Fallout 4: A Postcolonial Critique of Postapocalyptic Analysis

Here at Pearl River Flow we often find things that have been discarded. In fact, that's the joke behind the entire website. You've figured it out.

Here is one such bit of Pearl River Flotsam. It's a discarded Video Game Review of the hit game Fallout 4. Not only was this review was rejected by the student paper of a local liberal arts college, it was rejected by a local trashcan, and found it's way into the Pearl River.

Fallout 4 is a serious game about serious matters, as you can see by my serious outfit.

Fallout 4 - A Postcolonial Critique of the Postapocalypse

by Chad Buffington IV, Freshman, History Dept.

525 hours in, Fallout 4 shows me the doomed psyche of White America when I crush a Super Mutant with a jet-powered sledgehammer. I do it to the tune of a Hammerstein song. I do it because the mutant is different. This hyperviolence is problematic.

In every video game, it seems, the elite impose their phallocentric martial ethos through the medium of digital simulation - all life's challenges forsaken, save one: Maximizing the efficiency of murder.

I have failed the mandate I laid out in my college entrance essay by interacting with a commercial digital product. Fallout 4 is a video game, and it has changed my life. I am sorry, History Department.

It is true, I was not always a lofty and enlightened commentator delivering hot, unbiased takes on the state of American Military Industrial Decadence. Once, I was but a base gamer. I devoted countless digital hours to perfecting the task of murder. Endless worlds of minions were slain across the multiverse as my sociopathic avatars reached for "just one more" mote of power.

In my childhood I was awash in the consumer electronics that paint our futures in virtual murder. Murder IS the medium. With Fallout 4 I am buying the ticket. I am contractually obligated to take the ride, and the ride is festooned with the grim accoutrements of The Fascism. Death - heroic death, Annunzio's Thanatos, is programmed in. One cannot not be shocked by the physics of gibs or textures of gore, one must find glory in the carnage as martial might trumps all other solutions.

My actions as the hero disturbed me, they removed me from the safe space that College has created, thrusting me into a debauched world of corporatism and colonialsm. How did I fall victim to the curse of Rome? 

Glue. In Fallout 4, you require resources to upgrade your Arsenal of Democracy. The postapocalyptic wasteland is littered with the weaponry of centuries of warfare, but in order to patch these weapons together you need a glue, called adhesive.

This fact has doomed the Commonwealth to Colonial Subjugation..

This fact has doomed the Commonwealth to Colonial Subjugation..

Adhesive is the limiting reagent in your carefully calculated logarithmic increase of lethal efficiency. In order to be self-sufficient, you must make it yourself.

To do THAT, you need four things; first, you need a "muttfruit," which is a mutation of grapes, oranges, and apples, the sort of thing Al Gore has long warned us about. Secondly, you need a "tato," which is the fruit of an irradiated nightshade, a cross of potato and tomato. Third, you need purified water, which is hard to come by in the nuclear wasteland. Finally, you need corn, because what dystopia, post-apocalypse, or existential nightmare doesn't involve seas of corn?

Once you have these four items - which in the mouths of the hungry could provide vitamin C, two staple foods, and water, you can make adhesive. A glue to ensure your violent arsenal is put together just a tiny bit better.

Vegetable Starch proved to be the molasses of the Commonwealth Wasteland.

Vegetable Starch proved to be the molasses of the Commonwealth Wasteland.

I needed glue. I needed to make quantum leaps in lethality, to contend with murderous mutants, killer robots, fascist mecha-governments, and a Fury Road full of drugged out barbarians in mismatched leathers.

The NRA would have been proud. This was a violent world. I needed to get better guns. The only thing going to stop these bad guys with guns was a good guy with better guns. Better guns need more glue. This calculus of Empire set in quickly. To conquer more, I needed more. I needed farms, so I conquered some farms.

As the overwhelming majority of people in the United States may claim, I was created with an unfortunate allocation of vital wealth-creating statistics at the beginning of the game. Much as Citizens United keeps the poor out of democracy, I was unable to participate in the entire town-building experience. Like Hillary Clinton, I had no charisma. All I could do was make weapons, and kill people with weapons. I was an embodied foreign policy hawk. And my body was made for killing. But if I wanted more, I needed more glue.

This seems a bit close-to-home. This illustration. Not the review.

This seems a bit close-to-home. This illustration. Not the review.

I came to the villages that I had conquered and forced them to grow crops for my adhesive empire. Three towns labored under the imposing threat of my Gatling Lasers. One town was for fruit, one for corn, one for tato. For pure water, I marauded the wastelands, crushing entire camps of raiders and mutants with rockets and nuclear powered armaments. I crushed the ruined environment under the boots of my power armor. I had joined the jingoistic authoritarian military that was the Brotherhood of Steel, and after tearing the wastelands apart looking for my family, I was done being nice.

