A Rough Patch (Introduction)

The appealing immersion of post-apocalyptic stories increases through the newer media of videogames. By placing the game player at the center of a post-nuclear narrative, there's a greater experiential immediacy to certain speculative events of how civilization and life in general continues afterward. In fact, a particular series of games has a history of utilizing aspects of various and sundry post-apocalyptic tales. Fallout, Fallout 2 and, the most recent addition to the series, Fallout 3 present both an idealized past, one rife with technological advances from robots with fully functioning A.I. to nuclear-powered vehicles, and a nullified future, one complete with roving bands of marauders and radioactive ruins. While the player's experience in the first two games in the series was more removed in an isometric, third-person perspective, Fallout 3's gameplay is in the first person, making every action more immediate and present. Instead of viewing a limited amount of squares of space featuring the desert wastes of what were once parts of California and Nevada, the setting of the first two Fallout games, the player of Fallout 3 is able to survey the bombed-out suburban areas of Washington, D.C., capital buildings reduced to rubble and roads torn asunder by the passage of time. Fallout 3's atmosphere and visual aesthetic are not only reminiscent of post-World War II America and the prevalence of nuclear paranoia during that time, but this videogame also recalls the descriptions of a nuclear post-apocalypse in such classic science fiction as Carol Emswhiller's "Day at the Beach," "Poul Anderson's "Tomorrow's Children" and Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog." More than this, though, Fallout 3 captures the morality and survival evident in those same stories, building on the kinds of ethical quandaries they present. Fallout 3 is also unique in that it offers an amount of freedom of choice. As readers of the aforementioned stories, we can only accept their traumatic events; as Fallout players, however, we have a more active role in causing or preventing such events. This element of choice not only draws a separation from the stories that perhaps inspired the Fallout series, but it also draws my interest in Fallout 3 as a particular post-apocalyptic scenario.