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30 June 2009

Queer gamer rant alert. So I'm playing Fallout 3, and get wrapped-up in this quest to find "The Family" . . . spoilers inside.[More:]It's just a side-quest, but . . . you're supposed to deliver a message to a woman's teenage brother, who is supposed to live in a certain town. When you get to the town, it turns out that some gang called the Family has been harassing the town and has killed the sister's/brother's parents. So you go looking for the Family, and you discover that they're basically cannibals turned vampires, and that this kid is one of them.

BTW, this game has different plot lines depending on whether or not you make good or evil moral choices. The overwhelming sense I get is that the the "good" choice would be to kill the Family and "liberate" the brother. At the same time, I can't help reading this Family gang as a distinctively queer trope (which just fits right into contemporary vampire myths). So, if I'm going to be a good guy in the game, I'm going to have to "liberate" the brother from his queer brothers and sisters? Wow, that's fucked up.

(On the other hand, perhaps I just haven't gotten deep enough into the plot to know how it's really "supposed" to turn out).

Sure, I'll take the plate of beans award for the day, but if games are really becoming the new Hollywood, they can't continue to just take the straight white male demographic for granted. I'd expected a lot more from a game so richly realized as this one.
Well, just because ultraconservatives see homosexuality as a sinister contagion, doesn't mean you have to see a sinister contagion and think homosexuality.

It could be about rescuing him from the clutches of a fundamentalist sect...
posted by TheophileEscargot 30 June | 01:49
Yeah, I think that sometimes a family of cannibal vampires is just a family of cannibal vampires.
posted by BitterOldPunk 30 June | 01:51
Also, you don't hafta kill the brother, and can resolve the quest without killing anyone, if I remember correctly.
posted by BitterOldPunk 30 June | 01:53
(On the other hand, perhaps I just haven't gotten deep enough into the plot to know how it's really "supposed" to turn out).

Yea, it's that. I got to the good ending and it's nothing like what you're angry about.

posted by The Devil Tesla 30 June | 01:53
BOP is correct, you can resolve it peacefully. Killing them is a negative karma hit. (and if you kill them do Lucy will be mad and only comment on "I heard about your killing spree" every time you see her)

Also, if you go back later and ask about how to be a vampire blood packs will restore 20HP from then on, instead of the pitiful 1HP they give normally. (that doesn't do anything for karma either way, but it's damn useful) Later on can just be "initiate a new conversation ten seconds later" too.
posted by kellydamnit 30 June | 02:33
On the other side of the coin: was playing Sims 3 last night, and my male Sim decided to flirt with a woman he met outside a diner. She told him she was already involved- with a woman! I've never seen the game generate a same-sex couple on its own before. I thought that was pretty cool.
posted by BoringPostcards 30 June | 06:44
Thanks for bringing me back down to the earth, all! I guess lgbt pride day combined with all the prop 8 crap was getting to me more than I realized.
posted by treepour 30 June | 07:00
People here said it, killing off the group is definitely NOT considered the "good" outcome. It is possible to reason or coerce the boy out of the group in a few different ways. If you manage to talk the leader into peacefully letting the boy leave he will also give you the blueprint for a shish kebap (flaming sword), and the group will be friendly to you in any future interactions.

I never tried killing them all, and never tried getting the boy out without the goodwill of the leader, because that was always the sort of obvious "good" outcome in my opinion.

Now, tell me what you did with Tenpenny Towers! That moral minefield was the one where I played through it in almost every possible way, and none of the outcomes were at all satisfying to me. If you can tell me how to be "good" in that side quest, I am all ears and would probably even fire up the game again...
posted by Meatbomb 30 June | 07:28
Damn, I really need to get a system that can play this game.
posted by octothorpe 30 June | 07:34
Octothorpe: NO. SHIT. So do I. *whimpers like bladderfull dog*
posted by Lipstick Thespian 30 June | 08:46
Meatbomb- I don't think there IS a good outcome for tenpenny. No matter what it ends badly.

