I fell in love with Fallout 4 when my journalist companion Piper published a story about me. Then I fell out of love when Piper took a misstep off a forty story building and plummeted to what would have been her death, except companions cannot die. Now she’s wearing my dead husband’s wedding ring, and honestly, I’m kind of confused.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the Fallout series before. When Bethesda released Fallout 3 in 2008, I took the claim that the game adapted to my play style at face value. “If I can really do anything and the game will adapt,” I told myself, “then I’m going to play the game entirely evil.” It turns out shooting most everyone on sight makes for a boring wasteland experience. I loved the daring approach to player agency, but found myself hindered by my own particular approach to Fallout. Our own Erik Kersting described this phenomenon well in his exploration of a particular Fallout 4 memory sequence: “Video games are simultaneously their own best friend and worst enemy when it comes to pacing. They can give the player tons of tools to experience the narrative, but they cannot force the player to necessarily have that experience.”