On Red Dead Redemption 2, new year's resolutions and learning from the past

Your columnist is playing a video game at the moment...

Stay with me here.

I'm playing a game at the moment called Red Dead Redemption 2.

It's the Wild West tale of Arthur Morgan and his band of outlaws, holding up trains, hunting big game and staying out of trouble in saloons - all the standard western tropes.

Yes, it has been criticised for the occasional violence it depicts – it is rated MA, and is not a game for children or young teenagers.

But it also teaches the player about the mundane side of a life spent on horseback and beside campfires and, within its fictionalised setting, about history.

For example, at a point in the game I reached earlier this week, Mr Morgan participated in a women's suffragette march.

That's what makes it so compelling: not the chance to rob or harm people without real-world consequence - there are certainly heavy consequences within the game - but the sense of nostalgia and escapism one gains from temporarily dropping into another world, one which can teach us something about the here and now.

Some read novels to get that; others watch films.

Other study local history, or restore old cars like the FJ Holdens which visited Murray Bridge over the Christmas break.

Some even read news stories and look at photos from years gone by – see today’s Throwback Thursday.

It's the time of year for that sort of stuff, with 2018 having ended and the new year begun.

Looking back gives us a sense of context and where we've been, and helps us learn from our mistakes.

Looking forward, we imagine what might yet be, and the new things we'll discover.

Come January 1, many of us aspire to new things: to get fit, try a new sport, do something new at work, quit a job, take a trip, start a family, fix up a house, make more money, forget about money and make more time for family ... perhaps even to play more video games.

Individually and collectively, we hope for a better year than the one just passed.

We await an announcement of a rebuild from Thomas Foods International, look forward to the revitalisation of Murray Bridge's TAFE campus, pray for more rain during growing season, excitedly anticipate a federal election ... okay, maybe not that last one so much.

Together we'll get where we need to go.

Those around each of us can help keep us accountable and support us in achieving our goals.

That is what friends and communities are for.

Then we can all ride off into that stereotypical western sunset.