During these trying times, a lot of people have turned to video games as a way to self-soothe and destress. While other people found comfort in cheerier games such as Animal Crossing or Minecraft, I found myself gravitating towards the dark and dreary post-apocalypse of Fallout: New Vegas. Surprisingly, there amidst the bleak and barren wasteland, I found solace, beauty and even a way to cope.
In the Fallout universe, the world has been ravaged by a centuries-old nuclear holocaust triggered by a terrible war between China and the United States. Remnants of the old world litter the barren, radioactive wasteland, and vicious mutated creatures roam the earth.
But despite all that, civilization still exists. Life persists.
It’s a harsh life. A life endangered by monsters, mutants, bandits, and warring factions. A life of eating nothing but irreversibly, irradiated food, and produce. A life untethered to any semblance of what we think is normal. But life nonetheless. And I found that there’s comfort in that. In knowing that the world has essentially ended and yet humanity proves itself resilient.
Fallout New Vegas is my game of choice at the moment and one of the things that struck me most about the game is that I never felt like the world was mourning the life that it lost. There are some factions that seek to pick up the pieces of their former lives but as for the general populace, most people don’t even know what that life was.
The war has long since been over, its causes and culprits lost to ancient history, generations have lived and died knowing only the post-apocalypse and there’s very few who grieve and mourn for the way things were, let alone remember them.
Now there is just acceptance. To the people of the wasteland, this is their new normal, and it has been for generations. As that old song goes: “It’s all over but the crying” but even that’s been done with too.
Oddly enough, this felt empowering to me. Hopeful, even. In the few months that we’ve been in lockdown, the overwhelming depression and longing for normalcy seemed utterly unbearable. But journeying through this fictional wasteland and observing the people, I felt happy knowing that no matter how bad things got, no matter how much fear and uncertainty is out there, we can always find some form of peace.
Life in Fallout is not without its problems. But for the most part, these are the challenges of their normal. There’s nothing too irregular about bandits and raiders terrorizing poorly protected towns, or different factions tearing the land up in a desperate fight for control or the murderous, imperialist city-state that wants to take over the Mojave or the ragtag government in place that is ill-equipped to fend them off.
This is just the reality of their lives. It’s a terrible reality by our standards but a relatively normal one for them. These are problems of their own, similar, albeit to a lesser extent to what we have in our daily lives: war, crime, and looming uncertainty.
Moreover just like in our own lives, despite all those problems, the average citizen of the wasteland gets to live a relatively normal everyday life. They eat, drink, and socialize. They get to raise families and have jobs and be with friends. In New Vegas, they even get to go onto The Strip and have a night out to party and gamble.
All of this, the good and the bad, is just what life is, irradiated warts and all, and to find that again despite the literal apocalypse is sort of beautiful.
Perhaps that’s the most comforting idea that I found in Fallout. The idea that no matter how bleak things are there’s always hope. Hope that things will work out for the better. Hope that makes you want to be part of that change.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find tiny bastions of hope scattered across the wasteland, from a self-elected sheriff putting a town under his protection to a robot cowboy saving a courier from a shallow grave, or even to a group of Elvis impersonators doing right by a neighboring town in honor of their King.
This is where hope lives in New Vegas. In acts of kindness and honor. In good people doing good things in spite of a world where it’s easier to do otherwise.
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