Mother

Mother is a individual contribution of the volume The Person and Power, which collectively forms part of the post-digital publication:

The Social Netcessity

The Person and Power is a volume of the post-digital publication, which aims to explore and examine ideas around what it means to be a person in the world and their position according to their individual power. The individual elements of this volume engage with concepts such as moral exploration through fan fiction, creative expression through artwork and photography, the empowerment of the everyday parent, power dynamics gone wrong and the power of the humans through technology. Each individual contribution to the volume explores concepts in a different manner, from textual analysis to a series of visual artwork. This volume embodies the post-digital through the content and the presentation, as our works will be presented as a set of creative artefacts.

The other individual contributions can be viewed by clicking the links below:

After the Great Debate

Amber Alert

Domestic Violence Against Women

Two Faces

I was responsible for the creation of the publication known as Mother, which is a zine featuring Fallout 4 inspired fan fiction and video game photography.

 

Like many other individuals in the world today, I am becoming increasingly involved in the practice and the community of gaming. Fallout 4 is the first game that I have felt really connect me to the community, however when playing I felt extremely morally challenged by the questions being asked of my character and also me as a player. The entire story of Fallout 4 is complex and non-linear, due to the nature of the game, meaning every different player would experience the order of the story different and perhaps not experience parts of it at all. In essence, the game asks whether the creations called synthetic humans (or synths) should have a right to life, life independent from their creators. Whether the synths can, have or should have the same opportunities as the non-artificial humans of the world in Fallout 4. In my play through of the game, I opted to rebel against the creators of the synthetic humans and liberate the synthetic humans who wanted a chance at freedom, but at the cost of many other human and synth lives. Whilst I appreciated I was playing a game, I also couldn’t avoid my emotional investment in the story towards my character and others. Suggesting that although the game is just that, it could also be considered as a space in which to explore moral questions that might not, or couldn’t be asked in the context of material reality. There aren’t any synthetic humans as defined in the Fallout 4 universe yet; therefore in order to be able to engage with the concept of synthetic rights, the individual needs to be immersed in a world where this concept is a reality.

My position in relation to Fallout 4 is identifiable as a fan; I play the game, I watch YouTube videos of other people playing the game, Fallout 4 is my phone background and also features in my collection of laptop stickers. However in studying fan culture when self-identifying as a fan, it is important to acknowledge the need for critical distance, the need to be able to critique despite any emotional investment. Much like the researcher, the fan is also in constant conflict trying to decide what material is authentic fan produced material and what content aims to be received by fans as passive consumers (Lewis 2009: 52). Fans also approach the material itself differently, with some considering it to be an art form, others identifying it as an expression of their personal experience (Lewis 2009: 52). What has been noted however, is that fans take an affective approach in engaging with the content, an emotional investment in the medium or concept that inspires them to appropriate and create (Lewis 2009: 56). There are on going discussions about video games being viewed as an art form, with sophisticated graphics that require a high level of computer literate artistry (Travinor 2009). A new emergent medium has been created through these video games, referencing photo-realism but building on it and creating a new stylistic world. The camera represents the device through which the game player both views and explores their world and more recently, through which the player can produce their own form of photographic-type artistry (Giddings 2013). It is this practice of videogame photography that I wish to employ in my response to the post-digital publication, building on the moral questioning of the game Fallout 4. The images I intend to publish will document the locations I associate with my play through of the story and therefore places I believe my character would most likely remember too.

The immersive experience of video games, whilst adept in creating the notion of a virtual reality, means that the often graphic content of games seem much more life like (Travinor 2009: 8). The reality of the Fallout 4 game is that it is a first person shooter (FPS), which means that a large portion of gameplay involves the killing of other beings, from mutated animals, to other non-artificial human beings. In some cases, the deaths are extremely graphic featuring slow motion shots of heads exploding. Although the premise of the game and the ideology it engages with is extremely interesting and potentially relevant to the future of artificial intelligence, the countless acts of seemingly mindless killing is potentially damaging, not only to the story but also to the emotionally invested player. The idea of fiction providing the opportunity for moral exploration is being engaged with in Fallout 4, but the entertainment value of the game as a FPS stands in the way. In addition to the concept of videogames as art, the idea of the gamer is also being researched. The idea of playable technology can be translated across various different media practices, where the user can engage, remediate and adapt their identity presentations (Roig, Conrelio, Ardevoi, Alsina, Pages 2009). Combining the idea of fictional exploration and playable identities, I wish to explore the moral questions raised in Fallout 4 through the writing of fan fiction, specific to my character and my play through of the game. By bringing the moral debates away from the FPS dynamic I aim to explore the Fallout 4 world through my character and her position in it. After the liberation of the synthetic humans and the destruction of the organisation that created them, my character discovers and saves a synth that appears to believe he is her human son (who was kidnapped as a one-year old at the beginning of the game). The in-game reality however is that her son Shaun was kidnapped and eventually became the director of the organisation that created the synths, he perished when the organisation was destroyed. The synthetic version of Shaun appears to represent my character’s lost chance at being a Mother, as due to a period of cryogenic freezing, the human Shaun (or Father as he was also known) grew to be sixty years older than my character. The fan fiction I will be publishing will explore the post-post-war period in which my character negotiates the possibility of a life in the Fallout 4 world with her synthetic son.

