In the comments to the recent Characterization! essay, intrepid commenter Spivak asked:
Just curious, why are you discussing FO3 over FONV? The latter is superior to the former in regards to plot and characterization. FO3 was by the numbers like Thomas Kinkaide trying to ape Leonardo DaVinci. FONV is finding a forgotten canvas under the Sistine Chapel with “I am Leonardo DaVinci and I drew this for real.”
And if that didn’t derail these comments, how do you feel about Dragon Age where you are given a choice to have sex with an elf, regardless of your gender and orientation, or suffer lots of social disadvantages? Would this fall under the Skyrim “Why wouldn’t I?”
Since it’s easier to answer the second set of questions first, I’ll do that. Zevran struck me as someone who didn’t care about me personally, only about what I represented. I could be a man, I could be a woman. I could be an elf, a dwarf, or a human. Zevran would have come up and said “You remind me of a parking ticket because you got fine written all over you.” (Or whatever the arls give people who park their carts in the wrong place.)
And you know what? He did.
I prefered to chase after relationships with the folks who, at the very least, wanted me to ask them questions about themselves and figure out how to best hit on them.
Now the *REAL* question was the first one. Why discuss the characterization of Fallout 3 over New Vegas?
Well, primarily, it’s because Fallout 3 did an excellent job of working with you to create the character you were going to be playing and New Vegas did not.
Fallout 3, remember, started with the moment of your birth, worked with you as a toddler, worked with you as a 10 year old, worked with you when you took the GOAT, and finally worked with you as you found reason to leave the Vault and enter the world. Moreover, you received a couple of parental speeches from Aslan Himself before leaving to join the world. You knew who you were and you knew your father’s hopes and fears for you.
In New Vegas, you are told that you are a courier and your last delivery has taken a turn for the worse. We see Benny give you a speech, we see the moment of your death (great moment, if you ask me), and we see ourself wake up in the doctor’s room… but we know nothing about ourself from before the cut scene. Why were we a courier? Is there anyone who would miss us, were they to find we were shot in the head? Would Aslan notice our passing?
More interestingly, I saw an Extra Credits short (and I can’t find it! sorry! (but the Skyrim one is *VERY* good and talks about things that I wish that I had talked about)) that discussed what New Vegas could have done differently (just one thing in the doctor’s office):
Have the doctor say “hey, one of these things was found with you… I don’t know which one though. Which one of these things was yours?” And showed you a handful of items. Maybe a teddy bear. Maybe a water bottle. Maybe a picture of someone. *SOMETHING*. (Heck, here’s my take on that: they could have a +1 Stat item for you… are you going to take the +1 Str? +1 Chr? Do you not care because you’re min-maxing?) What you’d end up picking as the thing that you know is “your” item would help create a lifeline from “right now” to “who I was before” and help establish your character as more than a mere courier.
Fallout 3 came out and said that you’re a kid like any other number of kids. We’ve all had birthday parties, we’ve all had irritating multiple choice tests in school, we can relate 100% to our character in Fallout 3. New Vegas gives you a courier and says “this is you”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that New Vegas is the superior game by far and has depth and nuance to its missions that Fallout 3 didn’t. It’s just that Fallout 3 hooked you from the start and New Vegas relied on familiarity with the world on the part of the player. For those of us who grew up with Wasteland and *THEN* Fallout, that’s a safe bet on their part. For those who didn’t? Well, you saw the other comments in the Characterization thread.