Fallout 3


I seem to play video games 3-4 years after everyone else has already gotten sick of them.  Part of it is just my contrary nature; when something is being hyped, I don’t want to like it… which helps me to continue to delude myself into seeing myself as an independent thinker.  And I am in need of a tech upgrade before I can run any of the newer titles.  So, Fallout 3 (released years ago) has finally made it to my desktop.  And I love it.

If you don’t know anything about Fallout 3, look at things like this wikipedia article.  Fallout 3 is to Oblivion what Gamma World was to D&D.  Back in the Halcyon days of my youth, when I was less jaded and still liked things and video games needed you to put a quarter in to enjoy the sweet stick figures of games like Venture, we played D&D a lot.  And we loved it.  Then one day, my friend Alan picked up Gamma World, and that was even more fun, simply because the game lent itself to a certain black humor and had fewer pretensions to realism or seriousness (at least in our game group).

I really like the art direction that Bethesda used for Fallout 3.  Ruined technology and cars looked like what people in 1950s America thought the future was going to look like — lots of rivets and vacuum tubes rather than transistors and solid state.  Everywhere is dangerous.  And there is some great old-timey music in the game, including Bob Crosby’s “Good Hearts and Gentle People.”  When you shoot people and creatures, their limbs and heads tend to fly off if you score a critical.  If you use V.A.T.S. (a special targeting system), they explode in slow motion and you get to watch it in 3rd person.  And there are lots and lots of guns.  My only complaint is that the monsters and NPCs are sometimes just pretty stupid, and I wish the game had a more extensive bestiary — thus far I have fought mole rats, mirelurks (which are crab people), human bandits, bloatflies (which are giant flies that shoot larvae at you like bullets) and giant scorpions… and as I get tougher, I suspect other monsters will be encountered, but, still, I’d like more variety. D&D spoiled me because there was always a new monster.
I’m only about 5-6 hours in, but having a blast.  It is usually the simple things that make me happy.

The Stars are Right!

Cthulhu attacks a shipThe People have Spoken!
On my old blog, I had a “what is your favorite apocalypse scenario?” poll, and, out of 48 votes, ‘The Stars are right’ got the most votes (9 votes, or 18%). Coming in 2nd was ‘Nuclear Holocaust’ (8 votes), and, in 3rd place, ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ (7 votes).
All hail our tentacled Overlord!
The Numbers:
Zombie apocalypse: 7 (14%Overpopulation + climate degredation = Soylent Green: 2 (4%)
Nuclear holocaust was good enough for dad; it’s good enough for me!: 8 (16%)
Rapture! (not the Blondie song):0 (0%)
Mayan Calendar says so: 3 (6%)
plague!: 4 (8%)
Triffids / Apes / Sleestaks / etc.: 6 (12%)
Space Invaders: 2 (4%)
enuui and/or market forces: 2 (4%)
Environmental collapse: 1 (2%)
Meteor / Sun goes Nova: 1 (2%)
The Stars are right! The old ones awaken!: 9 (18%)
other (please explain in comments): 3 (6%)

Votes total: 48

End of the World Poll

It has all got to come to an end eventually, right?

I started a poll to find out which apocalypse readers would prefer; please choose from the broad categories listed, or, if none of them tickle your fancy, add suggestions below.

I’ve grown just a little tired of zombies now that they have started showing up in mattress store advertisements, but I might also be suffering from “If other people like it I no longer should” syndrome… deep down, I suspect I will always love the shuffling hordes of undead… so I think ‘zombie apocalypse’ would be my favorite. But maybe I just want to shoot people but not have to feel bad about it (“Hey, I didn’t kill them… they were already dead!”).

Alien invasions / triffids / Terminators, etc., have a lot of appeal, especially if accompanied by desperate fighting on the part of a rag tag band of plucky survivors. And, fuck it, I realized I left ‘robots from the future’ off the poll, but now that someone has voted (me), Blogger tells me that I cannot edit the poll. Dammit! Perhaps ‘robots from the future’ could be assumed under triffids/sleestaks, etc., or ‘space invaders.’ I probably should have included ‘computer goes beserk/Y2k/Skynet’ and ‘robots from the future’ could be included in that…

Rapture / sun going nova, etc., don’t appeal to me because, well, no one gets out of it alive and the whole thing is just over. I saw some film about a nuclear bomb going off when I was a kid and at the end of the movie everyone is just lying around dying with their hair and teeth falling out — not how I envisioned the end of days. That movie still gives me the creeps; I wish I could figure out what it was so I could watch it again.

So, how about you? What is your favorite ‘END TIMES’ scenario?

Currently Reading: The Hunger Games

“The Hunger Games” is a 2008 young adult novel by Suzanne Collins (it is the first of three books in a series by the same author). My S.O. is currently writing a young adult novel, and, as a result, she ends up reading other things that have been published for young adult readers (most of which, according to Annie, is wretched stuff). She recommended I read ‘The Hunger Games,’ and, since she knows my taste fairly well, I finally got around to starting it a day ago.

