I like to call myself the Slowest Gamer Ever. I’m sure that isn’t strictly accurate, but I tend to be several years behind the curve when it comes to popular games everyone else has already played. I go for long stints where I don’t play anything except mobile games and maybe the odd MMO.
Among other things, this means I still haven’t finished several of the games I list among my favorites. The Fallout series definitely suffered from this. I adore the setting and its aesthetic, I think of it whenever I see something from even a vaguely related time period, and I probably own more merchandise from that series than I do any other game. But until recently, I hadn’t played Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas since 2012, and I didn’t buy Fallout 4. I kept meaning to get back to the series, but for one reason or another, it just never happened.
Then Trump got elected.
Like most millennials, I don’t remember the Cold War as anything but a somewhat distant period in our history. I remember being afraid of nuclear war as a kid anyway because I read a lot and I worried about pretty much everything, but at some point, I accepted that the ever-present risk of nuclear war had ended when the USSR collapsed.
Over the past few years — mostly thanks to increasing aggression from North Korea — nuclear war has started to feel like a slightly more realistic fear again, or at least within the realm of possibility. The cavalier way Trump talked about nuclear weapons on the campaign trail was unnerving even when I didn’t think he could possibly win (and arguing with people who told me Clinton was more likely to start a nuclear war was incredibly frustrating). But watching him provoke both China and North Korea before he even took office — on Twitter, no less — was a lot worse. Suddenly, I was worrying about nuclear war again, only I had reason to this time. I wasn’t sure if I could deal with returning to the Fallout games after all. It was all a little too real, and the use of China as the enemy in the Great War felt uncomfortably prophetic.
It was like adding insult to injury: in among my fears about what the Trump administration would do to harm marginalized people and destabilize foreign relations, there was this extra little twist of bitterness that they might have taken away my ability to enjoy a short escape from reality with one of my favorite games. A friend of mine encouraged me to get back into Fallout 3 anyway, though. So I made time for it and discovered that the world presented in these games struck me as paradoxically hopeful in exactly the same way it always had — that is, before I thought it had any potential to reflect the future.