Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fallout 3

I played Fallout 3 on Thanksgiving.

As I played, I wondered what people would be thankful for in a post-apocalyptic world, after (presumably) nuclear weapons had rendered the world a radioactive, smoking hulk. Would being alive be enough to be thankful, or would the sense of loss and irrevocable displacement be so overwhelming that it would be a curse to have survived?

I think this game resonates in different ways to different people, and I think much of it is centered around age. I've mentioned this before, but I still remember sitting in an auditorium in late fall of 1979 (first year in college) and listening to a presentation on what might happen if the military draft was reinstated. It looked, for a few months, like Russia might invade China (in response to China's invasion of Vietnam), and it also looked like it might be the start of World War III.

In 1979, nuclear war and Armageddon weren't plot devices in a game--they were real possibilities. There was always a sense, a fear, that the people in charge would lose control. Even one person losing control could start a series of events that could lead to the end of the world.

Hell, it was worse than that, really. The failure of monitoring systems, or those systems sending false positives, could start an accidental exchange of nuclear weapons (which almost happened). So the end of the world could start as simply as seeing blips on a radar screen that shouldn't have been there.

So when I play Fallout 3, and I think this is probably true for most people who are over forty, some part of me is always wondering if this is what it really would have been like. Not in terms of enemies, but in the way that humans banded together into small groups to create enough order to survive.

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