But, I didn't take the quest on my second run through since I decided I just had to kill mr. tenpenny. (hey, he had a contract out on me, and I got good karma for it!)
posted by kellydamnit 30 June | 10:16
So what are you-all running Fallout on? PS3, Xbox or PC? Given a choice, I'd buy a PS3 over the other three because of the Blu-Ray support. Does it play well on that? My only running Windows PC now is my laptop which from what I've searched won't play Fallout and I don't really want to spend money on a new computer just to play a game.
posted by octothorpe 30 June | 10:36
I have a 360. The downloadable add ons for Fallout aren't available for the PS3. They're going to eventually be released, but not yet. They've been hitting xbox at a rate of one every two months or so since January.

I can't justify a ps3- the CHEAPEST system is about $200 more than my mid-range 360 cost, and it doesn't play ps2 games. For maybe $30 over the cost of the ps3 you can get an xbox and a dedicated bluray player. Plus, there are more games for the 360.

Without getting into an obscene amount of detail, it's a lot more expensive to develop for the PS3 compared to the xbox and pc, and games can't be ported as easily, so developers are treating ps3 like an afterthought. The ps3 hardware is really, really impressive, but its so different from the 360 and computers that it can't be a straight port, and games occasionally suffer for it when they're brought over (fallout specific here ), or are released later. 360 has more exclusives, as well. Usually it's little things- a costume that can be unlocked or something, but that is telling in terms of where game developers put priorities.

Combined with a much smaller market segment, and you have people like Activision publicly threatening to stop development for the console completely unless sony drops the price since they lose money doing expensive ports that don't sell. (a week later rumors of a ps3 slim arriving this fall at a lower price started so...)

However, I'm a big supporter of the xbox. I had the last gen and loved it, and I love it now. So I'm not without my personal bias. (clearly) In general, you won't notice a difference in game quality unless you have the mother of all televisions. I think sony bungled this generation of consoles pretty badly. They were always the one to beat since playstation was so big, and then ps2, and now they're third behind Nintendo and Microsoft. If you are going to get a ps3 I'd hold off until fall and see if the rumored price drops materialize. They overplayed their hand with the high price and yanking backwards compatibility, and their target market didn't accept it. Maybe if it didn't coincide with the economic problems they would still be in the lead.

Oh and my roommate has Fallout on PC- he can do things like mod the game, which the consoles don't allow. I can't be 100% on what looks better, though, since he's playing on a brand new monitor and I'm playing on an ancient crt television. His obviously looks way better, but that doesn't mean mine wouldn't if I hooked the 360 into my monitor instead of our tv.
posted by kellydamnit 30 June | 12:03
By the way, for those who haven't played Fallout 3 yet--wait for the Game of the Year edition, due in October. It'll consist of the game plus five expansions for $60, and it's going to be released for the PS3.

Now, tell me what you did with Tenpenny Towers!

I used my incredible Speech powers to talk the racist residents into letting the ghouls move in. That ends... well, badly, but at least you don't take a Karma hit, you get a reward from Tenpenny, and you get a reward from the head ghoul.
posted by Prospero 30 June | 18:50
I'm playing via bootcamp (windows xp) on a new edition macbook pro. No problems at all running it, though, as expected, the graphics aren't anything close to what I've seen on a friend's console.
posted by treepour 30 June | 20:08
I used my incredible Speech powers to talk the racist residents into letting the ghouls move in.

And were you able to sleep at night with the blood of all those innocents on your hands, Prospero? :)
posted by Meatbomb 01 July | 01:21
Just some further detail on the original Family bit, here: there's a history of vampirism-as-subgame in Bethesda's work on the Elder Scrolls game (Oblivion most recently, which Fallout 3 owes a lot both engineering-wise and in terms of design aesthetic to, for better and for worse; Morrowind before that, and on backward in time beyond my direct knowledge).

