Fallout series

  • Developer: Interplay Entertainment Black Isle Studios Micro Forte Bethesda Game Studios Obsidian Entertainment
  • Publisher: Interplay Entertainment 14 Degrees East Bethesda Softworks
  • Year: 1997 – 2015
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platform/s: Various

The Fallout series is a mixed bag in terms of representation. There are some definite representation positives, and some pretty substantial negatives.

For many, the relationship management system in Fallout 4 is a favourite, which was confirmed by respondents to the Queer Representation (2016) survey. Players enjoy the reliance on sharing experiences with characters to form bonds with them, rather than giving gifts, and that you can choose to be in a romantic or close platonic relationship with characters without losing any perks. It is possible to be romantically involved with multiple companions and while some respondents enjoyed this ability to explore polyamory, others had issue with the unrealistic lack of discussion or consequence connected to this mechanic.

For others, relationships in Fallout: New Vegas are better because, although there is not a specific relationship management system, flirtation is still possible between characters and dialogue includes more detailed and nuanced communication that feels organic and realistic. A respondent mentioned that queer characters reveal themselves more in Fallout: New Vegas when you purchase the 'Confirmed Bachelor' perk. This perk allows for unique dialogue options in-game with other men, and these can present interesting extra information about those characters that previously was unknown, including information about their sexuality.

Game lover and representation advocate Bilby Jones shared her thoughts about Fallout: New Vegas with me on Facebook, feeling that there is even more happening within the game in terms of representation, making their 'approach to sexuality ... one of the most nuanced and well executed. You have characters like Arcade and Veronica who don't come up and scream your sexuality at you, but rather reveal by getting to know them. Then there are quests like the one where you're hiring sex workers for the casino in freeside which is very sex positive, with a ghoul owning her sexuality and a male sex worker embracing a role that video games have previously only reserved for women. I would agree that the characters that only reveal their sexuality via perks aren't quite sufficient enough when you can't find that info out without the relevant perks, but I think it's important to note that none of these characters are playersexual, and they have their sexuality form part of their character, but it doesn't consume them. It's not super visible, but in a game about exploration I think that's okay. You discover these things in your own time, and part of me thinks that's more valuable than having a character wear their sexuality on their sleeve.'

Same-gender relationships are possible in Fallout 4, although there are some issues with the idea that all romanceable characters are playersexual, in that they will date the player-character regardless of gender if the player desires. There are some hints that Piper and Cait have attractions to people outside of the player, leading them to be less playersexual and to have their own identities and sexualities, but these are very subtle.

For many, it was an issue in Fallout 4 that, although there was this potential for same-gender relationships, the world itself did not contain any and the player-character is forced into a heteronormative relationship for the main narrative. For more discussion of the normativity in Fallout 4, QRM's founder has written this article: His Apocalypse: Normativity in Fallout 4.

One character in Fallout 4 has been taken by some as being a metaphor for a queer character, specifically a transgender character. KL-E-O is a robot who identifies as a woman and who the player-character can question, essentially pointing out that she does not look like a woman because of her metal plates. If this is a metaphor for a person commenting on the physical appearance of a transgender person and undermining their identity, it is quite insulting, and it has been taken this way by a number of players.

The character creators in the Fallout series also have a mixed response, with the variation and diversity of characters in the Fallout 4 creator making it the favourite for some (particularly in relation to skin imperfections and body types), but with others disliking it due to the imposed gender binary, which is reflected through gender-specific hairstyles and voices. Many respondents wish they were able to select the gender of themselves and their partner to reflect a more diverse family life, and specify that this need not change the narrative as it is of course possible for same-gender relationships to have children.

In Fallout 4, a minor character is mentioned through a holotape. It reads as follows: 'October 22, 2077. I finally told them tonight, and it was bad. Real bad. Dad was shouting, telling me I should be ashamed, that I had to get out of the house. Mom just cried, and somehow that hurt worse than anything else. She didn't say a word, not even when I packed my things. I can't go to John -- he doesn't even know yet. Maybe he'll never know. If it weren't for the cabin I wouldn't have a place to sleep. Just need some time to think. Last time I was here, I was just a little girl playing clubhouse in this old cabin. Now I'm really scared. Will anything ever be right again?'

Same-gender relationships have been possible in the Fallout series since Fallout 2 in 1998 and was also a feature of Fallout 3.