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I’ve devoted many hours to Fallout 3 and I’m absolutely certain this is an incredible achievement not just for video games, but for all entertainment properties. Never until my experiences with this game have I been so engrossed, so completely absorbed in the fiction of something.
I look back on the greatest video game worlds of all time, be it science fiction, like Star Wars, supernatural like Mario or Mortal Kombat, or the realistic cityscapes and countryside’s of a Grand Theft Auto and indeed, I’m humbled by the amazing attempts of developers to transport me to another world, but Fallout 3 introduced a world that’s so completely original and fascinating that I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be then the DC Wastelands.
As video games progress, it seems that details become increasingly more important. Things like the facial animations of a character, the physics of water or clothing choices are ways we’ve measured quality, and yet ultimately they serve only to make us feel like we’re closer to playing real human beings.
In the world of Fallout 3, something as insignificant as the songs on the radio do infinitely more to the atmosphere of the game than any of the things I mentioned above. How is it that a game made in 2008 can rely solely on a soundtrack of early 1940’s music like Cole Porter and The Ink Spots when the main demographic for video games are young males?
The reason is because Fallout 3 is just as concerned about the authenticity of it’s world, as it is about the player having fun. The moments that I relished most in this game didn’t involve combat or crafty dialogue. There were times when I’d walk into a room and there’d be nothing but dead bodies or skeletons sitting there. The fact that I can and probably did interpret that differently then someone else playing the game makes it that much more special.
Somewhere, someone simply saw no prize or reward and turned and left to continue on their mission, whereas I saw it as the best moment in the game. That’s not to say that either of us are right or wrong, but we did feel something different and that’s worth certain considerations.
Similarly, many people still see video games as fantastical worlds with goblins and monsters, princesses and hero’s. Little more than time wasters that are kind of fun every once in a while. I play a game like this and I can only describe it as art. I don’t know why, but it just feels like it. I can’t give a solid definition of art, and you can probably run circles around my logic because of that, but again, I don’t think either of us is wrong.
There are games where you’re running through a corridor, pumping hundreds of rounds into faceless enemies whose bodies blink a few times before disappearing, and whose map indicates your position and your destination. These games are fun, sure, but that’s all they are. They have all their goals and obstacles mapped out long before you pick up that controller. It has every emotion you’re supposed to feel planned out like a novel. Can you interpret the skeletons and dead bodies in that game differently? Absolutely, but not by much.
Consider one part when you stumble across a town whose residents are nice, friendly folk who speak like a blue collar family might, and have names like “Old Man Harris” and “Jack Smith”. You continue to explore the town, and chat up the residents, suspecting something eerie is going on, but not quite knowing what. You walk into one of the houses and discover that the basement door is locked, and you’re greeted with hostility if you try to open it. You also notice a shed in the backyard that’s locked well...a little too well.
Curious, you obtain the keys from whatever method you choose, and finally discover that inside both the shed and the basement are dozens of skeletons and bones locked in big, bird-like cages. People who stumbled upon this town’s secret, maybe? Old residents? The game offers no answers but gives plenty of idea’s.
Fallout 3 accomplishes what very few games do: it makes it’s characters human. Everyone is someone. Everyone has their own story, their own way of speaking, their own problems and goals, and most of which don’t concern you as a player, which is what makes it all the more realistic and engaging. They’re people who will reluctantly help you, and only if there’s something in it for them. The world has gone mad, and everyone’s out for themselves.
Wandering around the DC ruins, you can’t help but picture Moscow, London, Paris, and Rome all in rubble, all with the same starving attitude. I’m convinced this game is great because it not only offers you a fantastic experience on it’s own, but because it allows you to imagine beyond that.
You’re insignificant in the world and yet you’re also important. You understand the significance of your mission: To find your father and uncover the project that he was working on, which ultimately will save the world. The problem is, no one else cares. There are savage raiders lurking around, who will shoot you on sight, regardless of what you look like. There are beasts, radiation, filth, death, and bones. There are guns, ammo, music, bombs, books, slaves, and mutants.
Why would anyone care about you?