Sunday, May 10, 2009


Year: 1993
Rating *****

This is my favorite game ever.

It was night when I first approached Junktown. The guard posted on duty sized me up and told me to return in the morning. I told him to get out of my way. A few more words were exchanged before we exchanged bullets. Afterwards I took his pistol and left his corpse in the irradiated sand. What followed was an almost sickening display of violence as one by one I wiped out every member of the local police force. A few civilians stepped in and put up a fight. I quickly put them down. At one point I shot a kid, his chest exploded and what remained of his body sagged sadly to the ground. In the final reckoning I had brutally slaughtered damn near half a settlement, what was left would never rebuild. I thought about reloading but then a smile cracked on my face and I wandered off into the desert to continue my quest.

It was a moment that damn near exploded how I thought and felt about video games. Look I had killed innocent NPCs before, in Ultima VII whenever I got bored with searching dungeons or traversing the countryside I would take out the occasional peasant but after a quick chuckle I’d reload my save and get on with it. This was different, when the slaughter of Junktown was complete I didn’t feel like rewinding time and correcting some mistake. See in Ultima I had gone off script and it was fun but only as a distraction. In Fallout, looking at the piles of bodies, seeing my xps go up, checking out my new looted .45 Desert Eagle it all made sense. This wasn’t off script, the game and I were making up the script as we went and in this wasteland almost anything was possible. It was the realisation of Everything Video Games Promise to Be.

Perhaps the true appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction is not some dopey hope amongst the wreckage romanticism. I think it may almost be the opposite. You see there’s a part in all of us that looks at this world and wants to tear it shreds. Because with the end of the world comes freedom. Sure we’re mostly free now but it’s a genteel “you’re free as long as you don’t restrict some one else’s freedom” kind of freedom. It’s not real freedom, the freedom to do drugs, sleep with prostitutes and yes shoot a child in the eye. Most of us know that real freedom is unworkable and deeply immoral. But post apocalyptic fiction gives us a glimpse into a world where men and women are allowed to be brutally, disgustingly, hilariously free. Fallout doesn’t look for hope in the wasteland it rushes madly into the abyss howling with laughter. Because if you’re going to rush madly into an abyss then that’s really the only way to do it.

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