The cultural prominence and importance of the videogame industry is increasing and many researchers are recognising this. I wish to acknowledge their theoretical work in my individual contribution to the post-digital publication in my creative response, titled ‘Mother’. Through self-created fan fiction and a series of videogame photographic images, I wish to explore the concept of the synthetic human in the Fallout 4 world and how I explore these moral questions through my emotional investment to the character. The fan faction will delve into the possible thoughts and feelings of my character when confronted with the prospect of life as a mother to a synthetic boy, whilst the images display a visual story where my character was faced with certain moral questions as a result of the game play. Both responses will aim to provide accessibility to the reader of the post-digital publication, whilst the content of the overall volume will contribute to their understanding of my section. Titled ‘The Person and Power’, the collective volume will aim to examine the meaning of what it is to be human and the associated power struggles. Whilst my contribution relates to the futuristic concept of artificial life, other parts of the volume engage with humanistic, current and essentially real cultural issues that are occurring. I acknowledge that to some readers, my work will not translate well, because not everyone is interesting in the videogame industry, however with the support of the surrounding contributions in the volume, I believe my contribution will accessible to those who are unfamiliar with gaming.

 

List of References:

Giddings, S. (2013) ‘Drawing Without Light, Simulated photography in videogames’ in

The Photographic Image in Digital Culture. Lister, M. Florence: Routledge, 41-54

Grossberg, L. (2002) ‘Is there a Fan in the House?: The Affective Sensibility of Fandom’. in The Adoring Audience by Lewis, L. Florence: Routledge, 50-65

Roig, A. Cornelia, G. Ardevoi, E, Alsina, P., and Pages, R. (2009) ‘Videogame as Media Practice: An Exploration of the Intersection Between Play and Audiovisual Culture’. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 15 (1), 89-103

Travinor, G. (2009) The Art of Video Games. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell

The Institute [SPOILERS]

The Institute are the organisation that were responsible for the kidnap of your son Shaun. The story of Fallout 4 is built around the idea that you are searching for him to try and get him back, as you move further through the story, you gradually find out more about the Institute. It is common knowledge in the Commonwealth, that the Institute created and is responsible for their creation of the synthetic human or synth. The people of the Commonwealth all have something to say about the Institute, but no one seems to know where the Institute is actually located, this unknown element appears to heighten the fear the Institute hold over the Commonwealth, as no one really knows the true extent of their power. Many of the Commonwealth reject the idea of the Institute and the synthetic humans, with many synths being destroyed or driven away from human settlements. The organisation known as the Railroad has dedicated their time to liberating synths that want freedom and breaking down barriers between the synths and the other members of the Commonwealth. However the latter is difficult to accomplish considering the Railroad themselves have to keep their organisation as covert as possible to avoid being attacked by the Brotherhood of Steel and/or the Institute.

 

Kellogg

Conrad_Kellogg

Kellogg is the Institute’s man on the surface, who carries out missions for them that needs a human touch. Although Kellogg himself is not 100% human, he has elements of the synthetic humans inside him, which prolong his life and make him stronger. When you were in Vault 111, you saw Kellogg kill your husband (or wife depending on which gender character you chose to play as) and kidnap Shaun. Therefore as soon as you know where Kellogg is hiding, you choose to seek him out for answers. Unfortunately Kellogg doesn’t want to give up the Institute and you end up having to kill him, taking the synthetic brain implant from his body and take it to the settlement Goodneighboor to have his memories analysed. It is through this action that you hear about Dr Brian Virgil, a scientist who escaped from the Institute. However you don’t know if Virgil is still alive, as the Institute sent a courser after him (coursers are effectively the Institute’s version of assassins or special forces).

 

Dr Brian Virgil

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If you dare venture into the glowing sea, you might make it far enough to find Dr Brian Virgil. The top picture shows him as you would first meet him, a slightly intimidating visage and just as unwilling to talk means you have to do some careful persuading to get him to trust you. If you succeed then Virgil tells confirms suspicions that the Institute is using teleportation to travel in and out of their base. He then provides you with a set of plans, which in the right hands will enable a teleportation device to be built, that can lock onto to the Institute’s signal and enable passage into the organisation. Virgil gives you this information on the promise that you retrieve an experimental serum he was developing when he worked in the Bioscience Division in the Institute. Virgil doesn’t make his opinions on the synths clear and equally he doesn’t let you know why he left the Institute – this is something you have to find out for yourself when you visit the Institute. The image below depicts Virgil after he has taken the experimental serum, if you manage to retrieve it from the Institute, proving that Virgil was making progress in his work before he felt he had to leave. When visiting the Institute, you can find a holotape in the room with the experimental serum that details how Virgil was working on a project about a virus called ‘FEV’, this project was increasingly taken out of his control and was being developed in a way that he felt was highly unethical and irresponsible. For this reason, he decided to leave the Institute at great personal risk to himself. Dr Brian Virgil is a good reminder when you are in the Institute, that the organisation is and will be hiding a lot of information with you, so can you really trust them?

