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Can an open-world game be a Western, even if it doesn’t look like Red Dead 2?

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They have a lot of story motifs in common

The Western is a perfect genre fit for open-world games. Both feature expansive, hostile landscapes and solitary heroes who are ready to fight anything for justice or for money.

And yet the Western aesthetic has almost exclusively been the the domain of Rockstar and the Red Dead series. There just aren’t that many Western games, despite the many reasons there could be.

Well — not literal Westerns, at least. But according to prolific pulp writer Frank Gruber, there are seven story motifs that all Westerns are built on. And those motifs happen over and over again in open-world games.

So maybe when we enjoy an open-world game, we are enjoying a Western in a way? And let’s be real, no one is even going to attempt another cowboy game until the memory of Red Dead Redemption 2 has long faded away.

Watch the video above to hear to full theory, and let us know what you think. And don’t forget to subscribe to Polygon on YouTube for more.