I grew up in a suburb of Boston. My mom was a history teacher. I spent a fair chunk of my childhood doing the local history things — walking the freedom trail, visiting the USS Constitution (replica, right? Fairly sure it’s a replica). Boston tea party reenactments. That creepy graveyard where Sam Adams is buried that apparently is haunted both by regular ghosts and also SCREAMING BABY GHOSTS. I’ve even been to Plimouth Rock multiple times, and that is probably the most boring field trip of all.
What I’m saying is, I’m intimately familiar with the city’s history. It’s dear to my heart. I love it in all it’s slightly grungy glory (it’s not the prettiest of cities on approach).
So of course I played Fallout 4. I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t have bought this game, but when it was released I lent my xbox to a coworker so he could play it, and I got the game in return.
A few things: I’d never played a console shooter. I’d never played a Fallout game. I already knew the big secret of the game.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how unsettling it was to be playing a game where I was walking around places that were familiar and not quite right all at the same time. The city is vastly shrunken down, obviously. The Boston Common is the size of a postage stamp, just big enough for a puddle sized version of the duck pond (and the swan boat monster, which I was ALSO spoiled for). Fenway is both bigger and grander than Diamond City. Fine. Makes sense, this is a video game.
As I walked around the city, though, I kept finding things that were almost perfect. The FEELING was right, if you will. The perfect color of the green monster, the look of the riverside along the Charles. The preserved house in the backbay. Milton Hospital and Milton High School perfectly positioned. But also the landscape: the granite sticking up everywhere, the green overpasses rusting away, the brown and olive colors everywhere. I’m aware that that’s the aftermath of nuclear winter, but also, that’s what it looks like round about November around here. Unsettling.
The game itself was fun. I didn’t 100% it, although I did do a lot of sidequests (the Phantom was a personal favorite). I still don’t really like shooters on consoles — it’s twitchy in a way I’m not comfortable with. Especially not first person shooters. The story was good, the characters interesting. A solid game. But one that left me uncomfortably aware of how my home could look, one major war away.