I didn’t like the highly regarded “Ender’s Game” enough to finish it, and, in most cases, I’ll pass on literature written specifically for young adults. Although I am only about half way through “The Hunger Games” and am glad I picked it up. Collins is an excellent writer; her prose is spare without being bland and her characters are interesting. Since the book is for young adults, the main character is a fifteen year old girl named Katniss.

‘The Hunger Games’ takes place in a dystopian future where the inhabitants of the outlying towns (known as “districts”) work in near wage-slavery in order to support the lavish life of the privileged in the Capitol. Every year the Capitol hosts an event called “The Hunger Games.” A boy and a girl are selected at random from each district and fight to the death in a setting known as ‘The Arena.’ The last survivor’s district is given extra food and privileges for the coming year, so there is great pressure for the children selected to succeed.

The entire contest is televised. Participants are released into the ‘arena’ and expected to compete and win by any means necessary. Supplies like food, tools, medieval era weapons like spears, swords, bows and arrows, etc., are available if the participants are lucky enough to reach them first. Players are allowed to form alliances if they wish in order to ‘gang up’ on other players, but, eventually, they will need to turn on each other since the games end when only one survives. In addition, according to their popularity with the television viewers and the bribes provided by ‘sponsors,’ different participants may be occasionally given helpful items like a loaf of bread or some medicine, so smart players attempt to appear interesting or appealing to the viewers.

Katniss ends up being one of the ‘tributes’ to participate in “The Hunger Games.” Before his death, her father taught her how to hunt in the woods, fish, forage for nuts and berries, set snares for rabbits, etc. While the other players compete against one another for food supplied by the game masters, Katniss feeds herself with her hunting and foraging skills.

I’m only about 1/2 way through, but have enjoyed the book immensely so far despite the fact that it is written for a younger reader. Although the book is not as emotionally brutal as 1984, I think the book is not written ‘down’ for a younger audience. Her prose is solid; we learn a lot about Katniss‘ world and her opinions in passing and in context rather than having it laboriously explained. The book explores themes of Independence and personal responsibility but (as I am about 1/2 way through) is not too heavy handed in trying to get young readers to think about these topics.

I have been avoiding reading the Wikipedia entry on the book before I finish it. Suzanne Collins claims she was inspired to write “The Hunger Games” while channel surfing between news from the Iraq war and reality television shows. The idea of ‘fight to the death’ gladitorial games in a distant future isn’t original, but I think the book is good enough that I don’t care that I have seen these themes before.

Definite recommendation.

Zombies, as a genre, have probably officially jumped the shark…

This ad came in the mail recently. “In a world devastated by lack of sleep…” I don’t know what to say.

Carriers (Movie:2009)

The other night I watched “Carriers,” an under promoted (and modestly budgeted) apocalypse flick that I really enjoyed.

The main characters are 4 young white 18 to 20 somethings who are travelling across the Midwestern US after a plague has decimated the population. Stars include Chris Pine (the actor who played Captain Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek flick), Piper Perabo (who looks familiar but I don’t know from what — although IMDB tells me she was in ‘Coyote Ugly’) and some others. Chris Meloni (who was on a gajillion Law & Order episodes) plays a father who briefly crosses paths with the refugees.

The premise of the film is simple: the four are a cohesive group who are determined to survive and they all practice a hygiene discipline that they hope will allow them to make it to an abandoned resort on the shore where two of the group (an older and younger brother) spent summers growing up. They don’t stop for strangers (because strangers might have the un-named disease that seems to have killed 90 percent of the population) and don’t touch anything unless they scrub it with antibacterial wipes and bleach. A few chance encounters and lies, however, sow the seeds of distrust in the group and they begin to turn on one another. This is probably less bleak than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but it still does not qualify as a feel good flick (i.e.: spoiler: there is no cannibalism — although you are treated to the sight of a German Shepherd chewing on the corpse of his previous owner). Issues of trust, family, euthanasia and whether or not the principle characters tell lies to protect themselves are dealt with in a fairly deft fashion.

There are ‘flashback’ scenes to the lives of the brothers shot on Super 8mm film that I felt got a little bit heavy handed, but that would be among my only criticisms of the film which I felt told a very effective story in a minimalist manner. Although Chris Pine probably qualifies as a ‘big movie star’ after his role as Captain Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek film, there are no big special effects or other spectacles that seem to be ‘de rigeur‘ in sci-fi, horror or dystopian fantasy genre films (any of which would be a fitting category for a film like “Carriers.”). It is this ‘economy of visual means’ that actually made the film more interesting. One never sees hundreds of corpses or shuffling hordes of the infected — a few blood stained pillows on empty beds and stacked body bags that look like a snapshot of post-Katrina New Orleans tell the story.

“Carriers” apparently had only a small theatrical release and then went straight to DVD, which is too bad; I’d like to see Hollywood work a little harder with less and rely more on dialogue and events than star power and spectacle to bring people back to the movies. I definitely recommend this film; although it is obviously not for the squeamish or all audiences.