 

Liam Binet/Patriot


Liam_Binet

Liam Binet is the Railroad’s man on the inside, who is responsible for the escape of lots of Institute synths, the Railroad refer to him as Patriot. If you choose to inform the Railroad about your venture into the Institute, they will request that you make contact with Liam Binet and deliver him a message. This message prompts Liam to arrange a meeting with you, he introduces you to another synth Z1-14 and the three of you conspire a plan to evacuate not just one, but thirteen synths at the same time. Liam requires you to get some information for him, which prompts another side mission where you have to make your way through a laboratory. Liam appears to really care about getting the synths to safety, however he is very reluctant about the idea of anyone getting hurt. For this reason, you have to tread carefully around him and not tell him anything that might make him think synths or humans are in danger. It is unclear whether Liam is a synth himself, as there are other humans working in the Institute. If he is a synth, this would explain why he is so keen on getting the others to freedom. If he is a human, then his motives are completely selfless and he is risking a lot for a individuals that are not even of the same species or kind as him.

Z1-14

Z1_14

Z1-14 is Liam Binet’s synth ally in the Institute, he is responsible for communicating messages to the other synths in order for them to escape. The Railroad asks you to see whether Z1-14 can arrange for all the synths to be evacuated from the Institute, not just the thirteen agreed on in the plan with Liam Binet. Z1-14 asks around the synths and confirms that a large number of them would fight for their freedom, however there is a real possibility some of the synths might get destroyed, even with the help the Railroad promises to offer. This is a piece of information that you should think carefully about in terms of telling Liam Binet, as he doesn’t agree with the idea of violence and could back out of the plan and alert the Institute. If you work with z1-14, you can secure that the synths will have an adequate amount of weaponry to take on oppositional forces when the time comes to evacuate. Because z1-14 is a synth, it is understandable that he wants himself and the other synths to have a chance at freedom. It is worth noting that he seems to only have a minor role in the Institute, appearing only to be tending to the plants on the main floor. Perhaps if he had a higher station in the organisation then his opinions might be a little different, it seems that as of now Z1-14 doesn’t have much to lose by engaging with Liam Binet and the Railroad.

 

Dr Madison Li


Madison_Li_Fallout4

Dr Madison Li is a scientist working in the Institute, however before she found the Institute she used to work for the Brotherhood of Steel (BOS). Elder Maxson explains that she left her project and that the Brotherhood need her back in order to get the project back on track. However the full details about the project are not obvious, Maxson only tells you that it is something to do with nuclear process possibly nuclear weaponry. The Brotherhood sets you a mission to persuade Dr Li to leave the Institute and rejoin the Brotherhood. I didn’t really get an opportunity to back out of this mission, as I accidentally spoke to Dr Li before I realised that she was the one the BOS wants. Although I tried to select the least persuading options in the conversation, Dr Li decides to return to the BOS. I haven’t seen any immediate impact from this mission, but I imagine that the BOS will be a lot more powerful if Dr Li does help them develop a nuclear weapon. The thought of the Brotherhood possessing nuclear weaponry is very unsettling, since it was nuclear annihilations that caused the war in the first place.

 

Father/Shaun

Fallout-4-Father-1

This is where the story gets slightly confusing – when you teleport into the Institute, you come across a small boy who you believe to be Shaun. However the boy doesn’t appear to recognise you and becomes visibly distressed, calling out for ‘Father’ to come and help him. An elderly man appears and reads out a code, which appears to shut shaun down. It is then that you realise that the version of Shaun you were trying to talk to is actually a synth. The elderly man, is the individual who is known as ‘Father’ – and he is actually your son. He explains that when he was originally kidnapped from the vault, we were refrozen for another 60 years, so weirdly your son is actually physically older than you now. Father/Shaun is the head of the Institute and he explains that he was taken because the Institute needed DNA that was free from radiation in order to make the synthetic humans. Father is named so because all the synthetic humans are made using DNA, therefore technically they are all his children. You learn that you were released from the Vault for two reasons: Father wanted to see whether you would survive in your attempt to find him and he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Shaun is entering the last stages of his life and wanted you to find the Institute so that you could take over from his as the leader of the Institute. Naturally Father is invested in the work of the Institute and views the synthetic humans as the property of the Institute. Therefore when any synthetic human escapes from the Institute, he feels he has the right to send coursers after them and eliminate any members of the Commonwealth that seek to prevent him taking the synths back. When talking to the Railroad, there are links made between the ideology of Father and that of slavery – these synths are being labelled as property, not individual beings with rights of their own. Father gives you the opportunity to be in charge of the Institute and as a player this allows you to either take down the Institute from the inside, or take your place as the leader and eliminate all the other forces such as the Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel.

