The Great American Wasteland

People often mistaken and open-ended world – with land that stretches for miles – as a world that is lively, and then the game is praised for having such an immersive feeling, when it actually doesn’t. Then you look at a game such as Fallout 3, which is set in a different time in a place that was familiar until the events of the apocalypse, but it feels strangely comfortable to be in.

Fallout 3’s world is a wasteland, deserts never seem to end and humanity is difficult to come across. You witness the survival both below and above ground, and only those who are willing to fight against the radioactive threats, are those that continue to live. The radioactive monsters that was at first freighting, slowly becomes a common sight and just a minor inconvenience that prolonged me from reaching my destination. I have come a long way from vault dwelling, and as my character becomes stronger and more experienced, I feel his improvements in myself as I progress.

After living in the underground Vault 101 for the first quarter of my life, I emerged onto the surface and headed for my first city called Megaton. Megaton is a city that is built around a nuclear missile that didn’t explode, but is still live. While not the smartest place to build a city, the town’s people embraced it, even going as far as worshiping it, almost like a religion.

There was a man who was looking for someone to set off the Nuclear Bomb, and when I found out his plan I let the town Sheriff know. The Sheriff went straight to business and orders the man to follow him to his office. The moment we leave the bar, the man unloads a 10mm pistol into the Sheriff’s back. I unload my rifle on the killer and the conflict is settled, with two dead bodies lying on the floor motionless.

There are games that revolve around the constant shooting of people, yet when I kill a single person who had intentions of destroying a whole city, I think if my actions were foolish and driven on impulse. I wonder if I even should have told the Sheriff about this guy’s plan, because if I didn’t his son wouldn’t be living in a house alone.

I leave the scene, clearing the bodies of any useful or valuable loot they might have since I know it’s the only way to survive in this world, and then I run into his son. He doesn’t seem shaken, and claims that his father told him that he was eventually going to have to live on his own, it just happening sooner than expected. I feel regret. Regret for be the spark that eventually started the fire that lead to his father’s murder. It’s a strange feeling; his son is a fictional character that was rendered in 3D animating program, and I feel regret.

I continue my expedition and when I return to Megaton after a fewin game days of exploring, I see the bodies of the Sheriff and the murderer lying exactly where I saw them the first time. Why someone wouldn’t clean up the mess is beyond me, but it acted as a reminderof what went on the last time I was in Megaton. Except this time I didn’t feel regret, I didn’t feel regret because the citizens of Megaton made me realized that stuff happens, and you just have to continue forward.

What makes Fallout’s world actually feel real, is the people who inhabit it. These people act exactly how you would expect their real life counterpart to act. Someone needed a favour, so I offer my services to him out of the kindness of my heart. I complete the task; he talks a bit and thanks me for my generosity. He stops talking. There I am standing, expecting him to reward me for my efforts. I thought that he would reward me with some ammunition, or bottle caps (the replacement for currency) or at least one thing that would have made my time spent doing something for him useful. I receive nothing.

The reason for expecting him to reward me with something is because that’s how it has always been in games. It can be the most unfriendly person you complete a task for, but he would reward you generously. Everyone’s personality was rooted in kindness, and was programmed for the purpose of rewarding you to help you along your expedition.

In Fallout, they are programmed to be people, and unless you happen to be working with the nicest person in the wasteland, you will be doing favours and completing tasks for everyone for nothing but fewer bullets to load your guns with, equipment in terrible condition, and not enough money to survive. And when you don’t have enough money to survive, you resort to stealing.

Much like real life, when you get caught stealing, expect to suffer the consequences. You would probably get jail time or a warning for stealing, but if you steal that very nice looking rocket launcher off the table, or the full magazine of bullets, expect to be lit up with bullets by possibly the entire town. If it comes down to killing the entire town because you really needed that rocket launcher, then you have to do what is necessary. When you kill the whole town, there will be plenty of stores to clear out and bodies to loot, but all of the people that could have been helpful or could have lead you in the right direction are dead.

Just knowing that if you empty magazines into people and it could possibly break the game right then and there, is a feeling you don’t experience very often. With no one left to talk to or provide useful information to further the plot, there is no way of knowing what to do next or what will happen next.

With the whole town dead, you wonder what they were like, if they were a kind civilized group of people, or a group of individuals looking to stay alive. It’s amazing how after years of fighting discrimination and racism, that it develops once again at full strength. Those who weren’t fortunate enough to find a safe shelter during the nuclear war had to deal with segregation because their skin was melted and highly radioactive. Listening to one these Ghouls explain how there is a city devoted solely to them, and how they always get uneasy stares made me feel sorry for him, and I felt grateful that I was fortunate enough to be raised in an underground vault, even if it technically isn’t me.

Fallout 3 is such a large game in respect to both the land mass and scope of the plot. Personally, I think there are some problems that prevent it from being amazing video game, but that doesn’t mean it is not the most lively, enjoyable video game world I have ever been a part of. It’s games such as Fallout that reassure that I’m not just wasting my time playing games, and I hope that in the future more people also get to experience an artificial world in which they can strongly relate to.