Fallout 3: The Womb and The Sphincter

Jeff Green and friend

1Up has a conversation between Jeff Green and Shawn Elliot about their experiences in the latest Fallout 3 presentation:

Jeff Green: I’ve played a lot of games in my life, and a lot of weird games, and a lot of weird games that have had weird beginnings. But I don’t know if I’ve ever played a game that started with me emerging from my mother’s womb.

Shawn Elliot: Prey‘s sphincters are as close as I’ve come, but sure, Fallout 3‘s “opening” moments are more than a perineum away. I’m sorry. I really wrote that. Seriously, though, the cunning way that Bethesda takes the thinking behind traditional tutorials and character creation interfaces and naturally integrates these game conventions into the game’s narrative is impressive. You crawl around a playpen in first-person perspective; you press a button to cry and call for daddy; you learn about strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, and other RPG traits by browsing children’s books — has any game truly attempted to tell the story of a life from birth to death?

Jeff: This is great. Now anyone who Googles “womb” and “sphincter” will come straight to this article.

Shawn: And perineum — where heaven meets hell. T’aint an RPG, t’aint an FPS.[…]

Shawn: Ten minutes of infancy, that is. Then comes the jump cut that brings us to our 10th birthday/introduction to dialog trees. No matter how hard you try to guarantee that you’ll grow into a freckle-faced, pig-nosed person in need of a YouTube video blog, you can rest assured that the other Garbage Pail kids at your party are uglier than you’ll ever be. Bethesda’s faces are far, far better here than any in Oblivion, but to be frank, I doubt that Vault 101, where we’re born, is really radioactivity-free.

The neat thing is, as you choose to be bratty or craven with these kids, your karma stats change to reflect your behavior. Oh, and the other 10-year-olds whispering about forming a Greaser Snake gang? Bethesda’s Pete Hines leads us to think that we’ll encounter them later in life after they’ve done just that.

Jeff: Yeah, with all due respect to Bethesda’s immense talent in many areas, I don’t think I’d go to them for plastic surgery. Anyway, yes, karma factors big in Fallout 3, and the choices you make, starting way back from that 10th birthday party of yours, will follow you throughout your life, affect how NPCs will react to you (start being a bad guy, and other bad guys will come out of the woodwork to…do bad things with you) and even affect the game’s ending. Bethesda is promising something like a zillion endings — OK, 500, but that sounds equally preposterous — all based on the decisions you make and actions you take, however minute they might seem to you at the time. And though what I wrote makes it sound like I don’t believe they can pull it off, I actually do. The original Fallout did that very thing.

More here.


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