued. I had saved a man, looted a coach by his permission, slain a deer in one shot, and still carried a gold-filled satchel worth 15k without a single save file.
To say I felt emboldened is an understatement. However, I also felt fear, for these were events I wanted to add to my save file, but I also told myself to wait until I cashed in on the exploit before autosave or a manual save were an option. I realize this fear, this desire comes off as unfounded to some out there, but for me, it was a frame of mind I kept.
As I moved forward along the mountain plains, I celebrated and thought about how I would quickly be able to upgrade Dutch’s camp. Perhaps a visit to the general store for boots and spurs, and some items for my horse were in order. The possibilities seemed endless. Then, and only then did it seem as if the Wild West wanted to provide me with my biggest challenge yet. No more than a half mile down the road I heard a shout, “First one to kill him gets…” and before that sentence could finish I quickly brought up the map. Panic set in. Now what? I looked at my location, and sure enough three red markers meant three bandits; I knew the O’Driscoll Gang decided the time to attack me was now. Convenient.
Do I turn on autosave? Should I make another manual save file and not gamble with losing the gold? Suddenly, I realized the adrenaline rush I felt at the thought of losing the gold in my satchel was not just from a gamer playing game perspective, but rather as part of this immersive world Rockstar had created. Here, although I had used a glitch to break the economy of the world, I had suddenly become invested in Arthur’s death in a way that previously had not fazed me. I had died a few early deaths in Red Dead Redemption 2 without concern for the progress lost, the stash picked up, or the experience gained. I knew all those items would easily respawn. This was different.
With no manual save, no auto save, and a satchel full of gold, I formulated a plan, much like a general who gawks at a map with pieces to move around on the board. With a clear objective in mind, I backed out of the map and into the real world. I quickly fired left and with one shotgun blast and cleared out the gang member to my left. Another charged head on as I hopped off my noble steed mid-stride, turned right, ignoring him for the moment, and instead and fired at a gang member halfway up the hill, hitting his horse who aptly tossed him off to the side of it. While he recovered I took a few shots from the adversary to my left. I turned back to my center, quickly switching to my rifle and with two successive shots picked the third charging gang member off. I felt the rush as I heard bullets whizz by from my right, knowing mountain man stood up from his fallen horse.
Two more shots fired. As I turned to him he quit firing, turned, sensing the end was near, and began to limp off. I had succeeded. The O’Driscoll Gang would not take my satchel. But like any good gang member of Dutch’s, I remained unsatisfied. I whistled for my warhorse, hopped up and chased down the man on the mountain. As he hobbled, I pursued my own justice, hogtieing, dragging, and eventually releasing him across the plains. I chose not to kill him, knowing this torture might send a message of its own, or at least I believed so in the moment. As he cursed my existence, I headed off, but not too far, to see what my bound rival would do. As I had hoped, he wiggled free of his ropes, limping off, as I would like to imagine, toward the Driscoll gang camp to tell them of my dastardly deeds. While I wished he would, suddenly, in my state of total immersion and paranoia, I realized he might bring more men next time, before I could get my gold to its destination. I decided he could not live; I had gold bars to protect. I strolled up beside him, pulled out my shotgun, and finished the job.
The stakes had become real. No one, citizen or outlaw, would catch me off guard and steal my gold. My success stacked up before. A fine deer pelt and supplies, a stagecoach citizen saved, and a trio of gang members left dead somewhere between Limpany and Emerald Ranch. I knew I should hit the manual save button, save in a new slot, and save these experiences I had racked up for Arthur.
I would go on to complete the main mission of stealing the stagecoach in Chapter 2 in order to access the man I needed to cash in my gold bars, again without saving. As I completed it, and strolled over to the fence in Emerald Ranch, I began to reflect on the experience. Rockstar’s Wild West had finally felt wild, dangerous, and unpredictable. I’ve since saved, and for fun, exploited the glitch one more time. But as I rode back to Dutch and the gang, 15k richer, with another 15k in gold in my satchel, I decided I might hang on to those gold bars a bit longer this time; every good hand of poker doesn’t start or end with the cards dealt, but how high the stakes are raised.