 

In my personal experience, I have found Father/Shaun as a character that I can’t relate to. The synths in the Institute appear to be in awe of Father and worship him, but I can’t help but think this is because they know he has the power and authority to have them destroyed if not. This poses two options: either these synths are programmed to have a devout appreciation for Father, or they recognise how valuable their life is, therefore they are taking action to protect themselves and keep themselves alive. I have chosen to ally with the Railroad, Liam Binet and Z1-14 in order to try and save any of the synths that want to be liberated as I feel they have never been given the choice to live away from the Institute. Despite my character’s personal relationship with Shaun, I don’t feel like he embodies any of my morals as a player therefore I won’t be taking his side if it comes to a fight. However I will play along for as long as it is needed for the Railroad to take action. This will also allow me to find out more about the Institute as an organisation, the ideology, the human members and the synthetic members.

The Minute Men [possible spoilers]

The Minute Men are possibly the first organisation you come across in the world of Fallout 4, as one of the first story missions leads you to save Preston Garvey and get your first suit of power armour. Their ideology is that if people need help, the Minute Men will always come to their aid. However there are only a few members of the Minute Men left after a tragic event where the old leader General Becker was killed. In this new post-war world, their ethos still remains however there is an incentive to help people in the hope that they will in turn join the Minute Men. There are a number of missions you complete for the Minute Men, including challenges like taking back a castle from the Mirelurk Queen and smaller side missions which are mainly meant for you to discover and ally to different settlements across the Commonwealth. When you help the people of these different settlements, you will have access to their workshop and they pledge their allegiance to the Minute Men.

 

Preston Garvey

Preston_Garvey

Preston Garvey is the first Minute Men character you meet, when you complete the first story mission after leaving the vault. You rescue Preston and his group of followers from the raiders and they travel to the settlement Sanctuary. After this mission Preston becomes available to be your companion and after he comes along with you on several missions, he tells you the history of the Minute Men and suggests that you become the new General as he thinks you have what it takes to be a leader. This comes with some perks, as you can summon the Minute Men to your aid at any point with the use of a flare gun and if you continue the Minute Men story missions you have the opportunity to get the General’s uniform, which offers a lot of protection from damage and radiation. Preston Garvey doesn’t make his opinion on the synthetic humans very clear, but later on in the story the Minute Men are summoned to protect a scientist that the Institute decide they want to take. This case demonstrates that the Minute Men want to stick up for the ‘little guy’ in the situation, protecting the people that might not be able to protect themselves. Whether they would still embody this ideology if a synthetic human called on their support, I don’t know but I would like to think that they would help any being in need.

 

Ronnie Shaw

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Despite Preston believing he was the only other member of the Minute Men left, we meet Ronnie Shaw later on in the story. Not only is she a veteran member of the Minute Men but she was around long before General Becker. She makes it clear that your title is something you’re going to have to earn and isn’t completely friendly with you straight away, but that’s understandable. When you help Ronnie Shaw and a few other members of the Minute Men take back the Castle from the Mirelurk Queen, I got the impression that Ronnie is in charge of this settlement. This seems like an acceptable offering for her and she seems to approve of you from the moment you defeat the Mirelurks. Again, Ronnie Shaw’s opinion on synthetic humans is not made completely clear, the only concept we can be sure about is her dedication to the Minute Men.

 

Mama Murphy

fallout4_guide_mama_murphy

Mama Murphy isn’t necessarily a member of the Minute Men, but she is in the group of people under Preston Garvey’s protection in the beginning story mission. She’s the character who tells you to go to Diamond City if you want to find out what happened to your missing son Shaun. Mama Murphy appears to have visions about the other characters and about the future, although you learn that these visions are induced by drugs so whether they are valid is not clear. Still as a player you might as well engage with her character to see what she has to say.

 

Sturges

Sturges

Similar with Mama Murphy, Sturges doesn’t appear to have an active role in the Minute Men as he appears to dedicate his time to making sure Sanctuary as a settlement is safe and in working order. When you are required to build the teleportation device, you are presented with a choice between the different organisations and Sturges appears to be the resident technology expert in the Minute Men organisation. It was Sturges I chose to help build the teleporter, as I wanted to try and keep a low profile about having an allegiance to the Railroad in the hope that it would mean I kept my cover for as long as possible. As far as I can see, it didn’t make that much of a difference compared to another player who chose the Railroad, but it was interesting to try. Sturges doesn’t make his views on synthetic humans known, he is just obliged to help you make the teleportation device because he is allied with the Minute Men.

 

The Minute Men seem like a set of decent people that are trying to make the post-war world a better place to live in. Protecting the settlers in the Commonwealth from the raiders, super mutants, gunners and ghouls is in my opinion, a very worthy cause, so I have completed lots of side missions in order to liberate settlements. I’ve noticed that after you stop discovering lots of new settlements, you end up defending the same settlements over and over, however you do get paid a sum of (bottle) caps each time, so if you’re running low on caps, it’s a good idea to complete these missions. In addition to this, for every mission you complete you get some more XP points, which go towards you levelling up. It is unclear what the Minute Men’s stance is on synthetic humans, but they jump at the chance of protecting a single scientist against the forces of the Institute. As this organisation is made up of lots of different people from the Commonwealth, the opinions on synths must be really varied. Some Minute Men members from the settles in the Commonwealth might have experienced the Institute kidnapping and replacing real people with synths, in which case I would expect their attitude towards synths to be adverse. If or when it comes to a battle against the Institute with the Railroad, I will use the Minute Men flares and see what side they fall on and how they react to the prospect of defending synths – so watch this space!

