Fallout: New Vegas
In Fallout New Vegas, a video game for the Xbox 360, you are thrown into a post nuclear setting as a courier that has just survived being shot in the head. The year is 2126, and the United States is a radioactive deathtrap caused by a war with China over resources. With no central government, two main factions are competing for dominance; Caesar’s Legion, a fascist regime drawing inspiration from the cruel side of the Roman Empire, and The New California Republic, a United States inspired people’s Republic. It is up to the player to decide which side to fight for. The game is a first person choose your own adventure in which you must complete quests, barter, gamble, and fight your way to earn money and fame. The game eventually leads to a battle for Hoover Dam, a major power source for a resource barren region. Whichever faction wins the dam is able to provide 1st world amenities for it’s constituents. In addition, you are able to pick and choose which subfactions you wish to aid. There are issues at hand like whether to discriminate against ghouls, which are people with burns and skin disfigurement as a result of exposure to radioactivity, or to fight for the purists who want to kill them all. It is ethical situtations like this that distinguish Fallout New Vegas as a more deep and moral experience than other video games.
The Aesthetics of Fallout New Vegas are purposely bland and dead looking to convey the message that the land has been destroyed. Rusted cars, cracked pavement, and dusty red cliffs dominate the landscape and provide an eerie and hopeless feel. Additionally, threadbare drifters and wrinkle-faced drug addicts contrast well with the finely outfitted head honchos of the New Vegas Casinos. A drawback of this technique is only the lack stimulation the player receives, as the blandness is a stark contrast from other video games of its time.
The player is in full control of almost every aspect of the game. You can design your character to be a skilled wordsmith with charisma boosting clothes or an elusive sniper with the world’s most expensive rifles to boast. When in dialogue, the player is presented with 4-5 different responses to each statement made by characters. You are also exposed to very realistic gore and violence to completely integrate the player in the fantasy world.
The values of the game are wide ranging and up to the player to decide. If the player decides to be a soldier of Caesar’s Legion, they are accepting and condoning slavery, genocide and classism. If they fight for the NCR, they are choosing to ignore the mistakes of the Americans and reinstate bureaucratic failures. There is also racism towards physically deformed ghouls and mutants despite their unchanged mental cognition. The player can also choose to free sex slaves or utilize them, which is a big point of controversy.
This game was critically acclaimed and won game of the year for it’s ability to give players unprecedented moral and physical control of their experience. The aesthetics used left no room for questioning the destructive nature of nuclear war and served as a warning to Americans. The ability to customize your moral compass was revolutionary. The game started a trend in the industry and has lead to a successful sequel and two acclaimed spin off games.