Discussion in 'XBox/Playstation/Nintendo Wii' started by Dreadnought, Aug 26, 2015.
When I was a gopher for a law firm,,,I screamed also when having to drive downtown OKC...
Well that was a stupid response!
That right there is a microcosm of the range of debate I'm seeing on this thread: On the one side, you have people (okay like two people) arguing that Fallout 4 contains problematic "liberal" messages and on the other side you have people arguing that the thematic contents of video games don't matter. Let me present a different view.
Fallout 4 is obviously a political game and, considering how many copies it's sold, one suspects that its political content may indeed have some kind of impact on a subset of the population. This aspect of what Dreadnought says in the OP is correct. What's not correct about his view is that this is wrong and that video games need to be politically neutral, shallow, mindless, empty entertainment from which one takes away nothing. Video games are an artistic medium, and clearly the makers of Fallout 4 want you to feel that way about their game, hence the political and social contents thereof. We should respect that and accordingly evaluate not only the game's horsepower and efficiency as if it were a car, but also the merits of its themes and the degree to which it conveys them effectively (i.e. how it makes you feel), as one might evaluate a painting, because this game is both a piece of technology and of art simultaneously. So let's now get to that. Here's my take:
I consider Fallout 4 politically liberal, but in an individualistic sense. Libertarian, if you will. It's a John Wayne mentality type of game. I have to evaluate Fallout 4 specifically because it's admittedly the only game in the franchise that I've played, but fret not: my experience was not without context, for I spent the days leading up to launch steeping myself in the lore of the series, which seemed interesting enough, characterized by what came off as a defense of modern cynicism against the place where the naive, conservative optimism of the romanticized Eisenhower years might've led us if continued indefinitely. Once I got a ways into Fallout 4 though, I realized that something close to the opposite was true: that far from supplying a jaded, eyes-wide-open type picture of the world, this franchise is instead about as stereotypically American as they come, and there are many ways of illustrating this: player freedom reins supreme and Manifest Destiny is alive and well in that basically all you get to do with that freedom is conquer and "settle" territory and amass loot. It's much like the perverse nostalgia for the horrible, genocidal days of the Old West that pervaded 1950s America, differing only in that the next frontier is to be found in a future decimation of civilization. This provides an opportunity for the player to pull themselves up by their boot straps and begin the project of civilizing a now-barbaric humanity anew.
It's also a very American game in another way: the storyline can be described as mediocre at best and certainly isn't the focus of play. The game begins with an interesting set-up: we start playing just before the inevitable nuclear holocaust wipes out most of the world's population, which will reduce the species to a small collection of almost tribalistic warring factions. We get to experience just a taste of pre-bombing life; enough to learn what that conservative '50s style life might've been like if continued into this century. We get to experience the oddity that is its World's Fair-like futuristic technologically (household robot servants, etc.) married to stagnant, far-outdated social relations. Then we are informed that nuclear war is being unleashed, resulting from the yes-still-ongoing Cold War (which now exists in a new form) finally turning hot after escalating steadily for more than a century. We are then rushed to a vault that we only too late learn is actually an experimental freezing chamber in addition to being a shelter, as the U.S. government has been pondering a number of different ways of salvaging its population in this kind of situation for decades without informing the population. We awake two centuries later. This opening story salvo was a fascinating thought experiment and easily the best part of the story! What came thereafter only made me wish that this carefully directed approach had continued though, for the next thing you know, the "storytelling" is reduced to generic industry tropes: our spouse is murdered and a relative (our son) has gone missing and its up to us to spend presumably the rest of the game both hunting for the relative in distress and seeking revenge (the game industry's preferred modern-day alternatives to the old damsel in distress narratives that prevailed up until the turn of the century). Combining both of these lazy tropes was evidently supposed to double our motivation to proceed or something.
