In their latest "Gaming Made Me" feature, one of Rock, Paper, Shotgun's female editors takes a closer look back at Black Isle Studios' Fallout sequel and how it made her look at the United States in an entirely new light. This particular feature definitely deviates from the norm far more than their other pieces:
Picking the paramour conversation options made me feel mischievous partially because I knew it was wrong, as far as heterosexuality was concerned, but also because I genuinely.enjoyed it. I wasn't supposed to be enjoying this, right? Prior to talking to Miria, I spoke to her brother, Davin. I could seduce him too, but that option seemed boring. I didn't think much of this, then.
The flirting transgression lead to the classic fade to black and all I could think was (holy crap, did they.?) When I saw my gear sprawled on the floor, my character pretty much naked, the answer to my question became clear. But then her father bursts into the room, and accused me of dishonoring his daughter. Hah, what? But she jumped me! I'm baffled as he asks me to marry Miria to set things right as of this writing, California, the state Fallout 2 takes place in, still hasn't legalized gay marriage. But it was an option in a game made in 1998, amazingly. In 2012, most games still don't include gay romance options, much less gay marriage.
Going back to Miria though what a high price to pay for what was supposed to be a quick lay, eh? So now I was stuck with a character that frankly, was kind of useless mechanically speaking, I mean. Fallout 2 was a difficult game for me to begin with by comparison, the modern Fallouts feel absurdly easy, like they start you off as a powerful character and the rest of the game is an adventure in becoming super duper overpowered.
The education I was receiving at the time told me how the war on terror was actually over oil, how the government had experiments on certain parts of the populace without consent in the past, and how we even had internment camps at one point. If history class taught me about the United State's horrific past, Fallout 2 projected a possible future that scared me, made the archetypal elements of (being American) seem too gross to want to aspire to. If the Fallout franchise is incisive here, it's because it reveals a darker side of the society it depicts, masked under the absurd hilarity of the wasteland and its denizens.
The clincher came when I learned that the civil war my family ran away from was actually funded by the United States government that their safe haven was actually responsible for their great misfortune. But my family, so in love with the American dream, so unwilling to look past the better living conditions, didn't believe me. How could they? America was, and always will be, the great country that gave them the opportunities their own country would never afford them. But for me, finishing Fallout 2 and seeing my hard-working mother being relegated to a lifetime of cleaning toilets (what a dream! what an honor! She wanted to be a doctor, once.) marked a crucial shift in how I saw the society I was part of.