… and I for one am worried.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a park ranger. It was kind of like being a cop, only without the whole problem with my parents being drug dealers, or the getting shot at a traffic stop thing. Anyway, I used to wander around in the creek by my house, imagining I was “on patrol” – which meant, as near as I could tell, looking for stuff, which came naturally to a prepubescent boy. And especially in San Jose, it was easy to pretend I was in some post-apocalyptic wasteland, especially since the creek was also the de facto junkyard of the neighborhood: when you’re 10, a broken TV is as inscrutable as an Old World plasma fusion reactor. So it’s easy to see how I became obsessed with EA’s Wasteland, which is why when I sat down to play Wasteland 2, 20 years later, the images and emotions it generated came tagged with memories.
Fallout New Vegas, despite being the successor to Wasteland, isn’t quite as easy to wrap my head around. Maybe it’s because Wasteland is about Rangers: the good guys, law enforcement, patrolling, teamwork, whereas in Fallout, yer just dis guy. Which doesn’t mean Fallout doesn’t carry some heavy emotional baggage; it’s just that I can’t tell what makes it so powerful.
NV really seems to be more about the War … I guess Wasteland was, too, but NV develops so many of the NPCs stories that it feels more alive. More than the Old World technology, or sinister plots – it’s about the past – nostalgia, choices and mistakes that were made. It goes back to That Time in your life –
and that’s where I stick, because that’s what it does for me; reminds me of running a 911 center in my late twenties, when everything was larger than life, and I was young enough yet to not know that a broken heart wasn’t equivalent to the Apocalypse, but not yet old enough to know that some stories never end, even though they can never be finished.
But maybe that’s just me. Maybe other people get something completely different out of it. Maybe, being the victim of a terrible nostalgia, I push that perception into other art.
The DLC didn’t help this feeling any – especially Dead Money, which I’ve talked about before. “It’s not the finding it that’s hard – it’s letting go.”
I thought about this while playing the “Autumn Leaves” mod this weekend. I’m sitting here, staring out the window at the fog-dimmed streetlights, as the soundtrack plays in the background, and I feel like I’ve wandered into a Raymond Chandler novel,
even though Fallout isn’t about any of those things, and neither is Chandler.
Of course, it may also be important that both Wasteland and New Vegas are set in the Southwestern desert, home of nuclear testing, secret air force bases, and UFO sightings – in other words, all that is best in life.
Considering that I think the only three important things in life are poetry, quantum physics, and cats, and that I lived through the 80s, when nuclear war was the In Thing, and that my dad spent hours telling me about his travels in the Mojave when he was younger, can Fallout 4 really recapture that feeling? Of course, Skyrim hooked me just as badly, for obvious reasons. And I don’t want more of the same, but I do want more of the same emotional intensity.
So I’m nervous, but not so nervous I didn’t drop a grand on a new computer to post my game here, in all its accountants-don’t-make-good-warriors glory.
Or maybe I just have a Thing about minor-chord piano solos, and Fallout managed to tendril together my love for noir with my love of super-science. Life’s hard, man.