This week I’ll be investigating how the world of River City Ransom operates after the evil dude Slick takes over. The game starts with a screen that states that Slick has taken the city captive, and he has taken Ryan’s girlfriend hostage. He has gangs protecting different parts of the city now. If his demands (which are never articulated) aren’t met he promises something bad will happen. Ryan, and if you have someone to play with, Ryan’s friend Adam, begin a city-wide beat down to find Slick and get their city back. Slick makes a lot of changes to society, and these changes are fun to examine.
As stated earlier, Slick is now in charge of the town where this game takes place. He has presumably become governor or mayor or village president, and he has enacted sweeping changes throughout the city. When you play you are constantly fighting gang members. Wherever you walk you are confronted by gang members fighting you with their fists, chains, bats, or any other assortment of weapons. Brawling is now completely legal. No police officers ever show up to bring about any semblance of law and order. This one is pretty straightforward. Assault and battery seem to be completely fine here. When you go outside you face the chance of getting beat up by the gangs that rule each neighborhood. You also face the chance of being threatened by said gang members.
But this rule is not absolute. Sometimes you will encounter women while you are traveling around town and not a single one of them will fight you. It is also impossible for you to hit them. This could be compared to the segregation of the American military. Women still are not allowed to perform various jobs in the military. The excuses given range from that it makes people uncomfortable, to the logistical problems of separate sleeping quarters. Back in 1948 when women were allowed to join the military they were excluded from having certain jobs in the military, and some of those barriers still exist today. Apparently, Slick shares the views of the Pentagon that women should not have certain roles. Once he became the king of town he enacted his will. There seems to be some law on the books now that forbids women from engaging in physical violence. This seems like quite the double standard.
There also seems to be some areas of town where people are allowed to roam freely without threat of violence, be they man, woman, or child. The mall is not populated by any gang members. There are just some pleasant looking citizens having a nice shopping trip. It is unknown how they get to the mall though. Do they have to fight their way through gang territory like you do? I do not believe so. In fact, I think there is a very specific law on the books that can protect you if you do not pose a threat to Slick or the gangs he employs. All people at the mall wear certain color clothing. I cannot find a similar law in real life, which is frustrating. I think that Slick has ruled that if you mean him no harm you should wear green on a certain day and everyone will know not to harm you. I believe the main character should have exploited this law to get himself closer to Slick without having to do so much fighting, but that’s his prerogative. Each of the gangs seems to have a color they wear as well. Clothing seems to be the main way people broadcast who they are now. Slick cares about fashion.
Another important point for Slick is that property should not be damaged. He is ok with people beating each other up, but no one is allowed to break windows or smash buildings. Stores remain open, and you can enter them with your character. Inside you can buy various items and books that can teach you new fighting moves. Slick apparently cares about the economy and does not want the town to fall behind while he is in charge. It is likely he has kept anti-vandalism laws on the books. Though gangs are roaming the streets looking for trouble, they have rules they have to follow. This is not a lawless land.
Finally, we can look at these gangs roaming around town. Each part of town has a different gang that hangs out there. It seems that Slick has given each gang a part of the city to take care of. This is not gerrymandering, because that deals with redrawing districts for political reasons. This is also not gerrymandering because it doesn’t look like the neighborhoods are strictly populated with each gang. It would be more interesting if we found out that theses gang members all live in the areas they patrol. That would mean there was some sort of large-scale housing shuffling as Slick’s first decision when he came into office. Some sort of housing segregation law that separates you based on whether you are a “Jock,” “Generic Dude,” “Frat Guy,” etc. (Where do the women live?) This would be a real interesting law to look at. There are so many logistical questions and it would be interesting to see how the town thought it had the legal authority to force people to move.
River City Ransom shows us what could happen to any village in America if one bad dude took over, had a pretty limited view of how he wanted to rule, and really liked gangs. Also I guess he’s misogynistic? Anyways, our old friend unpunished violence comes back, we have a surprising respect for real property, and gangs operate in the open with clearly drawn boundaries. It isn’t a nice society, but it could be a lot worse.