Segregation and Morality within Fallout 3
I CAN’T BELIEVE I WROTE THIS omfg beware, it’s p damn bad
it’s SO BAD
LIKE SO BAD AUGH
In the past, and even in our modern society today, the true point and purpose of a person’s actions is difficult to discern. People have all sorts of excuses and reasons for acting the way they do, and for hurting as opposed to helping someone. In this respect, videogames are excellent tools in representing human interaction and stereotypes that are commonly found in the world today. For example, games like Fallout 3 allow the player the ability to choose a course of action that is either “good,” “bad,” or “neutral,” based on the character’s dialogue and action. However, in doing so, Fallout 3 perfectly represents Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea that people only do good deeds if they get some sort of physical or emotional reward from it. There is potential, however, for the fictional situations represented in-game to tie very closely into real-world struggles and problems that genuinely affect the player’s decision besides just thinking about what rewards they would receive. For instance, a quest revolving around a tower filled with posh humans who survived the war and will not allow deformed ghouls to live with them represents how very similar ghouls in Fallout 3 are to the real-life African American struggle as presented by W.E.B. Du Bois.
Fallout 3 is set in a post-apocalyptic, retro-futuristic America after a Great War between the U.S. and China during the year 2277. The Great War was a nuclear war that occurred in October of the year 2077, and lasted less than two hours even though it caused immense destruction, completely obliterating the landscape, and leaving behind many mutations. The player is For example, those humans that were exposed to high levels of radiation but didn’t die slowly, over the course of many years, had their flesh rot and peel off their bodies, leading them to become known as “ghouls.” These ghouls are, throughout all the games, denied most of the rights the Wasteland has to offer due to their disgusting appearance. The feral ghouls are ghouls whose minds were affected by radiation and have become wild and dangerous; the confusion between the still-human ghouls and the ones that act like dogs is part of the reason why all the “civilized” ghouls are discriminated against by regular humans. Simply due to the bad history associated with the infected nature of certain ghouls, the other ghouls cannot live in a peaceful coexistence with humans.
This segregation is most evidently encountered in a quest about a building called Tenpenny Tower. The old luxury hotel is the refuge of the reclusive Allistair Tenpenny—a debonair and posh man who allows people in for the right price, but will never make an exception to ghouls. The residents of Tenpenny Tower refuse to let ghouls coexist in their luxurious tower, despite promises of money and politeness. Even the security chief is a bigot and ghoul hater who feels that “They’ll all go feral one day.” Negative stereotypes about ghouls, such saying they smell or are messy have stemmed from citizens of the post-apocalyptic wasteland of America caring less if they are humane or feral. Terms like “zombie”, “shuffler” or “brain eater” are common insults to them, and result in some ghouls such to have a bitter—sometimes to the point of an extreme—hatred of humans. Du Bois writes, “To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” Although America is no longer a land of dollars in Fallout 3—it’s a land of bottlecaps—it is a wasteland where everyone has to fight to survive but people still put ghouls at the bottom of the ladder even though they are technically still humans who should have the same rights as all. If a ghoul is caught committing a crime, the punishment will most likely be death, rather than a simpler reprimand for a human. “The accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape.” This is the almost identical philosophy as encountered with the harsh punishments towards ghouls in the wasteland of Fallout 3.
After you see the unfairness in the Tenpenny Tower situation, you as a player have the choice to either help the tower residents eliminate the small group of ghouls once and for all, or you can aid the ghouls to take over the tower. Killing the ghouls yields negative karma points, as does helping the ghouls kill the bigots within the tower. The only way to get good karma points is to convince the bigots in to tower to either change their ways and accept the ghouls, or to kick out the bigots and let the rest of the residents live in harmony with the ghouls.
While creating peace and coexistence within a community seems well and good, looking at the overall need for “good” moral choices, most of the time a player in Fallout 3chooses the good options simply because the end result reaps more rewards. The “karma” system is an important feature in Fallout’s gameplay. A player’s actions— including conversation options and how one goes about finishing a quest—affects the player’s status in the game world; a player who makes “good” decisions is received more positively by non-playable characters found in the game world, and a player that makes “bad” decisions has the opposite reaction. Players who make “good” choices aren’t kicked out of towns or refused service; they also have random encounters where they can receive gifts and rewards from strangers solely because tales of their good deeds have been spread. Once a player realizes that they receive more from being good than bad, they fall directly into the mindset that Nietzsche describes as creating the ideas of “good” and “bad.” Nietzsche describes it thusly: “one approved unegoistic actions and called them good from the point of view of those to whom they were done, that is to say, those to whom they were useful.”
Nietzsche states that those who came up with the idea of good were those that could benefit from goodness (i.e. the rich and powerful). Since the company that created the game was the one that wrote the scripts and prompts for “good” versus “evil” actions within the game, they are the ones who decide how the player reacts to the choices he makes within the game. The player has no choice but to feel elevated and respected, better and more important than the rest of the non-playable characters. Since the player is rewarded and renowned for the “good” actions he takes as opposed to the “bad,” he comes to associate power and rewards with those forced “good” deeds.
Fallout 3 is a perfect way to show exactly how giving types of actions the name of “good” and then associating them with emotions and intentions that never meant “good” in the first place gets the player character to continue doing those acts. So when it comes down to kicking the ghouls out or letting them brutally take over a tower, if given the option of getting more rewards for striving to be “good,” the player will more likely choose the “better” option. However, were the player to simply stop and consider the ghouls’ situation as a race of people that have been enslaved, discriminated against, and attacked, and value the fact that peace and goodness come with rewards connected to the word “good,” he would be more likely to choose the less bloody option when faced with moral choices.