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NOTE: This post originally published out of sequence by accident. The Management apologies for any confusion.

Some mild spoilers for a RR “clear out Malden” quest; lengthy digression into the rights/responsibilities of trying to help

Butch:

All I did was clearing synths out of Malden train station (what a PIT. Already been there TWICE. Raiders, now synths? No wonder your commute sucks) for the RR and H2R2 and all that. Have you done that? Did you get his goodbye? Cuz that would be an ok place to start. I also took Glory, so there’s some themey stuff, which isn’t bad for a half hour and a random “kill this shit here” quest.

And now, yet another Randolph Safehouse quest has popped. Have you done those? Cuz now I’m all “Go there, or go to the Glowing Sea which is WAAAAAY the fuck the other way.” Isn’t that always the way?

Feminina:

I did that Malden quest recently! Yay for symmetry! And yeah, the Malden T stop is a hole. Not literally, because unlike the one in the game it’s not underground, but they’ve really captured the ambiance. And the constant battles with raiders and synths.

I had Curie with me when I talked to Dr. Amari, and she liked me saying I was sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye to H2. His recorded farewell was kind of sweet, wasn’t it? And really makes me sound like an awesome person. I really AM out there doing good! Helping people! Yay me!

It was also an interesting look at the disconnect escaped synths feel–much like longtime prisoners trying to readjust to society, I suppose. After spending your whole life maintaining tunnels or whatever, with this very narrow focus, suddenly you’re free! But to do what? You have no connections, no history in the outside world, and even the friendly faces can only help so much. Makes sense, in a way, that you’d choose to forget everything and take on a new identity even to yourself: the ultimate witness protection program. “Even I don’t know who I was or what I used to know!”

I just did the second Randolph Safehouse bit. With Danse, because I figured he doesn’t have to know WHY I’m clearing out this area or for whom. I go places and kill people all the time! No big deal! Definitely not helping the hated synths right now.

Although damn it, I forgot to take away his hood! Next time.

Then I ran a couple of errands for the Brotherhood, which Danse again failed to care about (I’m helping YOUR organization here, buddy! show some appreciation!”), and I’m idly thinking about proceeding into the Glowing Sea, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Butch:

I had Deacon, said the same thing, and he LOVED it. Deacon! I didn’t think he’d go in for the mushy stuff, but hey. Multidimensional.

We did talk when we met H2 about the vagueness regarding whether the RR is doing what the synths actually want. Sure, Glory’s all for it, but do the ones like H2 WANT to be “rescued” or is the RR saying “this is for your own good, we know best” when they don’t? Are they just another side of Rex Grossman the Shakespeare guy? Is H2 better off? He certainly doesn’t seem all that thrilled. And you never hear him say “Thank heavens for the RR” or “I always wanted to be rescued” or anything. He seems to have been caught up in this whirlwind of the RR’s making.

It’s also a nice counterpoint to Curie’s love stuff. As I said, it was interesting to hear her say “I became a synth to feel.” Now we have a dude who is, essentially, becoming human (at least in his own mind) to STOP feeling. We, again, have this idea that synths are robots who only exist to work, or to wait to be switched into killers, turned on its head with the implication that synths are MORE feeling than humans. Even Glory seems to be the most passionate one in the RR.

Good game storytelling. Create a dynamic, then challenge it.

You’re gonna love Danse’s hair. He’s perfect for you. Moody, exoskeleton AND hair. Really, that’s what Garrus lacked.

We’ve been idly thinking of the Glowing Sea forever. Which means we’ll get there in two or three weeks.

Feminina:

I found Curie, but now I can’t find Deacon. I’m hoping I’ll run across him at some point while I wander around with Danse. I kind of want to travel with him some more, even though he doesn’t have great hair.

Yeah, forgot to mention Glory: I kind of like her. “The Commonwealth is a dangerous place…for anyone who gets in my way.” Damn straight! It was fun to do that bit with her, and she probably would have been extremely useful to have around if we’d come to that fight a little earlier in the game. At this point, I could easily have handled it on my own, but her giant gun certainly didn’t hurt. Well, didn’t hurt ME.

And it was an interesting look at the logistics of the RR, that two people are sent to the same job because their secrecy is so tight they don’t even realize they’re overlapping. Although I kind of agree with Desdemona that overlap is a risk worth taking to safeguard their locations…I mean, they WERE almost wiped out by the Institute once before.

