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Band of Bloggers: Can the Wasteland Corrupt?


Not Bloody Likely. 

Frigging finally. I have been trying to write this blog for the past week and everytime that I have sat down to put...er...fingers to keys, something has needed to be done or sporadically popped up. Not saying this was necessarily a bad thing life-wise, but I really wanted to write this blog. Wedding, job hunt, thesis, wedding, Russian, job hunt, doctors, job hunt, got a job, more doctors. It's been a long week, so this may not be as flushed out as I had originally wanted it to be. 

If this is your first time reading about this, I'll be gentle. Band of Bloggers is a new community project being orchestrated by Fenriff, Dreamweaver, and myself which was best described by Mr. Weaver as a "videogame book club." The goal of BoB, as it will henceforth be known (and not to be confused with the rapper), is to play the same game, or series of game with the rest of the CBlogs community and then come together at the end of the month to share our experiences. This can be done in any type of blog-style, and will be wrapped up together in the following week in a Recap Blog. Because let's face it, this community loves recaps.

As a side note, R.I.P. to Fenriff's CPU for any who did now know. This is one of those times that you want to replace the deceased as quickly as possible. Like when little Timmy's hamster dies. Hopefully Fenriff will still be able to find a cute little brown and white CPU, so no one will be any the wiser. *Takes a moment of silence* But let's talk abut Fallout now. 

He'll never know the difference. 

For my BoB post, I have decided to take a look at how I acted within Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, in comparison to how I may actually act in an apocalyptic situation. I used Fallout 3 as my attempt at playing as "myself" for this analysis, and then compared my experiences to how I played a previous save file of New Vegas. I will not be going into a lot of specifics of either game though, and will instead look at broader overarching themes and thoughts that I had. 

I played Fallout 1 and 2 when I was younger, but then I fell out of gaming for a little while when I went to university. I ended up playing New Vegas before I played Fallout 3, because my first experience with Fallout 3 was when I was at a friends house, and watched him run through what at the time looked like the same textures and dull grey bugs for like an hour. At the time, I thought it was bland and drab looking. When New Vegas came out, I decided to give it a real shot, and absolutely fell in love with the series all over again. 

To start, I played on the hardest difficult and with hardcore mode on. If I'm playing a survival apocalypse game, I want it to feel like it. My gameplay style in my several New Vegas files had always been kind of similar: it was how I played Dungeons & Dragons (which was my first ever RPG), and how I began to play most games that allowed for this much choice. Neutral Evil. Well, maybe Chaotic Neutral to an extent, but I found that I was generally a little more cold and calculated then a Chaotic character, and I don't believe True Neutral is a thing. As a DM, any PC (Player Character for any of you not nerdy enough) that started out True Neutral usually had their alignment altered by 2-3 hours into the game from actions that were clearly neither "true" or "neutral". 

Why not play Neutral Evil, right? It always made the most sense to me. I have never been a merciless killer, or a cruel character, but I always looked for opportunities that I could exploit for my own advantage. And if that meant the occasional person had to be robbed and left to the Radscorpions, or murdered in their own shop because they kept giving me lip, so be it. In Fallout: New Vegas, I tended to do all of the things that I felt a NE character would do. 

And Abed takes on both good and evil traits throughout the show. True Neutral is a fallacy.

So I was never stupid about it. If someone, or some people, needed to be done away with, it was done in an organized manner with few witnesses (and assuredly, none surviving) but it was never without purpose. Near the beginning of the game I killed and robbed some travelling merchants, but when it became pointless for me to do so because of my level or wealth, I wouldn't harm them. How generous of me, right? I also almost never played with a survivor, and only teamed up occasionally when I really thought it was needed to tip the scales. My character didn't play well with others, and the thought of sharing loot was an absurd one at best. (I know these things don't actually factor, but we're roleplaying here people!) 

I also never aligned with any of what I considered to be the evil factions in the game. I worked with the NCR, even though I had my own personal agenda while doing so, and I strongly condemned the actions of the Legion. I only ensured that their view of me stayed Neutral long enough for me to cause some serious damage to them, before fully siding against them. My character did not see the actions of the Legion as purposeful, but just senseless and wanton destruction and death. I even tried to save people from the Legion when presented with an opportunity. I was not doing this to help them though, I was doing this to crush the Legion and show my strength to them. 

I'm sure I'm not the only one to do this, but with a game like Fallout I sometimes like to create my own narrative as I'm playing through the game, if you couldn't tell already. While there is certainly an overarching plot to the game, there are plenty of opportunities to forge your own story in the wastes, which is part of what had me excited about this Band of Bloggers theme. 

