Traveller’s Cheques – Holidaying in Fallout 3
This post may contain minor spoilers
I have always been incredibly boring when it comes to holidays. I don’t do photos. In fact, given the chance, I will avoid being in the general proximity of a camera just in case it catches my image. Most of the time, however, I can’t avoid them, so I have to make do with whining every time a photograph is taken.
I tell you this because, despite my inbuilt hatred of photography, I am an artist and, as such, I do have an appreciation for natural beauty in the environment. Recently, this has extended to natural beauty in the post-apocalyptic environment of Fallout 3.
I’ve been holidaying in Fallout 3. It’s a difficult thing to do, taking a vacation within a computer game, but so long as you don’t treat it like a real holiday you should come out of it without looking too much like a madman.
My holiday has consisted of mostly ignoring the plot line of the game and taking the time to just wander around the vast remains of what used to be DC. Now, I’ve been the real Washington DC and found it to be quite a lovely place anyway, but the destroyed version is even better. Sure, there are giant scorpions, and raiders, and mutant bears, but they’re no more difficult to deal with than your common-or-garden chav – a quick blast with your flame-thrower of choice soon sorts them out.
It’s the scope of the game that really gets me. You can stand atop a cliff and look far into the distance, just knowing that you can actually go to all the places you can see. Everything can be visited and documented. You might run into some hostile natives, but making new friends is all part of the fun of going on holiday isn’t it?
Let me tell you a tale of my holidays, we’ll start at the beginning.
After having spent the majority of my time in the Capital Wasteland dealing with what can only be described as “matters of business”, I decided that the world could wait a little longer for a hero and set out to do some exploration. I took with me my trusty companion, trusty in the sense that she hadn’t betrayed me in the ten minutes I’d known her. We set out to meet up with my loyal dog, who I took an inordinately long amount of time to find. Stupid dog.
We toyed with the idea of doing the usual touristy things like dropping by the museums, but the supermutant presence was a little too… present. The occasional cultural scrap is to be expected of course, when on holiday, but not when the other party is twice your height and in possession of arms that could double for tree trunks.
Instead we ventured north, into the less populated areas of DC. There are a lot of trees out there, but not very many leaves. There are also a lot of scorpions, including one very, very big one that seemed to befriend us for a while until we stared at it for too long.
In fact, that seemed to be the running theme of my holiday. In all we seemed to anger about fifteen separate things just by looking at them, including a fellow tourist. Oh, he called himself a scavenger, but he was just looking at things. He started shooting at me when I looked at him though, muttering something about me standing too close to him. Our attempts to calm him down might have been a littler overzealous though, seeing as I may have blown his head off and set fire to his dog.
Still, undeterred by the local hostilities, I clambered up to the top of a nearby rise to survey the area. It was early in the day and the sun shone down upon the world in the thick gold designed to make even the ugliest places look beautiful. It was then I realised just how tranquil the apocalypse could be.
One of my main bugbears with real-world holidays is the feeling that, no matter how far you go, all you are really doing is transplanting yourself into a world that is exactly the same as the one you left except for a few cosmetic differences. There may be less houses, more horses, more sand, less clothes, but it’s always the same. There’s always the noise, the noise of humanity chewing their way across the surface of the earth, eating up all the beauty.
Fallout doesn’t have that. There are reminders of the past, when people were chewing their way across the earth, but now they have been reduced to startling rubble. The people that are left have built small, iron eyesores to live in, but they are so sparse that they are barely noticeable. The Capital Wasteland is silent, peaceful. When you are out there you are, for all intents and purposes, totally alone.
At first, this can be an unusual feeling. People get used to seeing other people roaming around, the passive ignorance of each other that comes from being surrounded all the time. You know they are there but have no interest in actually acknowledging them. In Fallout, running into another person while out in the wastes is so rare that you simply must talk to them to make sure they are real. Or shoot them, that works too.
There’s something innately romantic about a world where you can remove yourself from the rest of humanity as and when you please. The ability to just go out and stand alone, truly alone, without anything to remind you that there are people who do, one way or another, rule your life.
Everything we know and rely on is gone in Fallout, and it is excellent.
Fallout has given me the chance to do something that, given the opportunity in real life, I would jump to do. As I mentioned before, I stood on a rise and surveyed the vast wasteland. There was something in the distance that caught my eye, it looked a little like a powerplant. Surely, powerplants won’t be working after a nuclear apocalypse, but it would still be interesting to see how they did work, how one building so small could power a city so big. I set off across the wasteland.
It wasn’t too long a walk, perhaps ten minutes, but it was completely serene. The only sound was that of my canine companion panting away. Although when we arrived it became apparent that I was not the only person interested in the place.
Ghouls can be upstanding members of society in the Fallout universe. A little crusty and gross to behold, but perfectly law abiding. They can also be feral, cannibalistic freaks. I had the misfortune of running into the latter. The powerplant had become like a nest, packed with these feral ghouls, and it took a while to successfully pacify the hordes. When they were gone, however, I was free to study the powerplant at my leisure. It was amazing.
I did the same thing numerous times. Picked out a place in the distance, walked there, investigated, left, repeat. It never grew boring. Going to a ruin of a once proud civilisation purely to see what their life was like, to picture myself in their shoes and to watch their world spin around me. In short, what Fallout has shown me is that I am primarily interested in the past, in traditions that have died out. I don’t care for holidays in the real world right now because so many of them seem to involve looking at modern things. Until the modern becomes the past I just won’t care, and it took a computer game to make me realise this.