Fallout. The first counter-argument I’d bring to the table if debating with the famous film critic Roger Ebert, who once claimed that video games can’t really be art.
And by Fallout I mean the first two titles in the series. In my opinion, most games aren’t really “high art”, but rather an interactive form of entertainment. However, there have been some games that managed to cross the line between their own, limited medium, and ascend to a higher plane.
Unfortunately, there’s a fundamental property of the video games domain that prevents them (in some people’s eyes, anyway) from aspiring to the “art” label, and by that I mean freedom of choice. The “human” element. Ebert (and others) claim that a mandatory prerequisite of art is that the object must retain its authorial form, unmodified and untainted.
In a way, I agree with the ol’ chap, but I reckon art (in any form) changes shape depending on the spectator’s perception of it. Seen this way, if the consumer’s feedback is expressed through squeaks, tears, laughter and various states of exhilaration when facing the big screen, we can experience the same amount and complexity of mind-boggling philosophy, literary devices and brilliant “acting” (in a broader sense) in front of our PCs, too. On top of that, games give us the opportunity of being "there", in the middle of it all, and doing stuff differently.
Naturally, it’s not enough to have just a bright display of moving lights to label something as being “art”. The artists themselves have to be more than video game producers. They have to be gifted with the ability of making a reality interesting and complex, to understand classic mediums before aspiring to the alternatives. And most of all, they have to care more about the quality of their creation rather than the number printed on their paychecks at the end of the day.
That said, I’m not completely sure the artisans down at Bethesda were perfectly aware of the importance of the Fallout license when they bought it from Interplay in order to make a sequel.
Once upon a time, after the bombs fell…
The backstory of the series describes a world that once took a left turn where we went right. We don’t really know when this historical divergence occurred (although it’s certain that it happened after the Second World War), but the result was a world both very similar and very different to ours.
A world in which scientists were able to master the power of cold fusion, where the U.S. of A are divided into 13 Commonwealths at the beginning of the 21st century, China invades Alaska in the winter of 2066 because of their desperate need of petroleum, and Canada is forcefully annexed by the United States for the same reasons in 2072. And that’s just the broad picture (Would you like to know more?).
Sadly, all the accomplishments of this version of humanity are wiped off the face of the Earth on the 23rd of October, 2077. The date of the Great War. When the nuclear bombs proved once and for all that “War never changes”. No one knows who pushed the button first, or why. Not like it makes a difference anyway.
The construction of anti-nuclear shelters, called Vaults, allowed a small percentage of the United States’ population to get away unharmed. It’s just that at one point in the Fallout series, it’s revealed that these Vaults weren’t designed to preserve human life in case of a nuclear apocalypse, but rather as playgrounds for various social experiments (Would you like to know more?).
The first two Fallout games take place in California and Nevada and are directly linked through the story and the fact that the protagonist in Fallout 2 is a direct descendant of the Vault Dweller from the first game.
However, the events in Fallout 3 take place in 2277 – more than 30 years after Fallout 2 is over – on the eastern coast of the U.S. Namely, in Washington D.C.