Also agree that Curie/H2’s responses to feeling are interestingly contrasted. Curie is all “this is so great! I’m overcome by emotions! I love it!” But then, she definitely chose and sought out this experience, as well as being maybe better prepared for it because, being programmed as a scientist, she’s able to appreciate it AS an experience. Meanwhile poor H2 is just some guy, basically, who apparently didn’t particularly care about broadening his emotional horizons, and was not prepared in any useful way (either through programming/personality or through any very effective “entry program” for new arrivals) for the experience of life on the outside, and he, perhaps understandably, just wants AWAY from being overcome by emotions.

And we could say that Curie is excited about love, a generally positive emotion, while H2 is more talking about fear and anxiety, which are negative emotions, so obviously they have different reactions!–but I don’t think it’s that simple. Curie does earlier mention more general emotions, doesn’t she, shortly after she gets her new body?…she talks about being swamped by FEELINGS, with an implication that all this fighting she’s done at your side before feels different now that she has adrenaline and so forth (I may be reading into her dialogue somewhat, but that was my takeaway)…she was confused by it, but she had the programming/personality to adapt, to accept the negative emotions of fear and work through them, and she got to the happy feelings of “yay, I’m in love!” (Probably soon to be followed by the tragic feelings of “oh no, the object of my affection is running around with someone else!” because oops, EVERYONE MUST LOVE ME…but she’ll probably get through that too.)

I get the feeling that it was the attitude going into it that makes the difference. Curie WANTED this, thought a lot about it beforehand, and was prepared: H2…we’re not really sure how he felt about it, but based on his attitude, it was at least ambivalent. But he does want this next step, of forgetting/reprogramming, which as you say is framed by him as being about NOT feeling anymore, but which also, in the long run, could be seen as an attempt to come to terms with feelings. I mean, he’s choosing to believe he’s human…humans have feelings, so he presumably is aware he’ll have them in the next stage of his life, he just expects that with the new (even though artificial) context in which they occur, they’ll make sense to him and not be so overwhelming.

Even though he says he wants to be free of the fear and anxiety, he’s wanting to achieve that not by erasing his emotions entirely (he doesn’t wish he could have his brain transferred to a Mr. Handy Robot), but by adopting a new state of mind that, unlike his own, can handle them.

Butch:

I like Deacon. I want to figure out what he’s about. But I doubt I’ll be able to.

I, too, like Glory.

You make anything of the fact she’s black? It seems a pointed choice.

It’s interesting that, if you were with Deacon, he had side banter with Glory about how stupid the leadership is. Neither one of them seems all that fond of Desdemona.

As for the emotions, Curie is also very, very naive. She doesn’t seem to grasp that being a synth can get you killed just for being a synth. Racism and fear don’t seem to occur to her in her literal scientific world. H2 understands completely that if he’s found out he’s dead.

They don’t seem to get heartbreak. It would be interesting if they did. Seeing Curie learn about the world like that would’ve been a good wrinkle.

And….incoming Fallout 3 recall!

We saw the RR there. And a synth that had been reprogrammed to think he was human (probably by Amari). I’ve mentioned this. And, when pursued by the Institute, the RR agent you meet doesn’t say “Go kill the Institute guy and leave everyone be,” no, the RR guy wants to TELL the synth he’s a synth and get him out of Rivet City. So the RR seems to a) keep tabs on these folks they reprogram and b) is willing to risk life and limb to redo their work, even if the synth in question a) doesn’t want them to or b) has no idea who the fuck they are.

Which really puts them squarely in the meddling overprotective category as well. Even though he’s “choosing” to believe he’s human, in order to avoid the fear of a “choice” of being rescued that I’m not entirely sure is a choice, all those choices could become undone if the RR, in their sole discretion, calls for a do over. They’re not, if Rivet City is an indication, all that willing to say “Good luck, H2, it’s been real.”