The Railroad [possible spoilers]

The Railroad are an underground organisation fighting for the rights and the freedom of the synthetic humans. Some of the members are liberated synths and some of them are humans, but all of them share the same ideology in relation to the synths: that they have the right to their own lives, free from their makers. To find the Railroad, you need to follow the Freedom Trail until you reach the church, go down into the basement and enter the password  to gain access to the secret base. From then on, you will be able to fast travel straight into and out of the underground base to save you from having to keep going upstairs and outside.

Desdemona

Desdemona

Desdemona is the leader of the Railroad and makes all of the decisions about what the Railroad do and what their direction should be. She has been criticised by some of the other members for being too emotional to be a good leader, as she sends agents on missions that appear to hold too much of a risk compared to the payout. When you first meet her, she appears to be quite stand-offish (her agents point a gun at you on her orders) but she quickly accepts any help you have to offer and wants you to commit to the Railroad. Obviously any allegiance with the Brotherhood of Steel wouldn’t go down well if Desdemona heard about it, but she’s also not keen on the Minute men either, if you are the general of the Minute men when you start engaging with the Railroad. At some point she will ask you to either side with the Railroad or the Minute men, presumably if you chose to side with the Minute men, that would mean your allegiance with the Railroad would terminate and they might turn against you. Desdemona expects commitment from you, which includes total dedication to the Railroad and their cause.

 

Deacon

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Deacon is quite a complex character, when you first meet the Railroad he devises a plan to get you promoted from ‘tourist’, which means a volunteer citizen, to a proper Railroad agent. If you accompany Deacon on this mission, you can join the Railroad as an agent and Deacon becomes available to be your companion. When you spend more time with Deacon, he pulls you aside and tells you that he is in fact a synth and he gives you his recall code, which will give you vital information in return for a complete wipe of his memories. He advises you to only use it if necessary and even suggests that he wants the code back in case you read it out accidentally. Deacon tells you that he was one of the first synths with which a total cerebral reset was implemented, meaning he doesn’t possess any of the false memories that a normal synth would, he has no memories at all of his early life. However Deacon it turns out, consistently lies to you and it is up to you as a player to try and determine whether to persuade the truth out of him, usually by confronting him and calling him a liar. Your relationship with Deacon is quite a funny one, as you can never really know when he is telling the truth or not, I get the impression that he is testing your reaction to some important truths and therefore he has to throw some lies in there as well to protect himself. This is quite reasonable considering the people from the Commonwealth don’t have a positive view of synths as many of their population have been kidnapped and replaced by synthetic humans as an experiment.

 

Glory

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Glory is one of the liberated synths who is now fighting for the freedom of the other synths as a Railroad agent. She is not afraid of combat, something you find out when you both get sent to a mission by mistake and end up taking on some Generation 1 synths together. She doesn’t really like being questioned a lot about her past, apparently the one question nearly all the synths get asked is if they can actually remember anything about the Institute, which is who made them. She doesn’t like to be associated with the Institute as she is so clearly fighting against them, however this is understandable considering the reaction she must have got from the Commonwealth population if/when they found out she was a synth. Unlike the members of the Brotherhood of Steel who seem put out that you get promoted up their ranks straight away, Glory doesn’t seem to bear you any ill will in relation to your appointment as an agent. The Railroad seems to operate on mutual respect and dedication to their common goal and this seems like a much healthier way to run an organisation than the brutal ranking of the Brotherhood.

 

Tinker Tom

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Tinker Tom is the computer scientist of the Railroad, he is the one of the characters you can go to if you need help building the teleporter for when you want to get into the Institute. He seems a little bit crazy (and his voice really reminds me of Cat in Red Dwarf) but he always seems to get the result, he will also send you on some side missions of his own to get some surveillance technology in place around the Commonwealth. It is Tinker Tom’s efforts that puts you in touch with the Railroad’s man on the inside of the Institute who they have given the code name ‘Patriot’. Tinker Tom doesn’t really make his opinions on the synths known as much as some of the other members, which leads me to believe that he might not be one. But he still appears to be dedicated to the common goal of the Railroad.

 

Dr Carrington

320px-Fo4_Dr_Carrington

Dr Carrington is the second in command after Desdemona, but he is under the impression that he would make a better leader than her because he is capable of making the hard decisions that would mean less Railroad agents are put in what he sees as unnecessary danger. Carrington sends you on some of his own missions, which involves securing dead drops and finding out about the fate of other Railroad agents. He’s also really useful if you are vulnerable to damage, radiation and chem addiction as he will fix all three for you for some caps (the currency in Fallout 4 is bottlecaps). Despite his opinion of Desdemona, Dr Carrington seems to be totally committed to the cause of the Railroad, however he doesn’t appear to trust you from the beginning. It takes some successful persuasion efforts to start winning him over (not sure if this is because I’m a female character with some extra charisma perks) but he still seems to be slightly edgy towards you.

