Hello from A MUCH BETTER PLACE than where I, and my family, had lived! I wrote earlier about our experience in trying to buy a home from thousands of miles away, but now we’ve arrived (in Michigan from Southern California, if you must know)! I’m not here today to discuss our property or the process in obtaining it, but to relay some photos and comments about our trip as well as a bit about the area we now live in. This is the first post in a series, and I promise, I’ll try not to be long-winded. I simply hope you enjoy the photos and any funny or interesting things that I can share.
Stephen Vincent Benet’s “By the Waters of Babylon”
The Influence of Psalm 137 and the surmised influence of the By the Waters of Babylon story in Honest Hearts
About Honest Hearts
The Fallout video game series takes a player on dangerous adventures through various regions of the United States after a future nuclear war with China has taken place. The series is one of the more successful in the “role playing game” (RPG) genre, taking place in “post-apocalyptic” times (2161 and forward). “Honest Hearts” is a 2011 add-on to the Fallout New Vegas game of 2010, taking place in what is Zion National Park in the real world, year 2281. While it’s obvious that people died in the park due to the historic nuclear cataclysm, the park itself is mostly unscathed by this point in time.
There are two outside leaders, both Mormon and both from the recently destroyed “New Canaan,” who lead two neighboring tribes, the “Sorrows” and the “Dead Horses,” in Zion Canyon. However, these two leaders have wildly different backgrounds and, not surprisingly, their views on how to handle the invading “White Legs” tribe are miles apart. It is no secret that the White Legs want to kill the Zion Valley inhabitants, just as they destroyed New Canaan. But what will the player do? Aid Joshua Graham and the tribals that wish to stay in Zion by meeting the White Legs head on, or will you side with the more pacifist Daniel and help the Sorrows flee the valley for a new home?
Having played Skyrim so much, and liking it (for the most part), I finally ventured to play some other Bethesda games. I played Fallout 3 for a while, then started Fallout New Vegas. I was initially not going to get the game at all, simply because of its name. I have no desire to go to Las Vegas, and deplore the “please sin in our city and enjoy committing adultery” TV ads put out from that place. I was concerned that the game might glorify sin, although I was a bit confident that Bethesda as a company – while trying to appeal to the widest possible audience for its games – was still not into the glorification of bad behavior.
I like role playing games (RPGs), which Skyrim and the Fallout series are (my son plays Borderlands and tells me it’s an RPG, but it seems to have less freedom about it and simply more shooting – I just don’t think of it as an RPG). Skyrim is more free however (and beautiful), it seems to me, with more rewards for exploration, than the Fallout games I’ve played so far. These games let you fulfill your desires for adventure, for completing difficult tasks, and for mystery-solving. So while these games are gory, crude (some sections of the games, and some game add-ons, have very crude language), and even sexual to a more or less degree, their verbal and moral choices contents are not much different than the real world. The gore in the Fallout series is pretty nasty though, and there’s no way to turn it down.
And if you didn’t know, the Fallout series takes place in the somewhat distant future, after a major nuclear war. The look is not futuristic, but more like retro 1950s (apparently evoking the falsehood of post-WWII optimism).
If you’re wondering if your teens should be allowed to play Fallout 3 or New Vegas, I think I would be criticized by many for saying “it depends.” Fallout 3 does not have the sexual content that New Vegas does, that I’m aware of (Fallout New Vegas has at least two females that you can “sleep” with, and they aren’t spouses), though it does have some pretty crude language in parts. The reason why I may seem wishy-washy about this is that, while I homeschool my son now, he had been to a small Baptist private school for two years, and what he heard and learned while there was nothing at all different than what is in the Fallout games. What kids are exposed to these days is horrible, not just that they learn bad words or sexual things, but that so many kids are very selfish and promote actions that hurt others a great deal (and these often involve sex). Truly, we live in a fallen world.
But to be more specific, Fallout New Vegas is not a game for older teens unless they’re very mature and have experienced the crudities of real life already (or read books with similar content). One can play Fallout New Vegas for the adventure and play a good character. Since it is an RPG, one can make all the best choices and do a lot of good in this fallen and war-torn part of the world, and basically ignore people and quests that are unethical. That’s part of what a role playing game is, after all. Whether you choose to let your older teen play it may depend, too, on your weighing of the game choices available for older teens. Do you choose games that are simply all shooting constantly, like Black Ops II, or Borderlands II–which is inbetween an RPG and first person shooter, in my view–, or games that are non-violent . . . well, you might be wishing for too much there . . . though there is Minecraft (which both my husband and son like to play) and sports games (which they don’t). And, of course, it would depend on your teen’s attitude – does s/he simply want to play a challenging game that is basically realistic, or are they out to experience a sinful fantasy? If the latter, then no matter the person’s age, there’s a problem there if one calls themselves a Christian.
Basically, these games are like living in a fantasy book, where you make the moral choices while battling for your life. And while dealing with gore. If the gore takes too much effort to deal with, don’t play the Fallout series. Skyrim has very little gore compared to these.