Anyway, one scarcely makes it ten feet without being bombarded by countless, distracting subplots that draw one over to the side quest (that's RPG for minigame) aspect that constitutes some 95% of the game's total contents (hundreds of hours worth) and exists simply to justify the completely unnecessary scale of the world in which one now finds themself situated because the developer couldn't justify the scale narratively. Welcome to the world of modern, sandbox RPGs. Enter first-person shooting. Lots and lots of shooting. Killing things is, in fact, way more central to this game than the story and characters, as well illustrated by both the poor quality of writing and the fact that one is perfectly free to simply walk away from almost any conversation in progress. It's as if people (and synths) are just set decorations there to churn out side missions and rewards for shooting more enemies and collecting random items. There's no feeling behind any of it hardly and in turn we cannot grow attached to the characters or their stories.
Two-thirds of this game's 15-hour story (15 hours if, like me, you doggedly avoid most all subplots) is simply an adherence to the above. Narrative choices are abundant, but overwhelmingly false since it doesn't really matter what narrow-minded, moronic faction(s) you align with in the grand conflict because they all just so happen to conveniently agree that the source of all evil is a mysterious group called the Institute, so you'll inevitably wind up teleporting to the Institute to destroy it eventually, the convenient requirement of teleportation being the game's contrived way of keeping the main events proceeding in something like a logical sequence despite the otherwise free exploration that the open-world format affords the player.
Mercifully, the last one-third of Fallout 4's core storyline provides SOME relief in the form of less narrative predictability. *SPOILER ALERT!* Your son, it turns out, is actually a grown man running the Institute nowadays, as it turns out that you're actually 60 years old because you were never properly frozen. You learn that, shockingly, the Institute isn't quite as horrible as all the factions have made them out to be and that their aim is to allow the Earth to heal itself by bringing humanity underground to the pristine, high-tech world they've crafted there to dwell in the interim while reconstruction goes on on the surface. They're essentially the remnants of the former U.S. government. However, because the factions are all mindlessly belligerent morons bearing little resemblance to actual human beings in their mannerisms and decision-making processes, it turns out you have to kill off all the faction leaders first in order to unite the species under the umbrella of the Institute before any of this can happen. This is supposed to make you feel like a murderer because you'd gotten to know these people; they weren't just nameless robots and generic enemies, but real people with names and backgrounds with whom you'd forged relationships of sorts. People who trusted you. You can choose to back out just about any time too; a fact that's supposed to add tension to the situation, causing you to second-guess and ponder your moral limits. Really though, it just kinda comes off as fake since these leaders are all a bunch of unplausibly mindless zealots rather than reasonable, relatable people. OF COURSE you're going to kill them! What's the alternative? Letting humanity languish in its state of destitution and perpetual war so that a collection of brainless, heartless belligerents the game laughably passes off as believable people can live? [/SPOILER]
With the Bethesda name attached to it (that's the company responsible for the Elder Scrolls games), maybe I should've seen this sort of detached and highly unfocused narrative coming. The bottom line though is that the Institute -- the old U.S. government essentially -- isn't so bad after all and maybe we really SHOULD have stuck with the 1950s conservative optimism, complete with its want of new frontiers to conquer and plunder for thrills. There are just some "tough choices" that have to be made along the way to realizing an America that's revitalized both practically and spiritually. Like whether or not to shoot rotten people with names. Because no matter what messes we get ourselves into, we can pull ourselves up by our boot straps and survive. Why? Because America. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
So because I see video games differently and express as much, that's stupid? You sure do know how to make an impression...
I apologize for being insulting, but I do think that video games often contain political messages that deserve to be evaluated, and I supplied my own evaluation.
One thing your rather rambling post confirms, is that the game well conforms to the prejudices of the player.
You are clearly far left and not a fan of America, you're either a democrat or British. The stylized 1950's is what gives the entire series it's charm. Not sure where you dreamed up the idea that the Institute is the government, I would see the Brotherhood of Steel more in that role.
It's a game, nothing more. Any adult who is influenced by overt or suspected political messages in a game needs serious psychiatric help. Bet you're a literature grad...... ain'tcha......
Sorry I said anything. I won't anymore. Move on.
Separate names with a comma.