 

Overall the Railroad seems like an organisation that are fighting for a good cause, despite the complications associated with synthetic humans and their rights. There is a piece of dialogue, which I think occurs when you first met Desdemona, when she describes how the Institute sees synths as property. I chose the response which likens the way the Institute think to slavery, which is actually quite a good point. Although the synths are artificial, they have been constructed to replicate human life as closely as possible, which means that they appear to have (or maybe they really to have) emotions, they can express humour and they can even be sarcastic. With such a closeness to human life, these synths must be at least considered as beings capable of having a life without the Institute controlling them. Between the Brotherhood of Steel and the Railroad I have decided that the Railroad’s revolutionary ideology suits me a lot better. Yes the synths are artificial and yes my character does have kill a lot of real people in the form of raiders, so the case is naturally very complex. Why should the super mutants and the raiders be killed and the synthetic humans be left alive when they can just as equally pose a threat to the innocent citizens of the Commonwealth? Who am I to make a decision on the synthetic humans when I don’t know the full story behind them? All I can do, is to continue to negotiate my way through the world of Fallout 4 and make judgements based on the synthetic humans I encounter on my way.

Dogmeat

Dogmeat is one of my favourite aspects of Fallout 4 probably because I am a real animal lover, but from what little I have heard and read about the previous Fallout games, Dogmeat has stayed with the franchise and developed with the advancement of game design.

Fallout-4-Dogmeat

You meet Dogmeat pretty early on in the story of the game, when you come across the Red Rocket. Dogmeat is just casually standing outside the station and you have the chance to make him your companion by greeting him. Through this process of greeting, you recruit Dogmeat to be your first companion and he shows his usefulness when you come across some of the enemies in the game. Dogmeat can help you fight anything that attacks you, although he does suffer from health damage after some time. He can be tasked to find enemies and items in the area, he can carry some of your items for you when you reach the weight limit and he can even perform tricks for your entertainment. Dogmeat is your first companion and you can choose to keep him throughout the entire game, but you might miss out on what the other companions can offer you.

dogmeat-fallout-4-meeting

When you meet other people that can come your companion, you have to choose where to send Dogmeat so he can wait for your return. The first time I had to decide this, I chose to send him to Sanctuary where Preston Garvey’s group relocate to after you save them from the raiders. However when I tried to find him in Sanctuary after some time has passed, I couldn’t find him at all. I thought I had lost Dogmeat forever! After researching some forums I realised that there are several different doghouses in Sanctuary where Dogmeat might be waiting and sure enough I found him resting in one of them and I was able to get him as my companion again. So if you’re playing Fallout 4 and you do lose Dogmeat look for the dog houses. When you choose a settlement to locate yourself (I chose the Starlight Drive in) go into the workshop and make a doghouse for your settlement, so you are more likely to know where to find Dogmeat if or when you have send him away.

Doghouse_Fo4_Dogmeat

The Fallout 4 version of Dogmeat is really quite expressive, when you interact with his character he displays lots of realistic dog-like behaviour. He whines, he barks, he even plays with objects when he’s not needed and he is also susceptible to an adorable sneezing fit that many people have observed and captured in their gameplay. The character of Dogmeat is important in the game because it gets people to show empathy, there is something really appealing about the dog and even if you find you hate all the other humans in the game, you can always depend on your relationship with Dogmeat. He reminds you that there is innocence, happiness and trust in this apocalyptic world, despite what all the other characters and monsters throw at you. There are some people in the game that reject the idea of living in the world of the Commonwealth, preferring to live in a world below ground which is controlled and safe. However Dogmeat’s character works to show you that there are some elements above ground, in the Commonwealth that are good. Otherwise how would Dogmeat’s character have survived in the world? Someone else must have cared for him before you, therefore surely there must be some good people out there.

In addition to this, the gameplay in the story can become really quite violent and perhaps without you realising it, you are faced with some graphic and brutal scenes as you navigate your character through this world of dangerous people and monsters who are constantly attacking you. As a player, you can become a bit desensitised to this violence especially because of the V.A.T.S system, which effectively dehumanises the character you are attempting to kill by reducing them into a set of targets with numbers representing their vulnerability. In this world that is so unlike the world we live in now, Dogmeat is the one character that really grounds you in reality. So that all the choices you make are made in relation to your own personal experience of the world you live in and the knowledge you’ve gained of this new post-war world.

Dogmeat1

Dogmeat’s character could be considered a symbol of the life before the war, before the bombs were dropped and you were frozen in the vault. A symbol of the life that seems impossible now because of the damage inflicted on the world. Previously your character was living a happy life as a classic American family, with the house in the suburbs and the white picket fence. This reference to ‘man’s best friend’ reminds you of how different life must have been for your character before the war (despite the fact you don’t get to experience this). Your own experience of reality as a player is drawn upon through this metaphor, meaning Dogmeat constantly reminds you of the idealistic goal of life living as a happy family. In addition to this, the premise of the story is that you are trying to find your kidnapped son, in the hope of becoming a family again, despite the fact that your significant other has been killed. Dogmeat can be considered as a symbol of the hope you have for Shaun, for that family life that has been torn apart by the war.

