Red Dead Online’s Naturalist Harriet Davenport Is A Terrible Character For Representing The Importance Of Animal Preservation

Red Dead Redemption 2 and Red Dead Online both feature characters that are well written and developed. But when it comes to Harriet Davenport, it seems like Rockstar decided to create a genuinely terrible person, resulting in the worst possible representative for animal rights, and it remains unclear why they chose to do so.

Who Is Harriet Davenport

Harriet Davenport is your guide through the specialist role of the Naturalist, allowing you to track, photograph, and study animals in the name of conservation. On the surface, this seems like a great idea for a role, and with so many animals in RDO, you are never short of specimens to study. Unfortunately, Harriet is not written as a strong, intelligent woman, but as a self-righteous, extremist fanatic.

When I say Harriet is extreme, that truly does sum up both her attitude and behavior towards animal conservation. If you have recently been hunting, which is a core part of the Trader role, Harriet will assault you with an unknown drug, knock you out, and dump you in a field. Even if we disregard her outbursts and violence against you, it is hard to ignore the literal hits she places on poachers and her justification for doing so.

Early in the Naturalist role, progression is slow, and you can either farm animal samples to turn in, or you can get larger lumps of experience through Poacher missions. Here, Harriet informs you of the location of a group of poachers, and in the name of saving a trapped animal or two, she sends you to murder a camp of men.

This is a troubling narrative made even worse by the dialogue written for Harriet as she sends you to kill these individuals, first acknowledging that they are hunting to earn a living as she mockingly impersonates them, “‘We’re not bad fellows, we’re just making money for our families.’” Then comes the declaration that violence is acceptable, so long as they are for her ends, “I’m not a violent person, but they deserve what’s coming their way.” This contradiction cannot be unintentional because the rest of the writing in RDO is often excellent, with plenty of well-developed characters.

Instead, Harriet is presented as someone who is unable to fight and advocate for her beliefs without resorting to violence, and as Isaac Asimov said, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” This may sound a bit cheesy, especially since so much of RDO requires violence, but at the same time, there are plenty of game missions and mechanics that reward or even require violence to be avoided.

Want to make the most money as a bounty hunter? Bring in the bounty alive. Want to get the biggest price reduction for Moonshiner ingredients? Sabotage your rival’s equipment through stealth, not violence. The poacher missions that Harriet sends you on could easily be structured in the same way. The captured animal could be stealthily set free, and the poachers could be restrained and brought into the local authorities to be charged. This is not just sloppy writing and poor character development for Harriet, it is also a missed opportunity to add greater depth to the role of Naturalist.

Gus Macmillan, The Loveable “Bad Guy”

Harriet’s character development is further hampered by how Rockstar chose to represent her rival, Gus Macmillan, the retired big-game hunter. As a hunter who cares only for trophies, Gus could easily have been written as an evil antagonist to balance out Harriet’s extreme behavior, but instead, he comes out as a far more likable character and is even the sole source of some of the best equipment in RDO.

Gus is relaxed, never drugs you, pays good money for Legendary animal skins, and then provides you with access to the rarest, one-of-a-kind cosmetics in the game, as well as Trinkets that literally make your character the best that they can be. In contrast, Harriet provides you with tools to progress in the Naturalist role, but nothing else as rare or useful.

Harriet Punishes Players For Progressing In The Trader Role

Apart from the poor character design and writing of dialogue for Harriet, the underlying design of the Naturalist role is also problematic. Regardless of Harriet’s attitude and willingness to assassinate large groups of people to preserve animals, another major problem is that engaging in the Trader role completely blocks most of the features associated with the Naturalist role.

When I first began leveling up my Naturalist specialization, I quickly learned that I could not do any Trader work for Cripps. Hunting animals meant that Harriet would drug me and lock out the ability to do missions, to buy sedative ammunition, or to sell samples to her.

Progressing through the Naturalist role means scheduling your RDO activity around her outbursts, and sometimes the act of defending yourself from a pack of wolves is enough to anger her and lockout those key components of the role needed for progression. To keep Harriet from blocking your access to the Naturalist role, you must let a pack of ambushing wolves or other animals kill you. Imagine how absurd it would be to complete a Bounty Hunting daily challenge, only for Marcel and Maggie to refuse you entry to the Moonshine shack for an hour, yelling “You helped the law! We’re mad at you and are blocking the production and sale of moonshine!” That sounds ridiculous, but it is essentially how the character of Harriet functions in RDO.

In the end, Harriet Davenport comes off as a sort of caricature of PETA, embodying extreme tactics to achieve her goals with little regard for others. This ends up being a squandered opportunity for Rockstar because animal rights are an ongoing issue worldwide that deserves attention. The character need not be written to be perfect, but in her current form, it is hard to emphasize with anything she does, and it is a disservice to her cause.

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The Fantastic, Science-Fiction, and Horror are Patricio’s go-to genres for literature, film, and gaming. Dead by Daylight is his daily bread and butter as he writes for TheGamer. He teaches Spanish at McGill by day and writes next to his Staffy x Boxer rescue from the SPCA by night.

Patricio graduated from the University of Alberta in 2006, 2012, and will have one more degree in hand by 2020. Innovation in game development, the economics of making games profitable, and the downward, decadent spiral of former great gaming companies fuels his soul to write daily. Will Blizzard Entertainment do something controversial often enough to keep this reference relevant? Patrick certainly believes they will.

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