I did not play Fallout: New Vegas as me, but I played it as my favourite way to play RPGs. I do not honestly think that I would be able to act like this in a real apocalypse for the most part, asides from perhaps standing up against the Legion, because some of my actions make me feel kind of bad afterwards, even if my character was totally fine with them. It was a great playthrough though, and after killing Mr. Vegas, and eventually taking much of the Wasteland for myself, it was time to sit back and just reap what I'd sown. 

It's important to separate yourself from your Player Character kids.

Now as I mentioned, I'd be intially underwhelmed by Fallout 3. After my amazing experience with New Vegas though, I had to give it another shot. By this time, the GOTY edition of F3 had came out, so I picked it up with all the DLC. Why not? I was so sure I was going to love it this time. And boy howdy did I ever. I'd heard from many people 3 was the superior game (I put them almost on par), and I was starting to see why it won so much praise. 

My first playthrough of 3 I was just having fun and playing like my Neutral Evil New Vegas self. But then I came across a dilly of a pickle of a melonscratcher. Blow up Megaton or save the town and all its citizens. Blow up Megaton or save it? Blow up....Save...Blow up...Save...Wait. I get a penthouse suite 5 hours into the game? *Click*

Ahem. Fuck yes. I mostly used a rundown apartment in New Vegas, and it took me forever to get that, so I went for this option immediately. And then the guilt set in. Was that really something even this character would do? Like, yeah I benefitted, but at what cost? I was conflicted if this was too far even for Neutral Evil, and leaning towards the Chaotic perhaps, but it didn't sit right with me. Or my character for that matter. So I started thinking about restarting and trying a different approach. 

Around this time my fiancee had finished beating Skyrim and almost as many extra things as she could accomplish. 250+ hours I think. Maybe 300. True love, right? Anyways, she wanted something similar, so I suggested Fallout 3 as I was already debating restarting my file. She went for it, and we designed our character together and started playing. She wasn't as big of a fan of the apocalypse setting as she was of fantasy, so before long I pretty much took over. Until she'd lost interest in it, we'd talk about the decisions we were going to make, and tried to be a generally upstanding person when we could. For instance, we decided not to blow up Megaton. Shockingly, my feminist pro-human rights and social justice fiancee was not a fan of murdering hundreds of civilians. Probably for the best, because I didn't have an itchy trigger finger this time around. Shortly after that though, it was all me. 

In comparison to how I acted in the Nevada Wasteland, in the Capital I tried to do all of the things and act in a way that I strongly felt I would actually be representative of me if I encountered these situations in real life. I put points into Speech, Repair, Science, and similar skills so that I would be able to solve problems in non-violent ways more often than not. Now, this is not to say that I didn't make sure my Small Guns skills were up to par, but I stayed away from ranking up most of the other combat skills for quite some time. 

Because let's be serious; I'd want to defend myself in the apocalypse if it came down to it, but realistically I'd only do it if it was absolutely necessary. All these other skills though? Survival, Medicine, the aforementioned skills, those sounded necessary. Speech was paramount for my skills though, as in real life I am a huge extroverted people-person, and a decent arguer. I enjoy making logical arguments and hashing them out with people, as well as using my knowledge and language to convince people of thigns they may not have agreed with in the first place. 

But to be good at convincing, you can't just be a smooth talking used Pip-Boy dealer; you need Intelligence to back it up. Obviously Charisma won't hurt either. (I know that Charisma is the actual stat needed for Speech, but as I mentioned before, roleplaying.) That and Intelligence has always been my favourite stat in RPGs, as it allows you to rank up your skills much quicker. Toss in a little Perception and this character was exactly what I wanted and how I'd envision myself. Smart, not half bad looking, and with some keen observation skills. Throw in a ballcap, a bandana and some medical issues, and it's totally Matt Ferguson. 

More like Wastedland

So I played through Fallout 3, keeping in mind that the character I was playing was not a player character at all, but the actual player. This was my mirror, and I wanted to always see myself reflected there. 

I'm not going to lie though, I came close to breaking a few times. As it is Fallout, there were numerous opportunities for me to steal, and kill, and make completely clean getaways. I remember talking to one lady in a random small house (can't remember where) and thinking about how I still did not have anywhere to live yet. And her house would make a nice place to call home....No! Snap out of it Matt, you'd never even consider that. 

There were a few times that I almost did do something, and only stopped myself because there is really no option for middle ground. To give an example, the bodyguard in Moira's shop in Megaton. After sitting at around 50 hours of playtime, I was getting reallllllllllly sick of him still lipping me every time I walked in, even though Moira and I obviously had an awesome relationship. I helped her with her dumb experiments, she repaired my crap. Although, I did eventually have to crush her dreams. Seriously though, I got bad radiation sickness, repelled Molerats, and danced around in a minefield. Seriously Moira. A. Fuck off. and B. Don't quit your day job. After that though, we were cool. 