 

The Brotherhood of Steel [possible spoilers]

The Brotherhood of Steel (BOS) is one of the organisations operating in the world of Fallout 4 and there is an opportunity to join them in order to try and find your missing son Shaun. The BOS is military in nature with a strict system of ranking to which all the members must adhere to. There are a few main characters that you interact with as you start to find out about this organisation, each can offer you an incite into how the BOS operate and what their ideology is towards the other inhabitants of the Commonwealth.

 

Scribe Haylen

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Scribe Haylen is part of the team operating under the control of Paladin Danse, she appears to be quite friendly however she does come out with some harder comments as if to try and establish a sense of toughness. If you choose to offer Paladin Danse help when you first meet him, you are introduced to both his team members at the Cambridge Police Station. When you have free time to look about the building you may find a holotape from Scribe Haylen. When played you hear Haylen questioning her place in the BOS, admitting she only joined initially for protection and that she doesn’t believe in the brutal ideology of the other members. Furthermore in conversation with Scribe Haylen, you have the chance to persuade her to talk about her attempted relationship with Knight Rhys. Haylen admits that she thought there was a mutual attraction there but that Knight Rhys valued the Brotherhood’s cause above all other aspects of his life, including romance. Scribe Haylen seems like a troubled character who has joined this organisation looking for the promise of safety, she appears to enjoy her work with technology but can’t help but question the overall ideology of the organisation.

 

Knight Rhys

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Knight Rhys doesn’t make a good first impression, far from the idea of military personal being respectful and un-bias Rhys really seems to hate your character from the moment you meet him and doesn’t make any attempt to hide it. The reason Rhys does not like you becomes clear if you choose to join the Brotherhood of Steel as Paladin Danse promotes you to the rank of Knight straight away, going against the idea of working your way up the ranks, which Rhys would almost certainly have had to do. In addition to this, there is the knowledge that Rhys had to make a choice between love and the Brotherhood and chose the Brotherhood. Therefore seeing your character flitting up the ranks would doubtlessly question the system of the organisation he has effectively given everything up for. Despite these complications Knight Rhys appears to be the model for you to follow if you want to progress in the BOS, you must put your own agendas second to the Brotherhood’s cause in order to make the Commonwealth a better place.

 

Paladin Danse

Fallout 4 companion guide danse

Paladin Danse is in charge of Knight Rhys, Scribe Haylen and also your character if you choose to join the BOS. When you follow a military distress signal you come across Danse trying to fight off a pack of ghouls with other members of his team lying injured. If you help him defend Cambridge Police Station, Danse offers you to accompany him on some other missions and then eventually to join the Brotherhood. On a mission with Danse you find out his stance on synthetic humans (synths), Danse views synths as an abomination that needs to be destroyed. This might be because he mentions one of his team was previously killed by a synth, so it’s understandable why he bears a grudge. It becomes apparent then that the BOS’s objective is to eliminate the synths from the Commonwealth, and the Institute for making them regardless of whether the synths consider themselves to be independent beings or not. Still if you do join the Brotherhood, Paladin Danse personally vouches for you and you are immediately promoted to the rank of Knight, which grants you your own set of T-60 power armour. Despite his adverse view on synths, Danse appears to be a character that is free from conflict, just heavily dedicated to the cause of the BOS. If you as a player decide that you agree with his views, then he could prove to be a valuable companion, that is if you can bear to get rid of Dogmeat!

 

Elder Maxson

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If you join the Brotherhood of Steel you accompany Paladin Danse onto the giant flying airship called the Prydwen. Once aboard this ship you are debriefed by Elder Maxson, who is the leader of this division of the BOS. His view on synths are very much the same as Paladin Danse, the synths are unnatural and therefore need to be destroyed as they could pose a threat to the Brotherhood and the population of the Commonwealth. As the BOS’s aim is to act in the interest of the Commonwealth, Elder Maxson makes it the Brotherhood’s responsibility to deal with the synths and the Institute. The intentions of the Brotherhood appear to be slightly more sinister than they first appear however when Maxson gives you the mission of persuading an Institute scientist to rejoin the BOS after an argument prompted to leave her post on a research project. Maxson admits in discussion that this project was developing some sort of nuclear weapon and that the scientist is the key for getting the project back on track again. Although the BOS appear to want to protect the people of the Commonwealth, it appears as though they may be creating weaponry that will just put them in danger all over again.

 

Once you join the Brotherhood of Steel, you are effectively pledging allegiance to their cause of eliminating the Institute. The mentality of this organisation appears to be quite brutal with their goal only to destroy all synths, not to try and understand the reasons behind their creation. Although they claim to be acting in the best interest of the Commonwealth, when talking to the settlements around the Commonwealth people don’t generally remember asking the BOS for their help. They can only remember the moment when the BOS airship appeared in the Commonwealth skies, making it seem like the BOS may acting with their own interests as a priority. Once your character infiltrates the institute the BOS will increasingly put pressure on you to destroy them from the inside, persuading scientists to leave and turning against the Institutes synths in battle. If you refuse to turn again the Institute, or hurt any other the BOS members as a result, you will become an enemy of the BOS and they will aim to eliminate you along with the Institute.

