[Promoted from our Community Manager’s inbox, here’s another fantastic community Guest Writer! Stacey Thompson discusses Fallout and its many influences on gamers. She is a professional writer, marketer, entrepreneur, eclectic digital and tabletop gamer, and a lover of weird little animals. She is based in San Diego, California, and currently works with Trade-A-Plane and Tradequip International.]
The Fallout series of role playing video games began in 1997 with Tim Cain and Interplay. It was designed as a spiritual successor to an earlier post-apocalyptic themed game, Wasteland. While Wasteland possessed more of an eighties Mad Max feel to it, Fallout had some fifties retro-futuristic flavor added in, with a hearty serving of pop culture references.
Both Fallout and Fallout II were developed by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Being the first two of the franchise, these games established the setting, a hostile and unforgiving wasteland in North America. Gameplay-wise, the multiple choice dialogue system and the turn-based isometric-view tactical combat engine was also established in the first installment, with significant improvements in the second game.
The wasteland was the result of an epic nuclear holocaust in 2077 that destroyed modern civilization, the only human survivors being the few who were able to evacuate to the large government-commissioned fallout shelters aptly called Vaults. After a generation of isolation, some of the Vaults opened. They were greeted with a hellish land dominated by fierce, mutated creatures, lands and bodies of water corrupted by radiation, and the broken remnants of the civilization that caused this tragedy to happen in the first place.
Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (developed by Micro Forté and published by 14 Degrees East) was less of an RPG and more of a mission-based tactical game that added even more improvements to the combat engine, one of them being the option to resolve an encounter in real-time.
Fallout III and Fallout: New Vegas (released by Bethesda Softworks) were departures from the traditional gameplay of Fallout, incorporating the well-loved universe into a fully-3d environment with first and third-person perspectives, offering more graphical goodness and interaction with the world (these were gameplay hallmarks of Bethesda’s successful Elder Scrolls series).
You can read up more on the individual games (or if you haven’t actually played them, go for it!), but I’m here to write about the influences from the Fallout universe that have been absorbed into the gaming culture. These are not unique to Fallout, but this particular game series has done more than its share to promulgate these ideas.
[Violent Deaths Can Be Fun]
The Fallout franchise doesn’t have an exclusive on this, to be sure. Still, this series of games makes it as easy as getting a perk for your character that allows him/her to make someone’s head explode with just a tiny pistol shot. It’s one of the guilty pleasures we have as gamers. For as long as it stays in virtual realm and nobody alive gets hurt, it’s all good.
Comment: I don’t endorse gunning down crazy cultists in real life. It’s bad for my Karma.
[Season Life with Tons of Cultural References]
Fallout also instilled pride in the players for knowing trivia and recognizing references, and these little memes and tributes are found all over the place in all Fallout games. Many a knowing chuckle and an outright LOL were released due to this, and gamers have come to expect these “easter eggs” in just about any game they play.
[Pack Rat Mentality]
It’s normal for most gamers to hoard items in most games, especially if said game provides the player with a lot of storage units. In the Fallout games, scarcity is the norm. You can’t always go to any shop and find the weapons, ammo, the supplies you need, and even if they do sell things you like, it won’t come cheap.
Fallout has taught players to conserve hoard items that are in short supply, and that even seemingly useless items can be utilized in some creative way. Save your bottle caps, and if it’s not bolted down to the floor, grab it!
Connected with the idea that certain items are scarce in the Wasteland, Fallout players are forced to use the items (e.g. ammo) they do have in ample supply, saving the “good stuff” for particularly difficult opponents.
Thus, players have gained an appreciation for the various weapon systems and have become comfortable with switching from a baseball bat to whack a few pesky mole rats with, to pulling out a Fat Man when a horde of super mutants that show up.
[Music That’s Older Than You Can Be Awesome]
Let the music speak for itself.
[War Never Changes]
Aside from Ron Perlman’s raspy, somber tone as he delivers the introductions to the games (save for Fallout Tactics), the imparted message was that humanity is its own greatest enemy. Most of the reasons for war and strife were occurring was intrinsically linked to man’s covetous nature, and his desire to dominate over others.
Most of us play these games for that part of us that revels in destroying one’s opponents and hoarding things of value. After those urges are sated, however, there is that sobering thought that if an apocalyptic event did occur, the things we take for granted (clean food and water, cars, electricity, plumbing, etc.) now will be the things we will sorely miss. It is infinitely better that we experience these scenarios in a simulated form.
The wiser among us learn that we should always watch ourselves and those who are in positions of authority and power. As fictional as the world of Fallout may seem, it is totally within humanity’s capabilities to make the world a hellish wasteland.
Now, back to watching cool Fallout-inspired music videos…
What has the Fallout series taught you? Share and discuss.