×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Fallout 76’ and the Horrors of Home Ownership

I remember playing “Fallout 3” and opening the vault door for the first time. There’d been a horrible calamity; you had lived in subterranean bunkers all your life and were finally emerging outdoors for the first time. It’s manufactured as a memorable moment, and also a kind of panacea to the previous era’s first-person shooter convention of hallways and corridors galore. The designers seemed to be saying: “Leave those dusty tight spaces behind. Go into the world. Be free.” So what if there’s a settlement of rabid mutants to contend with? At least the sun was on your face.

Ten years later, Bethesda Game Studios is teasing their latest installment in the popular post-apocalyptic RPG series, titled “Fallout 76.”. Based on the ninety-second clip they released on Wednesday, the focus appears to be more on creating a home from within the rubble than escaping it. And boy, do I know how that feels right now.

My wife and I are in the process of buying our first house. We live outside of Atlanta, where the insects appear to have been irradiated by nuclear waste, growing many times the size of the midwestern bugs I knew as a child. Violence mars otherwise peaceful neighborhoods. And there is an absurd lack of housing options for a population in high demand for shelter. It’s basically “Fallout” with better biscuits.

The first time I squeezed below our house-to-be to check the foundation reminded me of that memorable vault-opening scene. I was alone in a dark place underground. No natural light shined through. I didn’t know where the exit was; in fact, it was near-impossible to navigate through the stuffy confines at all, slithering atop a slab cut from the earth that was never meant to be inhabited. But I made do. I set out to accomplish what I could. And when I finally emerged, the vista before me felt luminous and free, like some frontier where anything might happen: even if that was a lie, a slice of liberty only when compared to a wretched hole.

“There’s some issues with the crawl space,” I told my real estate agent, “but we can fix it.”

If you’ve ever done something like applied for a mortgage, or any of a hundred other mundane, complex actions attempted by reasonable adults, you’d wonder why game designers see fit to stuff their games with ravenous zombies or alien hordes when more challenging, noxious, unrelenting obstacles surround us every day.

Bethesda’s minute-and-a-half teaser for “Fallout 76” alludes to these more pedestrian trials overcome by a citizenry attempting not only to survive but carve out, within the blast radius, something that feels familiar. The camera pans around a sequence of rooms, each bedecked with the droppings of daily life: last night’s empty beer bottle, this morning’s empty coffee mug; a glass case showing off trophies for “Outstanding Achievement;” filled bookshelves, rumpled bed sheets, framed posters on a wall. On the radio plays a baritone cover of John Denver’s classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” The camera cuts to an old television where some leader is speaking at a podium in front of a crowd. “When the fighting has stopped and the fallout has settled,” the man says, “you must rebuild.”

Some outlets are reporting that “Fallout 76” will be an online survival game, with players building bases, defending their turf while embarking on missions to scavenge more materials or overtake others’ territory. (Bethesda promises more details at E3, the annual industry convention that officially begins on June 12th.) But the notion of base-building is what interests me most, describing as it does my real off-screen pursuit of finding a place to call my own. It parallels that instinct nearly all creatures have, be them humans or birds or loan officers: Surround yourself with a structure in which you can live, thrive, and, if necessary, raise your young.

Our first child is a year old. He can barely walk. He calls everything “Ba!” or “Ca!” He is, in some ways, completely helpless; in others, he is stronger than his parents. We owe him a safe space in which to grow and learn. So when, due to a clerical error and personal negligence and an arbitrary law, we learn that we can’t move into our house when we thought we could, I am filled with rage both at myself and others, a feeling I rarely get outside the constructed funhouses of a tough video game.

You don’t need to thrust a rusty broadsword at some high-level cleric with titanium armor to feel powerless; all you need is a super-competitive real estate market combined with the opaque requirements of our financial institutions to borrow an outrageous sum of money in order to slowly pay off a structure that may or may not become infested with mold and rats. The yearning for such a thing to transpire is completely irrational and utterly intoxicating. If “Fallout 76” can inspire in its players the same mix of fear, anxiety, and euphoria I held exploring the dark, dank foundation of a building built forty years ago, Bethesda may have a winner.

At the end of the teaser, a voice speaks plaintively and with hope. “In Vault 76,” it says, “our future begins.” Sounds like someone putting a down-payment on a house.

More Gaming

  • Gamers' Choice Awards Wraps With Solid

    How Gamers' Choice Awards Failed to Live Up to the Hype, Ended in Potential Lawsuit

    It was billed as the Oscars for the world of gaming, a live, televised video game award show from the creator of the Teen Choice Awards that would deliver an experience the producers described as “Golden Globe Awards combined with a bit of the VMAs and Teen Choice.” For performances, according to that original pitch [...]

  • ‘Artifact’ Gets Its First Major Update

    ‘Artifact’ Gets Its First Major Update

    The first major update for Valve’s collectible card game “Artifact” is now out, bringing two new decks, leaderboards, colorblind support, a chat wheel, and more. Update 1.1 introduces the mono black Dark Aggro deck and the mono blue Death From Above deck to “Artifact’s” The Call to Arms event, the first set of cards released [...]

  • Nick Eh 30, StoneMountain64

    CAA Signs Gaming Influencers Nick Eh 30, StoneMountain64

    CAA has signed two popular live-streaming battle royale gamers — Nicholas Amyoony, better known as Nick Eh 30, and David Steinberg, aka StoneMountain64 — for representation. CAA said it will work to create opportunities for Nick Eh 30 (above left) and StoneMountain64 (above right) in all areas, including TV, motion pictures, touring, digital distribution and [...]

  • 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' Version 1.2.0

    'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' Update Brings Online Fixes, Character Tweaks

    “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” version 1.2.0 is live now, including fixes for online connectivity issues, several character adjustments, and Pikachu and Eevee Spirits for “Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” players. Version 1.2.0 contains adjustments for Greninja, Link, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Luigi, Ice Climbers, Young Link, Olimar, Toon Link, Pac-Man, Duck Hunt, Isabelle, and Villager, but there [...]

  • Jimmy Kimmel's Latest Trolling Effort Involves

    Jimmy Kimmel's Latest Trolling Effort Involves 'Fortnite'

    The latest request from Jimmy Kimmel asks parents to turn off the TV while kids are playing “Fortnite.” The host of Jimmy Kimmel Live explained that he asked parents to prank their kids with a new Youtube Challenge called “Hey Jimmy Kimmel, I turned off the TV during Fortnite.” Parents participated by filming the results [...]

  • Game Workers Unite UK Is That

    Game Workers Unite UK Is That Country's First Games Industry Union

    Game Workers Unite UK is now a legal trade union dedicated to representing game developers in that country, it announced in a blog post on Friday. It’s the first and only union representing video game industry workers in the United Kingdom, it said. It’s an affiliate of the global Game Works Unite movement, a grassroots [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content