In my play through of the game I have joined all organisations: the Minutemen, the Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel. This is partially because I want to see what the ideology of each organisation is, and also because I want to see how each of the missions can contribute to the overall storyline. What I have learned is that each of the organisations will ask you to choose them over the others, none of them want to work together because they appear to have conflicting aims. The Brotherhood of Steel, although a powerful organisation with access to lots of weaponry and technology, resists the idea that the synths themselves could be capable of living a life without violence. Having talked to some of the synths that are in the Railroad, I have acknowledged that even if they aren’t real humans, they are capable of expressing very humanistic concepts such as sarcasm, other forms of humour and even lying for the hell of it. Not something I would expect the Institute to program unless they were attempting to create artificial life, not human weapons. I believe that the synths could integrate in society as individual human beings, away from the controlling hand of the Institute. For this reason, if I am forced to make a choice I think I will not be siding with the Brotherhood of Steel, so I can only hope I have enough armour and weapons to keep myself safe from them when I do break ties!

Fallout 4: Introduced to the game [spoilers]

[There will be spoilers to the Fallout 4 in this game in this blog post, so if you don’t want to know – stop reading!]

It’s certainly no secret to the people who know me that I am a little bit addicted to the game Fallout 4. The game came out in November 2015, however I didn’t get to play it until December when I got the game as a Christmas present. I am fairly new to the gaming scene, only recently buying an Xbox One a few months ago and my old Xbox 360 a year or so before that so this is the first Fallout game I have ever played. In fact I hadn’t really heard of Fallout before so I didn’t really know what it was about. Watching the opening titles reminded me of Call of Duty Ghosts, so I was thinking this game might be like an extended and elaborate Call of Duty campaign (apparently I didn’t really question why it was named ‘Fallout’).

I quickly learnt this game was about the Earth in the future, which seems to be heading towards destruction due to international tensions over declining resources. As the opening titles suggest, there may be a war coming. As a player you’re left with this notion and introduced to the part where you can create your own character.

Fallout-4-character-creation-1

Although the voiceover in the opening sequence is male, this is the chance where you can choose to play as a female character, with the male character continuing to live on as a character in the Fallout 4 storyline.  However when I say ‘live on’ this is only for a short amount of time, as bombs fall and the family seek safety in Vault 111: an underground stronghold generously provided by the company Vault-Tec where certain eligible people can be protected from the danger above. Our characters are allowed into the vault because of the male character’s previous military service. There is another member of the family: the baby Shaun, who becomes a key part of the storyline when he is kidnapped by a man. In this scene we witness the father being shot but are unable to do anything because we are frozen in a cryogenic chamber. Now because I chose to be the female character the father dies, however if I had chosen the male protagonist it would have been the mother that got shot. Shaun is taken away and we are refrozen again, until the system apparently crashes and we awake from our chamber, find a way out of the vault and negotiate the world above in an attempt to find and rescue Shaun. We quickly find out that the world has completely changed, the wildlife has been weaponised due to radiation and the people aren’t any better with raiders, gunners and supermutants all looking to dominate the rest of the population.

The gameplay straight away encourages you to take charge of your own survival, as you have to go scavenging for food, water, weapons, ammo and armour. Pretty quickly in the story you come across your first companion, the adorable Dogmeat who can accompany you through the whole of the story if you want (and why wouldn’t you, look at his face!)

Fallout-4-Dogmeat

There’s no doubt as to why this game is so popular, the gameplay is full of tasks that you can chip away at, from salvaging buildings you come across, to the largest story missions which require more effort but allow you to glimpse who might be behind Shaun’s kidnapping. What I really like about the game is that you get lots of choice in how you want to play the game, you aren’t following a heavily structured storyline as it follows a more open world dynamic. This actually allows you to progress in the story in different ways: either doing the smaller tasks that teach you more about the post war world and mean you get to level up before tackling harder tasks or pursuing the main storyline straight away, all the way through to the end. In addition to this, you get a choice of what to say when your character is talking to other characters in the game. You get four options, each of which could facilitate a different response as quite often in the dialogue there are opportunities to threaten, persuade or bribe the other person. If you successfully persuade a character then you can gain access to information you probably wouldn’t have got any other way and you earn XP points which are beneficial if you want to level up sooner rather than later.

This freedom I think is really important for a story game as it shows that developers have put a lot of effort into actually creating a whole world, not just a set of different environments that the character just moves through. As a character you build relationships with the potential companions you meet and you become responsible for the people under your care when you ally with different settlements. There is a real sense that you belong in this world, which then makes the game more addictive and compelling because you as a gamer form an attachment with the world and it’s people. I’m really looking forward to exploring all this world has to offer and hopefully make the right choices when I progress further with the storyline.