How many of your faves can say that they had gay marriage in their franchise since '98?
I have so many opinions about you - and not all of them are totally positive. Hell, some of them are just downright negative. But even I have to admit that you are an iconic franchise. You took the gaming world by storm, introduced the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (strength, perception, endurance, charisma, agility, and luck) system, and provided a much needed escape from the fantastical fantasy worlds of other RPGs of the time (okay, Wasteland did it first). Your characters have always been interesting, your lore has always been a delightful mixture of zany and serious - you're a great franchise.
I've already spoken in length about my experience with Fallout. New Vegas played a very big part in how I feel about queerness in gaming. It shaped a lot of my very staunch opinions about the subject. After all, here was a reasonably large title that included some mostly-decent queer stuff. To this day, I can't find one gay gamer who wasn't pleasantly surprised to the see bespectacled Arcade Gannon was not only gay, but definitely interested. Not to mention every other character.
And it doesn't stop there!
A lot of the major Fallout titles have had some form of queer characters peppered throughout (except for Fallout 3, unless there's someone I missed).
Probably the best example is in Fallout 2, I only just purchased the game in my recent Steam Winter Sale haul - and getting through it has been a challenge. I usually don't enjoy too many isometric games, mostly due to my relative newness with them. But, Patricia Hernandez talks in length about the game's importance to her and her sexual identity. It's beautifully written, and honestly, it's the same thing I felt whenever I played New Vegas.
The newness of the queer option gave me that same sense of rebellion - the only difference being that I had already accepted that I was gay by the time I played New Vegas. My awakening was definitely more of a "I want more characters like this," and less of a "Okay, so this is what sexuality is."
Although, the more I think about it, the more I feel almost cheated out of an experience. In
Fallout 2, you were forced in a marriage, and had to actively work to keep your wife alive. It added a level of stakes to the game, and if you cared to keep your spouse alive, made the game that much harder. Bethesda games are as Hernandez puts it, "by comparison, the modern Fallouts feel absurdly easy, like they start you off as a powerful character and the rest of the game is an adventure in becoming super duper overpowered." Which isn't a lie, if you aren't specifically trying to play the game on maximum difficulty - the games are easy.
In Fallout 3, all companions can die, but they aren't totally important and as far as I know, none of them are queer. In New Vegas, companions can't die, and you even get the option to travel with the queer companions! There is no actual romance, though, so that's also a downside. Fallout 4 is the first Fallout game that allows you to seduce and have an overarching romance with not just one, but every single human companion in the game! That's almost perfect! Your faves could never!
That is a huge deal, and made that awful game worth playing. The developers put care into developing their characters, and gave you actual bonuses when you seduced them. I'll never forget the feeling of accomplishment and joy when I finally managed to become an item with the most beautiful boy in the Wasteland: Preston Garvey (yes, he's annoying, I know, but he's also adorable). I was a man, playing as a male character who was now in a committed relationship with another male character. And I could do this with all of the other main characters too! With no penalty!! I mean, who else gave him your wife's old ring? Was that just me?
Of course, this bothered me a little bit.
I would have loved to have more narrative stakes. I wanted to see more of an incentive to be committed to your partner. Like Dragon Age: Inquisition, once you make the commitment to a character - that's it! They also have characters with specific sexualities and interests. It adds a certain realism to the game that Fallout unfortunately lacks.
Still, despite its problems, Fallout has made leaps and bounds for queer people in their games. I can say negative things about them all I want, but I'd be a fool to try and deny it. It's been changing the game since 1998, and not many other franchises can say that. It's taken some steps forward and a couple of steps back (after all, Fallout 4 never gave me my gay wedding). I have hopes for the next game in the installment, and I hope I'm not disappointed.
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and writer of plays and screenplays, based in NYC. Do you guys have a game that you think is significant to the LGBTQ+ community? Email me, and I'll give it a look!
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