Following early studies in game theory by such writers as Johan Huizinga, critics have frequently associated Westerns with games, and the old children’s game of cowboys and Indians reinforces the theory. Westerns, the premise goes, are played out on an elaborate playground laid out with specific boundaries. The playground is the trans-Mississippi Great Plains. The basic game is played out by designated participants: the cowboy hero (designated by a white hat) ; the outlaw nemesis (designated by a black hat) ; savage Indians; townspeople; and dark-haired dance hall girls and blonde, virtuous women (both of whom seek in different ways to emasculate the hero). The game is played according to clearly understood rules based on the intricacies of the code of the West. The cowboy hero is strictly bound to the rules and must win the game by playing by those rules. The outlaw nemesis and the savage Indian are under far fewer restraints, though even the outlaw may begrudgingly refuse to draw first and the Indians never attack at night. The game is subject to endless variations in cinema Westerns.
   See also INDIANS.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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