essay

God of the Father: Fallout 3 — Bless the Child

[This post is going to talk about the ending of Fallout 3 and major plot points of the DLC “Operation: Anchorage”, “The Pitt” and “Broken Steel”. To avoid spoilers, please don’t read any more of this.]

As I wrote about at the of end of yesterday’s post, the ending of Fallout 3 is about sacrifice and the fulfillment of the father’s will. James sets the stage, with his sacrifice, for his child to follow-through with the same action. That is the purpose of that earlier scene, to set up the necessary foreshadowing to show that the path of life is one of death. In order to usher in a new age, something must die. Be it, at the beginning of the game, the mother or, later, the father himself. The ‘god’ is one that rewards giving up items, like water and Stimpaks, to raise Karma. Even the ending, if the player chooses to die, shifts the Karma towards the Very Good end.

It is this decision that marks the transition of the child into the role of the father. This is the initiation point that marks, if you prefer religious imagery, the baptism or, if you prefer literary theory, the dragon-battle moment. It is the pivotal moment where the world changes from that of the father’s world into that of the child’s adoption (if sacrifice) or rejection (if sending another, use of virus) of the father’s ideals — it becomes the child’s world. The plot shifts from fulfilling the father’s will into the child living in the changed world as a result of via actions at the Project Purity site. The child is now the center as a result of the father’s previous involvement, James remains in the ‘god’ that still rules the world.

The DLC “Operation: Anchorage”, often bemoaned for its straight forward paths and objectives, is the first of several additions to the game that mark this transition toward more child-centered plots. Coming upon The Outcasts (of The Brotherhood of Steel), the player is prompted, because of the presence of their Pip-Boy (itself a present from James), to enter a simulation of the Battle of Anchorage in order to complete it and open the doors of a cache of weapons that was left behind. Within the simulation the player must defeat the Chinese forces that are invading and, toward the end of the simulation, lead a group; throughout the experience, the player must act first before others follow. Released after Fallout 3,  its emphasis on the player’s individuality, both in getting to the location and completing the simulation alone, paves the way for the second DLC’s greater theme and message.

If Fallout 3, as I have argued, could be said to be about a father’s purpose, engineering and scheming for a future through their child, “The Pitt” is the same story in microcosm. It centers around two ‘fathers’: Wernher and Ashur. Both, as it turns out, want a single child, Marie, for research into the mutations that are plaguing The Pitt. Exposure to the atmosphere, radiation and special chemicals of the place will turn a human into a ‘trog‘ and Marie is immune to the effects of the poisons. She is first child to be born in the area that has not mutated and, it is hoped, a cure for a clean future.

There exists two groups of people: those that have begun to change as a result of being salves and those that have escaped to Haven, the area that Ashur rules. Wernher recruits The Lone Wanderer for the purpose, by at first at first collecting steel ingots to then fighting in The Arena, of getting a personal audience with Ashur. It is at this moment before the ruler of The Pitt that the player is supposed to, according to the plans set down by Wernher, abduct the child, fight their way out and then deliver the child to Wernher. It’s one life for the future of others, states Wernher.

This is the cycle in its infancy — both literally in the embodiment of Marie and of a child between fathers. Not unlike The Lone Wanderer in the choice coming (as this DLC can be played before the ending that “Broken Steel” changes), Marie is either salvation for all or damnation of some. If the child goes to Wernher, he promises to experiment to find a cure faster while ignoring the safety of the child (inferred to die) yet Ashur, on the other hand, will allow many more to be converted into trogs as he experiments to slowly progress as needed to ensure the safety of the child, his child.

This is the true choice that Fallout 3 tried with its confluence of quests lines. If Marie were to be older and under player control, it would be the same situation. If the player or Sarah dies (as foretold by James’ actions), it means the the delivery of life (through water) to the Wasteland. A sacrifice is needed for salvation. The introduction of the mutated FEV virus kills off many mutations (and possibly the player too). The player must decide which group will have a future. Will it be those who have slaved or those who are the enslavers? Is the world worth some mutations in it or none at all?

That is the projection past the moment at Project Purity. The blessing passes from the father to the child. The player must now, through “Operation: Anchorage” and “The Pitt”, take the place of the father. As James decided who could have access to technology, through his refusal to work with The Enclave and ultimate death, so too does the child make the decision for The Outcasts. Who deserves life (and death) is presented in “The Pitt”. Even though the player may play both before the end of Fallout 3, they follow the thread of progression of the torch passing from father to child. If the world was, at first, the father’s, with the DLC add-ons, it shifts to the child. Only they matter now. What they decide and who they save is part of an never-ending journey without end. The ‘god’ stops asking “What would your father do?” but shifts to “Now that your father is gone, what will you do now?”