Some other comments. If you buy the Ultimate Edition of Fallout New Vegas, it comes with all the additional content. “Old World Blues” is good to play as early as possible since it has your own home in it with all the work stations, and talking appliances. It has quirky juvenile humor. “Dead Money” is very unpleasant and there isn’t much reason to play it, except for additional game play time (it is very gory and my husband even thought it was just stupid and low of Bethesda).
“Honest Hearts” is pretty, well, the scenery is quite a bit prettier than the main game’s map; it is in Mormon territory and this added content astonishingly quotes the Bible. This is pretty cool, actually, but the buzz I got from that dissipated upon hearing the outcome of the quest’s story. Main quests in the games have a visual story that plays when you complete them, showing different outcomes based on the decisions you made in the game. Because I helped the tribes defend themselves against the violent, slave-taking invaders, Bethesda chose to say that the tribes became militarized instead of just going back to their way of life. Wow, Bethesda, no on can defend themselves without becoming militarized . . . (pretty bizarre attitude for a violent video developer).
Another religious aspect of the game, though subtle and apparently confusing, is the inclusion of the Followers of the Apocalypse. This group has a very nice cross as its symbol and this is not hidden. They reside outside of the Vegas Strip in an old Mormon fort, while giving medical and educational aid to the area residents. If you visit the wiki site and read up on The Followers, you will read that they are a “secular humanist” organization. I’d like to know what secular humanist organization will use a cross as their symbol? Part of their reasoning comes from something the founder of the group said in an earlier game, about not worshiping so much as helping people. So, at least to a degree, one can’t blame atheists or anyone else for being confused about them.
What I don’t like about this aspect of the game is that while these people appear to be Christians, with their traditional cross flag and their type of aid that is traditionally Christian, they are in a Mormon fort. An uninformed player could easily get the impression that “Christian” and “Mormon” are the same, though they are not at all the same. Of course, Mormons have been pushing the Christian claim hard for some time now, but any real look into their main doctrines will show that many are diametrically opposed to basic Christian belief.
If you want an overall rating of the game, I’d say it’s OK. There are problems with it, like the multiple quest-arrow system that you can’t adjust or turn off, it not having a compelling enough main quest storyline, and – this is a biggy – when the main quest is completed the game is over. That is, you can’t play anymore unless you go back to a previous save. It’s very odd. Originally, I had finished the main quest before doing all the added content. I was shocked to find that the whole thing ended, so went back (the game does give you this choice before it shuts down). Frankly, I have no desire to play the game again, though the thought came to mind because of the additional “Old World Blues” content. It’s upsetting that it wasn’t a part of the original game; it doesn’t do anyone any good to get a fantastic and helpful home when the game is just about over . . .
If you’ve read any of my Skyrim posts, you’ll know that I like Skyrim quite a lot and recommend it. I’m writing this little post for parents, basically, who don’t know that much about video games. When I wrote my first post on Skyrim, I knew that there were games that were more violent and had more gore in them than Skyrim, of course. But after playing Fallout 3 – another Bethesda game with similarities to Skyrim, I wanted to share some thoughts.
Fallout 3 (2008) is violent and gory, no doubt about it. It is rated M for mature, but so is Skyrim (2011). Now, Fallout 3 is far gorier and has much more foul language in it (especially when the DLCs are added in), than Skyrim. So, how can anyone know about these games unless they play them? I mentioned in other posts how Skyrim has “passive gore” (bloody skeletons lying around), but that the game can become gorier if the right “perks” are chosen. With Fallout 3, one cannot turn down the gore. Comparing these two games, I’m surprised Skyrim isn’t rated T for teens; if the gore couldn’t be “turned up,” I imagine that it could be so rated.
Fallout 3 is definitely a grown up game, if anyone is interested in playing games like that. It is a high quality game, with lots to do and actually much humor. It has a lot more humor in it than Skyrim, and it is far far less glitchy, too. It is more challenging, for sure, and the atmosphere and information in it are worth thinking about (the game takes place 200 years from now, after China and the USA have a major nuclear war). It is like a morbid, crazy, and humorous Easter egg hunt for grown-ups. But, all in all, these games are for people who want to relax and have the time to do them. When I was a young adult, I was interested in my education and career, and rarely even watched TV. I’m not sure how alluring these games would have been to me, since they are quite “addictive” (who wants to stop looking for eggs in the middle of the hunt?), however. I believe this is something to consider when addressing game play of any kind with one’s kids.
From a Christian-cultural perspective, there’s one thing I think is neat about Fallout 3, and I wonder if it holds true for Fallout New Vegas (2010) or for the upcoming Fallout 4. This is the fact that Jesus is held to be the epitome of good in the game. Jesus is not talked about (that I know of right now), but when you behave well in the game and seek to be a good character, the term “karma” is used, but the image shown for the best levels are an image easily recognized as Jesus. While the game makes fun of people following any old thing in the name of religion, it obviously gives a nod to true good. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out how people make up religion and follow false prophets – it is something Christians should probably talk about publicly more, in fact. Are we interested in people knowing the truth and getting into heaven, or could we care less that people are so easily led astray? We are compared to sheep in the Bible, after all.