It all started in 1997. Developed by Interplay Productions, Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game was an open-world, turn-based role-playing game, which required players to visit various locations and interact with the locals to take upon missions. Set in a retro-future where the world had been ravished by a nuclear war, the title was different from other games of the time.
Twenty-two years later, and the Fallout series is still different from other games. Sure, gameplay wise, it is like every other open-world RPG out there. But still, when a gamer sees Vault Boy doing his iconic thumbs-up gesture, everyone knows it’s Fallout. So, what makes Fallout so special?
Maybe its that the franchise has turned itself into more of a cultural phenomenon than just a mere game. Forget the Children of Atom, today we’re talking about the Children of Fallout.
I think the biggest and most iconic thing the Fallout series has going for it is its own aesthetic. It has really embraced that 1950’s Atompunk Retro-Future with nuclear-powered cars based on real old concept car designs as well as weird and wonderful looking robots that still perform their programmed jobs, even after the world has been destroyed by a nuclear war.
It’s the way that the games cleverly present what it is so well-known for too. Whenever a notification appears on the screen, a cartoon image of Vault Boy appears with it. There is also a certain appeal to the memorabilia from yesteryear. From the old music that plays on the Pipboy Radio to the vintage looking posters that dominate decimated social gatherings around the worlds of Fallout, it still makes one think of a time where things were different.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. It’s in the posters, music, and marketing for the game. Fallout blends the past with the future in such a seamless way and one can’t help but think what could have been if humanity decided to follow through with nuclear power the way that the world in Fallout did.
Besides that vintage appeal, Fallout blends the sense of loss and dread with humour and discovery in ways that not many other games can. Sometimes players find a robot cleaning a broken down house two hundred years after the bombs dropped, putting food down every day for the skeleton of a dog on the porch, completely oblivious to the fact that everything is dead.
Or, they find a recording next to a skeleton in a cabin and upon playing it, learn that the skeleton was a pregnant teenager who ran away from home and stayed a night in the cabin with the intentions of telling her boyfriend that they are going to be parents the next day. Unbeknownst to her, the bombs were going to drop the next morning.
These discoveries really hit one in the emotional gut. But then, there are discoveries that are more on a light-hearted side, like a lottery robot that wanders the wasteland and hands out prizes to any person it can find or the fact that players can dress up as a fuzzy bear and go on a murder spree and strike terror into the hearts of Super Mutants.
There’s always a sense of mystery and intrigue within the Fallout games. Some discoveries are sad and morbid, while others not so much. Fallout blends science with fiction in such a fun and creative way that one can’t help but get lost in all of it.
The Vault Tech’s blue and yellow jumpsuit has become a bucket list item for most cosplayers, while the in-game Vault Boy Bobbleheads have found themselves on the shelves of many fans around the world.
Since Bethesda acquired the rights to the franchise, they have made it their mission to make Fallout more than just a game. The publisher must have seen how unique the world’s design was, which is why they have signed off on so much memorabilia. It’s clever marketing as they have turned a game into more than just a video game franchise.
When you see a 1960s VW Camper Van, the first thing you think is, “Ah, a Hippie Van.” It has become synonymous with the Hippie culture and movement. The same can be said for Fallout and anything from the 1950s, and very few games have been able to do this.