Each town had ceased to be an idiosyncratic settlement full of unique citizens. No, now they were naught butcolonies, providing precious resources for my one-man war. I was a Warlord Emperor, a Dick Cheney with no second-in-command, I took no advice from policemen and mourning mothers, I only obeyed the dictates of the Brotherhood of Steel. There were no bankers or traders I could rely on. I took my bullets and water and food from the dead. What the towns grew was just melted down into glue.

I told myself that I was doing this for the villagers, that it was good for them. It was not. I had fooled myself with the Vault Dweller's Burden. I had imposed my twisted view of the wasteland as a fallen world in need of my guiding hand. Most disapointingly, I had convinced myself, as I rampaged through settlements, towering over my subjects in my massive power armor, demanding the tribute of crops.

Tribute! How feudal! I had executed reverse-Marxism, arriving in a world of enlightened savage anarchy, a Free Market Utopia, and upon it I had imposed the rule of Steel and Nuclear Lasers.

I demanded tribute to the Brotherhood of Steel. Crops to the knights! This insidious Digital Feudalism ate at my being. There was no chance for peace.

Every gun that was made, every power armor launched, every mini-nuke fired signified, in a final sense, theft from those wasteland dwellers who hunger and were not fed, those who were in the cold of nuclear winter and not clothed.

This world of fusion weapons was not spending fruit alone. It was spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. I was crucifying mankind on a Cross of Iron and Caps.

Fallout 4 is a serious game about serious subjects, so look at my serious outfit.

Fallout 4 is a serious game about serious subjects, so look at my serious outfit.

I did not regret. I conquered swathes of the Wasteland for spies, for freedom fighters, for insurgents and crime lords, I helped murderous androids, clockwork knights and ragged militias.

Why did I do it? I did not kill for the greatest weapons. I did not blindly obey orders to receive better armor. I did not forsake all bonds of human fellowship and eschew the milk of human kindness for pile of caps. None of those rewards were worth getting. None of those rewards would make me as happy as finding single aluminum tray or roll of high quality duct tape.

My girlfriend watched me play the game for a brief moment, during co-ed visiting hours. But even the allure of sexual romance was cast aside by this fascist facade of entertainment. She saw me kill. She saw me kill a dog. True, it was a murderous canine accompanying lawless raiders, but it was a dog, ignorant of good and evil, only following the dictates of it's pack. Were we that different, dog, you and I? Perhaps our only difference was that I had a steel-reinforced sledgehammer and the wealth of nations at my back, while you were equipped with naught but tooth and sinew.

After that masochistic display, she could no longer watch. I should have turned it off, I should have stopped playing Fallout, but yet it drove me. I began to reinstitute colonial patriarchy across the pristine anarchistic wasteland. Murder and power, power and murder, violence and violence, psychosexual in the extreme, modifying my phallic weaponry to achieve ever greater heights, the numbers rising with no opposition, over and over and over again. I wasn't killing for a cause, I was killing for profit. But the endless loop of the capitalist war left me fighting not for caps, or guns, or ammo - but for pieces of aluminum, their value maximized by the hellscape I inhabited.

After a while, after 50 levels of Imperial Adventure, I didn't *need* any of it, not anymore, I was an invincible cyborg clad in indestructible power armor, I was bristling with atomic weaponry, lasers, missiles and miniguns. But I always wanted just a touch more safety, a touch more power, and after a while, after I had stripped the wastes of their natural resources, I could only get that scrap of aluminum by stealing a TV dinner tray in a peaceful settlement. I began to rampage through entire towns. I was unstoppable. The family between me and a dented can? Dead. What kind of world was I turning this postapocalyptic wasteland into? These were not the microaggressions I have been trained to avoid, these were aggressions, megaaggressions, gigaaggressions.

What kind of emails did they send?

What kind of emails did they send?

525 hours later, I think that Fallout 4 represents a modern struggle about family life, America, and power. The clock of civilization may have stopped in 2077, but this is a retro-future, informed by our inglorious past. It's been said, by the most astute social observer of the 21st century, that "An American Tradition is anything that happens to a baby boomer twice."

Therefore, ergo, here we go, there I am, I roam the wasteland, shooting people with the gun that killed my wife, wearing her murderer's clothes under my hardened titanium armor. To quote the sagacious voice of our generation, Buzzfeed: What this Paladin does when he finds his son will shock you.

The red-eyed guy standing beside a giant murder robot? NOT A GOOD GUY. Plus, he has a drill for a codpiece, so there's that.

The red-eyed guy standing beside a giant murder robot? NOT A GOOD GUY. Plus, he has a drill for a codpiece, so there's that.

Like Winston Smith in the Chestnut Tree Cafe, I adore what I have become. I listen to great standards, with unironic racist undertones. I have my guns and I horde them, I can longer remain in the bubble of this liberal arts institution. No space can be safe if I am in it, now.

I was Chad Buffington IV. Now in order to more accurately describe my primal self, I am B.C.


- Headed for the River.

Here's Mr. Pebbles, the first cat in space, in case things got a bit dark there, or you're from a college and need this by now.

Here's Mr. Pebbles, the first cat in space, in case things got a bit dark there, or you're from a college and need this by now.