Moira Proudly Presents: Killing the Lone Wanderer

But I digress; that bodyguard needed to be smacked in the head. But I knew that if I did it, I'd have to kill him, and I didn't actually want to kill him. I wanted to put him in his place, but not kill him. If there was any type of dialogue option, that would have been great. And I didn't really want to punch him a couple times and run away and deal with all of the.....fallout (Hehehe). I just wanted to tell him off. 

I think that is one thing that would be neat to have implemented a bit more, some sort of social interaction metre per person (kind of like Fable 3 I suppose, but better in every way) in which I could express my displeasure to them short of actual violence. Because I know myself and I know I could only be violent if my life absolutely depended on it, but I very much enjoy telling people off who are being assholes or offensive, or ignorant...you name it. If you're following me on Twitter you've seen it recently.

I don't just do it online either, my fiancee hates that I occasionally do it in public, but I cannot stand to see people being rude or offensive towards someone. Or doing stupid or dangerous things that could hurt others. So I tell off people in line who berate cashiers, (and once at a restaurant when someone almost made a server cry), I engage people who make offensive comments to try and bring them down a peg and see their ignorance, that sort of thing. Don't be an doucebag, and I won't have to point out your ignorance/lack of tact in public for all to see.  

I've digressed again sort of, but that is how I am and that is how I tried to behave in Fallout 3. But because there aren't that many opportunities outside of quests to use Speech for that type of thing, I had to let some things slide a bit more.  For Fallout 4, I'd like to be able to interact with every NPC so that it really feels like you can have an impact on everyone. Or implement some non-violent actions. You know, be able to fart on the bodyguard or something. Sorry, couldn't resist...oh Fable

You have displeased me!

Oh man...2500 words? Ok, wrapping up now. So getting around to the title of my blog. Did The Wasteland corrupt me when I was actually trying to play as me? Not even a little bit. I was tempted, sure, but only when I started thinking about my character as a player character, and not as myself. I always kept myself in check, and ensured that justice prevailed.

I freed slaves, helped androids, destroyed the Krivbeknihkahnawammabammadingdong, helped the misunderstood tribals, returned American historical artifacts (although I wanted them for my house), peacefully settled the Superhuman Gambit, defeated aliens, messed with the Enclave, and most importantly, made the ultimate sacrifice. At least, I thought I had until I woke up with Scribe Rothchild standing over me...not creepy at all. Oh no wait, the most important thing was stopping Moira from killing us all. Oh Moira...

I'd like to briefly talk about the end of the game though, because it's easy enough to sacrifice yourself when you are playing a game, but how many people actually feel like they could do that in real life? I thought about this for a little, and I actually think that I could do it. I've stepped in between confrontations several times before in my life to try and peacefully mediate them, and once almost ended up losing my life for it. (Warning, about to get kind of personal!) I don't normally share this story, but I always feel like this is a community I can open up to. 

About 7 years ago, I was out with a female friend, and we ended up being confronted by 3 huge guys wearing bandanas across their faces. Long story short, I gave them my money after one of them mentioned the word "shank" but when they went to try and take her stuff, I couldn't stand it and stood up to them. I ended up with a metal pipe to the head several times, received a buttload of stiches, and was told I was lucky that I didn't have permanent brain damage and more severe injuries. After this happened, I was a bit of a wreck for a while and could barely walk down the street alone in daylight without sketching out, but in the longrun it helped to make me who I am and I'm now a stronger person because of it. And you know what? I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I had to. 

And that is exactly how I tried to play Fallout 3. And I'm really happy to say that not only did I succeed in playing "myself" pretty well, but that I had an amazing time doing it. I at no point felt like I was missing out by not blowing towns up and stealing everything that wasn't nailed down. I felt good about my choices, good about my character, and overall, good about myself. And at the end of the day, isn't it nice to play a game and feel good about yourself while doing it? 

So at the end of this long road, does the apocalypse corrupt? Well, I can't answer these questions for any of you. But for myself, The Wasteland can try and corrupt me all it wants, I'm going to fight back like Project Purity. 

"I don't want to set the world on fire. I just want to start a flame in your heart"

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this...oh damn it 3000 word essay of sorts. And sorry to get so personal at the end there, but I felt like it really helped to drive home the point that I was trying to make in this blog. Thanks as well to everyone who participated in this month's Band of Bloggers! I've loved reading the blogs so far, and am excited to see what people post in the coming days! And as always friends:

Game, and love yourself while doing it.

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About The Scholarly Gamerone of us since 10:04 AM on 06.10.2014

Working for the Government of Canada, DJing and writing about video games in my spare time.

I also work for Gamework Canada (www.gamework.ca), bringing competitive gaming tournaments to Canada!

This really needs an overhaul: COMING SOON!