Friday, September 13, 2019

Where's Fallout Next Generation?

I tried Fallout 76 about two months ago. I designed my character after a Chinese lady as I tend towards trying to push the presence of Women in video games though thankfully more and more I'm finding that Women are present in gaming, which is a great thing though I am no replacement for Women. All of you Women out there, please keep playing. We need you. You are the story and a part of us in any narrative experience.

I really enjoyed Fallout 3 (the one that takes place in the post WWIII era Washington DC). A great story with so many paths. Equally engrossing dialog delivered by the best voice talent in the industry (you'll literally hear them everywhere in media and popular culture). 

Fallout 3 was the best story in the Fallout series and spoke to a generation of people who'd figuratively grown up in a sheltered life, and whom were suddenly thrown into the world outside of their sheltered life into the wasteland. Amongst those who'd already learned to survive the hard way and many of whom were often less cerebral and more visceral as a result.

In this game world as it often does in the real world, that it felt that we were representing our origins (the people who protected from the turmoil of humanity within a bomb shelter) in the best way possible because we came from those bomb shelters ourselves and into a world that eats people like us alive and spits then spits out our bones before us before we're even dead.

The game is of course a fictitious United States that that never managed to escape McCarthyism. In this twisted parody of our own cold war reality, the paranoia against communism is twisted to become a war machine directed at the socialist threat of China. Watching the game's cutscenes and back story, its very easy to see that in this alternate version of history that the United States became as much monster as it had was the prey. The intense anti-communism rants delivered by the game's overly zealous giant killer robot of death aka Liberty Prime are a stark contrast to the means by which to save humanity which is essentially by working together with the various surviving factions of the post war world. The real irony is the fact that after the destruction resulting from a conflict of that level, the only real means to save humanity and life is ultimately social.

As if to throw a middle finger at this attitude of a McCarthyist attack against the culture of China, I often purposely designed my characters as being of Chinese descent. Remember that the story is not reality or the views of the creators but rather a statement and exploration of that post McCarthy era paranoia that preceded the cold war. In this creative world that paranoia becomes magnified ever more so while being the catalyst for an extensive propaganda campaign whose skeletons permeate the DC Wastes.

Meanwhile those who grew up under the direct difficulties of surviving from day to day had become hardened comparitively speaking, though often at the expense of being less cerebral and with an abandoned romanticism of virtue over pragma. After all, the first casualty of a falling out with one's sense of virtue is innocence. Fallout 3 was really the symbol of something that had been brewing since after the 1970s and represented by the likes of Donald Fagen in the album the Nightfly. 

The song New Frontiers is the epitomy of what games like Fallout 3 are about in terms of stylization, art direction, metaphor and the passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

Its really about getting into the bomb shelter and emerging with the same sense of optimistic innocence without losing it all while trying to make the world a better place for everyone and ensuring survival despite the abrasiveness of those who lived a much different life and perhaps learned the more difficult way. 

Not everyone grew up in the safety of a bomb shelter.  Some had to face the difficulties of life and survive no matter.

Recognizing the difference between the injury of hardship and the malice of purposeful ignorance is the key to survival, especially in the world of Fallout because survival isn't just about breathing, eating and sleeping. Its about preserving that aspect of our being that motivates us to persevere through the worst of difficulties and conflict in order to represent the best of what we had before we got into that bomb shelter. What our teachers, parents, friends, family and our inspirations of all sources had given us to share with those who sought the same peaceful prosperity and happiness.

Its also about us emerging from the shelter perhaps thinking that our sheltered life had somehow made us better than the kind of savagery we'd find in the wastes, only to learn that being sheltered does not necessarily mean having a full understanding of human compassion versus bigotry. Perhaps we emerged from the bomb shelters believing we were the saviors of a humanity that did not want to be saved by the product of a people who brought that catastrophe by its McCarthyist paranoia and xenophobia?

Sure there's action and violence (and guns) in the game but honestly, that has no context in the overall story when compared to pursuits like survival, freedom, liberty and prosperity that we experience through the story telling of Fallout 3 and our choices.

I mean within the game it was just as possible to be the scourge of the living as it was to be the saviour but the aspect of role playing that led to the consistency of our character with our goals was very well put together within the context and dialogue of the campaign story.

New Vegas added much to that as did Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 but quite honestly, it seems that there needs to be some attention paid to those generational experiences that define what it is to emerge from a bomb shelter surviving the conflicts that resulted from the spats of the last generation, all while preserving the goodness of what you've learned from those generation who put you in that shelter. More importantly though and often missed, its about understanding the fact that your sheltered life does not make you better or more keen towards values than those who had to deal with the daily challenges of survival in your absense. We've suddenly learned that in embracing that attitude of superiority because we were sheltered, that we actually became the McCarthyist shadows of our former progenitors.

Ironically though in Fallout 3, this story's fulcrum is hinged around the sense of moral responsibility represented by your deceased Mother and your living Father, both of whom have a passion for science and their responsibility to use their knowledge for the betterment of all humankind. In fact, it is your Father that results in that mission of self discovery and the relinquishing of ignorance, especially around the idea that you are somehow the "chosen" one to deliver the world from its savagery. Fallout 3 is a gem of metaphor, allegory and a love letter to the generation whom emerged from a sheltered life only to find that they were as much the students as they were the teachers.

In terms of many aspects of social life and symbolism, I'd say that there needs to be a re-examination of the symbolism of colour within the context of the human narrative and especially the media through which that symbolism is expressed. Certainly it is the most healthy and socially encouraging symbolism of colour that should become that representative.

Movie making (for both large and small screen) and gaming should be at the forefront of defining this, perhaps taking us away from the cliches and stigmas that have arisen from colour symbolism so that colours once again regain their unstigmatized vibrance and lack the association of anything that might skew our future. We need to be able to lift one another regardless of the definitions and stigmas that the symbolism of colours often constrained us to grow across boundaries and limits that humankind should have long since passed.

You know, there doesn't necessarly have to be an antagonist to be a protagonist. I mean really!!! 

We're living in the first fifth of the twenty first century! Do we still really need to define our merit by the vileness of others? Do we really need to push someone down into the gutter to make ourselves look that much better? Goodness and virtue is not relative in terms of light versus darkness. I mean, creating our opposite for the purpose of making ourselves appear better is something that we need to transcend and to level up as sentient beings.

That's the optimism of Donald Fagen's New Frontiers. Maybe some day soon, we'll receive another Fallout that echoes that kind of impact in terms of story telling and player experience. 

Fallout 76 is pretty good, but quite honestly we need that next generation Fallout 3, that gives voice to the most recent generation who are stepping out of the shelter that my generation built while doing everything to carry over the best of what we'd learned from those who built ours.

Alright. This is the beginning of my effort to repair Shhhh! Digital. Don't pay attention to colour symbolism presented in the screen shots above or in my picture. Think along the lines that colours don't really mean anything from past cliches or stigmas. 

I mean, you wouldn't want to end up with a cliche, stigma or burden that had nothing to do with you or the best of the people who made your shelter would you?

This post is brought to you and its message is brought to you by the generation of artists at SomaFM. Quite honestly, I've been listening to SomeFM for a very long time (at least as long as I have been Seattle's Groove Tech and DJ Chloe on Real Player).

Please if you can, support this incredible group of music stations whose venue is aural artists of every imagining. 

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There's more to come here though this post is done.

Brian Joseph Johns

200 Sherbourne Street #701
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5A 3Z5



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