In Oblivion, for example, vampirism is in fact contractible, and carries with it a mix of benefits and disadvantages—you are stronger, faster, more hale and charismatic, and you gain significant further benefits from refraining from feeding on human blood for longer stretches.

But at the same time you develop, from failing to feed, an increasingly deadly allergy to sunlight and a steadily more frightening visage; the former makes it hard to move from town to town (no trips longer than 12 hours, so a horse is a really good idea) and the latter makes it hard to walk through town without being scowled at and even assaulted.

So, paradoxically, you are significantly punished by the game for (a) being a vampire but (b) NOT preying on humanity. Sneaking into someone's house and sucking their blood while they sleep? That's what makes life easier for you, (and also what neuters your more significant vampirey powers). Immoral acts are required to pass for normal; morality in action reveals your nature as Other, with all the ostracization that comes with it.

And there are vampires all over the game, but you wouldn't know it from a casual glance because they're mostly just productive citizens who happen to have red eyes and a tendency not to be out so often during the day. One of the heads of local county government is a vamp, which you could go the whole game without ever knowing.

Another note, there: one easy way to get yourself cured of various afflictions is to pay a visit to the local temple and pray at the altar. Congrats, you are healed! Unless, of course, you're a bad person.

There's more than one way to be a bad person -- doing bad things more than good things is the general approach. But contracting vampirism? That counts too. Even if you didn't do anything. Even if you never sucked anyone's blood. Chaste of mind and pure in intent? Tough shit. You're a vampire. Get the hell out of our church, is what the gods have to say.

It's fair to say that Bethesda has a complicated thematic relationship with vampirism. So the whole The Family quest comes off a little differently with that background—you go into it, as a seasoned Oblivion player, knowing that there's something less than black-and-white as soon as the nature of the group comes into focus.

I found it a pretty satisfyingly nuanced quest in the end; obviously there were a few different ways to complete it, and killing didn't seem like a particularly good one once I'd had some conversations with the folks themselves, so I ended up finding a way to strike a deal with the leader and resolve stuff peacefully.

Vampires-as-queer-analog is certainly something worth chewing on, and I'm sure the comparison was not entirely lost on Bethesda, but in a game chock full of ready-made post-apoc societal analogues (what about the Ghouls as primo race-baiting metaphor? what about the literal slave trade? what about the problem of those great big apparently-sentient walking crab guys as a razor into the question of value of non-human life? and so on) and in the context of Bethesda's previous flirtations with vampire matters, I think it is a bit more cigar-as-cigar, moral-relativity-and-the-right-to-privacy framing than an attempt to primarily discuss gay rights.
posted by cortex 01 July | 09:07
I think we have a lot of cultural biases wrapped up in the glamor surrounding vampires. Everybody wants in on a vampire project. But there are other kinds of undead who have been put aside for too long. I don't mean zombies, either, who are really overrepresented in popular culture, or even mummies, who had their day in the sun. I'm talking about the thoroughly ignored undead: Shouldn't ghouls have their own movies? Aren't liches due for a Broadway musical? Where are literature's draugen love interests? Mega-budget ghast action heroes? Why this wall keeping wights out of the arts?

Most people would be happy to watch a sitcom about gay skeletons called "Skeletons in the Closet;" it's to our great shame that we can't spare our funny bones even token respect.
posted by Hugh Janus 01 July | 09:54
Oh wow, cortex, thanks. I'm pretty new to gaming and definitely new to Bethesda, so I had no idea. It's fascinating to see how my own projections are playing out against the background of this game, and how the game world is a lot more complex, in some ways, than those projections.
posted by treepour 02 July | 01:23
Yeah, Bethesda's an example of a company that seems genuinely interested in text (even though I have quibbles with how they realize that text in-game at times), and that can be kind of unexpected in the face of the prevailing tendency to focus on gameplay style over narrative substance.
posted by cortex 07 July | 14:17
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