Out of all the games I’ve ever played, Fallout 4 is one of my favorites. Fallout 4 is an action roleplaying game by Bethesda Game Studios set within a post-apocalyptic world (think Mad Max or The Walking Dead), and one of the coolest elements about the game to me is (surprise!) the art. Not only does the game have incredible graphics designed by talented animators and other game designers, but the overall style of the game also has a story to it.
When you begin playing Fallout 4, you find yourself in a bright and cheery neighborhood somewhere in America during the far future but stylized to resemble real life’s 1950’s. This vintage look is a staple in the Fallout series, and for a first-time player might seem odd for a game revolving around a dystopian world full of action and violence.
You are able to choose to play either a woman or man and then appear inside your home alongside your husband or wife, depending on which one you chose to play, and your newborn son. Your house is clean and colorful, almost identical to the home interiors seen on shows like I Love Lucy with some futuristic household machinery sprinkled in.
You are part of the classic “nuclear family” (no doubt another piece of irony added by the game developers) in a classic, lovely home. When you leave your home with your baby to find shelter from the impending nuclear fallout, you can see the rest of the neighborhood is just as colorful and beautiful.
It truly looks like something straight out of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, another work that uses a satirical version of the 1950s to illustrate the stark difference between the fun, colorful surface of the world and the darkness that lies beneath.
After the nuclear fallout, the world is an incredibly different place. The colorful houses are abandoned and rotting, their pastel paint peeling off or already washed away. The shiny new cars in each driveway have been destroyed by the explosion and are left where they sit, now useless. Even the lush plants and lawns are scorched and dead not only in town but all over the entire in-game world. The only traces of color that remain are the colors of burnt homes and heaps of rubble.
When playing the game, all I could think about was the colors and shapes in the game before and after the fallout. As was popular in real life 1950s, all the furniture, appliances, and even houses were sleek and ergonomic. This all changes after the fallout with the fresh pavements being torn up by shrapnel and any new structures being built being made of mismatched scrap metal. The developers wisely chose a perfect era to showcase the absolute destruction of humanity and civilization through the imagery and art of the game.
I think that the developers used this contrast to really emphasize the barren and hopeless environment of the post-fallout world through art and design. Perhaps they also meant to suggest that the dangerous wasteland left over was always present behind the golden age of Fallout 4’s world, hidden behind its pink plastic shell. This is something that can be seen in the in-game ads that would have been posted long before the nuclear fallout, depicting families preparing for the very possible destruction of their world with eery serenity on their faces.
Just like before, this is another thing we see in our real world’s history. There were numerous threats to our world’s fragile beauty that was hidden beneath the surface as seen in this ad:
Bethesda Game Studios took the fairytale landscape of the 1950s and warped it into something much darker- which may not be palatable for most optimists, but is still an ingenious concept that has certainly attributed to the success of their several games.