Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fallout 4 and The People: Gaming with Moral Compass

Fallout 4 screenshot of main quest ending cut scene:
War. War Never Changes

With this post, the cat that lives on the porch at Abernathy farm is permanently out of the post- apocalyptic cardboard box: I am a huge, nerdly fan of the Fallout video game series.

I give my characters thoughts,  and I help them come to terms with their decisions:

At the end of it all, I returned to Sanctuary Hills, not ready to face my synthetic son, Shaun. How could he ever replace the flesh and blood man I'd betrayed? He'd referred to his mother as "collateral damage," and I'd never really gotten over the sting of it. Was that what drove me, in the end, to destroy the Institute, his legacy? I don't think so: I think it was his insistence on creating his own "collateral damage" of the people I'd come to know and knew I needed to protect.  I removed my power armor, stored away my weapons in the workshop, and changed into a clean, blue suit. I ignored the congratulatory conversations; only Nick Valentine, with the conscientiousness of a prewar man, seemed to truly understand the heaviness of my heart and soul. 

Making Moral Decisions in Fallout 4

Fallout 4 has a permanent home in our PlayStation 4.  I've played through Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4 several times, each time telling myself I'm going to make different decisions, follow different paths, complete different quests, or complete quests differently.  Every single time, however, I play as though I'm Captain America, making decisions based on nothing more nor less than my own (and Cap's) moral compass. Where does my plan to do things differently go awry?  In Fallout 4, specifically, I can't bring myself to ignore Preston's pleas for help defending The Castle from The Institute, so I save The Castle, and I lock myself into the same ending I've seen each time I've played the game. All of those innocent settlers and Minutemen at The Castle need me. I cannot ignore the call for help from the people.

Speaking of the people, the main reason I cannot bring myself to work with a faction is because the factions don't care for the entirety of the Commonwealth, the entirety of the population, the people. The Brotherhood of Steel, though it would be fantastic to see Liberty Prime in action, again, have horrendously awful things to say to Nick, my synth friend, or Hancock, my ghoul friend. The Brotherhood would rather see them all eviscerated by Deathclaws than lift a finger to help them live better lives. The Railroad folks care mostly about the synths and eliminating The Institute scientists and civilians. The Institute wants to replace real people with synthetic people, create a dangerous nuclear reactor, all the while refusing to help the people of the Commonwealth. Each and every faction wants to destroy freedom, create and maintain strict control, and determine who does or does not get marked as an enemy.

Making Moral Decisions in Life

It pains me to say so, but in Trump's America, these "decisions" to take under my protection all of the people or only some of the people are too close to real life, are they not?  Of course I have to do the right thing: These aren't really "decisions" I give myself liberty to make. I have to remember that all the people of the Commonwealth, whether they are people trapped in irradiated bodies or people whose minds are trapped in synthetic bodies, all deserve the opportunity to live together in peace. Pitting one faction against another accomplishes nothing. It never does, and therein lies the lesson that makes me repeat all the same decisions I've made in the past, just more emphatically. Even when gaming, I must remember that this country is made up of the people. We have a moral obligation to help all the people.

Did I do the right thing? Only time will tell, just as time will make the sting of my decisions over the past several months fade from the forefront of my mind. Only after the memories fade will I be able to intellectualize this new world and what it has made of me and my moral compass.  In the end, I chose to protect the entirety of the people, and I cannot fathom ever regretting that.

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Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.