Approaching a rusting panel, I push the button in front of me after providing an access code, beginning a process involving mechanisms far larger than me. As the weight of turning metal clanks in front of me, I see bright light fill my view, peaking out from the openings of spaces long ago sealed. It’s enough to make me, as the player, wince, even momentarily, from its sheer brilliance, but as my eyes adjust and I make my way up the elevator shaft behind that massive vault door, I see on the other side that that which awaits me outside the vault is charred, filthy, and deeply affected by a world gone cruel and merely surviving. I faced horrible things even inside the vault, but what can prepare a person for the unknown outside of it?
For many players within the Fallout universe of games, specifically Fallout 4 as I described, that moment of shining light that comes from the opening of Vault 111 could be the brightest moment, metaphorically, of their entire playthrough. In a game series that allows the freedom of choice that the Fallout games are now known for, the steps of my personal journey may look quite different from yours. Regardless, with a game involving weapons of all varieties, morality of the player oftentimes comes down to the pulling of a trigger and who has what you need or want. Whether the game you are playing is tied to “karma” (Fallout 3) or interplay with factions (New Vegas and Fallout 4), decisions made have an effect, which makes for rich gameplay. However, where do we delineate “rightness” and “wrongness” in a world that seems so far gone? Are there such things as “moral absolutes” in a place that has been scorched and left effectively rotting on so many levels, filled with people acting as obstacles to loot that is deeply needed (or, at least, deeply coveted)? Better yet, where does the Christian gamer playing these games fit their own knowledge of right and wrong, or more importantly, how do they commit actions that are God-honoring in a world that seems God-forsaken? These aren’t questions easily answered, certainly, but the developers wish us to ponder such things, I believe, as religion exists in the Fallout universe, both those existing before the bombs dropped and those that existed as a result. Still, these institutions exist in the periphery, and it’s highly likely that their existence didn’t even factor into your playthrough.
My question isn’t concerning the idea of these institutions struggling in the wasteland, but instead, it concerns the individual. Without a system in place or held deeply by each individual as something honoring self and a higher power, is there any hope for mankind in the Fallout Universe to be anything other than self-seeking, and therefore, a murderous danger to others? With Fallout 3, morality was determined by choices and actions taken by the player. I began that game, years ago, with the best of intentions; I carefully chose my words and didn’t take anything that would arise suspicion. It did make my experience more difficult, as with the proper increase of my sneaking abilities and the will to do so, I could have robbed many of all their goods and benefitted handsomely…as an individual. I endeavored to not set out on that path. However, in the midst of playing through a side quest (named, of all things, You Gotta Shoot ‘Em In The Head), I found myself in the presence of a man named Dukov. At one time, this man, a drunken womanizer, once hired as a mercenary, betrayed his comrade, a ghoul named Mister Crowley, and left him for dead amongst feral ghouls. He seemed a despicable man who probably “deserved it”. Still, the situation went south quickly, where I, acting as an agent of revenge for Crowley, killed Dukov and the two women in his establishment. I walked out of that building with more riches than I came for, but also, a heavy guilt. My “karma” nosedived, and in that moment, I abandoned all sense of decency. I left there a “bad man” and didn’t turn back. From there, I looted, lied, cheated, and destroyed anything that got in my way. My character gave himself over to the god of self-indulgence, and there was no limit to my depravity. By game’s end, my character had done truly terrible things for personal gain, even to innocents, and had even tasted human flesh. I would be lying if I didn’t feel that on a personal level as player. While it may be possible to make your way through the wasteland as a “righteous” man, I did not.
I share a few verses from the Bible to highlight the need for something better than what I myself did in that game, hopefully offering an alternative for us in “real life”:
Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV) There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
Mark 8:36 (NKJV) For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Matthew 24:10-14 (NKJV) And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Considering that God’s judgment, as promised in the Scriptures, will come swiftly and surely at a point in history that will most likely be largely spiritually bankrupt and lacking in love and morality (a time reflected well in Fallout), isn’t it the wisest course on all levels to strive to do our best to uphold His standards, regardless of how difficult it may seem? Maybe another player can do better than I, but regardless of how well the game turns out, may our lives better reflect Christ in all we do.