Feminina:

Hm. I didn’t really make anything of the fact that Glory is black, other than, “hey, nice to see an interesting character who’s black,” but I’m sure there’s a discussion to have about her. We haven’t really touched on race much. I think that they’ve done Bethesda’s usual decent job with random human NPCs (raiders, settlers, townsfolk, etc.), who have a good range of diversity in terms of male/female and black/white (not really much in the way of recognizable other races, that I can think of, other than Dr. Amari and perhaps Dr. Carrington), but there isn’t as much going on there when it comes to major NPCs. As we mentioned briefly at one point, most of the human companions appear to be white (and we constantly joke/complain about the one who isn’t because he’s always giving us work to do).

Glory’s design felt slightly reminiscent of Tina Turner in Mad Max (which as we’ve covered I only saw once about 100 years ago, so I could be misremembering, but basically she was a badass black woman with shaggy pale hair, right?).

Interesting that she chats with Deacon about the flaws of the RR leadership. And interesting FO3 input, which does make the RR seem to have some serious “we know what’s best for you!” issues around synths. Perhaps an indication of the way that helping people can lead to a feeling of ownership over their lives. “I did something for you that you couldn’t do for yourself, so now I get to tell you how to live because I obviously know better than you about EVERYTHING pertaining to you.”

I mean, the RR does in fact help (some) synths and believably cares about their rights/safety, but does that mean that in some ways they feel they know best about every synth’s life, to the point of disregarding (or simply not thinking to ask for) individual synths’ preferences? Entirely possible.

And a nice ‘complexification’ of the organization…which, again, Bethesda is pretty good at. Few things are all good or all bad, and they really go out of their way to make that clear (even within a single game, and certainly with the perspective of multiple games to consider).

Butch:

Well, it’s a split between the starry eyed (if annoying) synth who wants to build a society where everyone is equal and free, and the one who’s angry, willing to do anything to save her own kind, and is willing to take some revenge on the way. There’s been some of that push and pull in every struggle for equality ever.

It was also interesting to see Glory’s reluctance to kill Gen 1s. She was all “Can’t we just chase them away?” and Deacon was the one who convinced her it was the only way.

They didn’t change Tina’s real hair much. 80s hair fit right in with a stylised post nuke world. Where do they get that hairspray?

And this dynamic of “I can choose better for you than you can” is also something forced upon the player. How many times do you save a settlement and then become the sole arbiter of how much food, water, defense, resources and disco balls it gets? I’ve saved you, now I own this piece of land. It’s easy to criticize the BoS for it, cuz they’re arrogant fucks, but it’s really all the same. I find it interesting that the BoS, RR and Minutemen have two things in common: relative arrogance about being the ones who know what’s right, and hating the Institute. We THINK the Institute is the bunch of know it alls out for world domination, but are they? Cuz it sure seems if they’re the antithesis to all this….

This game was criticized for its writing, and I don’t really see that. I mean, ok, there may not be any memorable speeches in cutscenes, but I think the way it’s telling a thought provoking story (or series of stories) is well written. It’s funny, cuz FO3 took the same abuse. I’m not sure why the point of these games, which I think is pretty damn obvious, goes over so many heads. Maybe because we’re used to games telling one epic story and something more episodic doesn’t fit? I dunno. I think this game is doing very well with themes, at least once you get into it, and keeping it interesting by turning that theme over and over, showing different complexities (which is what FO3 did so well). And yet, it gets whacked in the press for “bad story.”

Back off, press.

Feminina:

I noticed that, when Glory asked “couldn’t we just chase them off”…Deacon wasn’t with me, so me and Curie were both kind of just like “enh, I wish” and we proceeded. But I’m with her: if I COULD just chase them off, I probably would. Although the one time I did let someone go, she ratted me out later, so probably if we could chase them off they’d return and kill us all…not that I regret not killing Trish in cold blood, because honestly I don’t particularly begrudge her having ratted me out–it’s not as if we had some close relationship.

It’s true, that attitude of “I know best/will run your life for you” is basically forced upon us with settlements. Even though we’ve frequently complained about it, in a “you’re all grown adults, build your own damn shacks/beds, how do I know what will make you happy?!” way, and would be delighted to just click a “manage your own settlement as you see fit” button and let them work it out for themselves. I mean, that wouldn’t be nearly the obsessive minigame that settlement maintenance is now (even if they sometimes sent you messages like “while you’re out looting, could you pick us up some ceramic?” which would be a reasonable thing to ask of a person who gets around a lot and has a vague general interest in your well being), and I think that’s a large part of why you have to manage settlements so closely, but certainly it’s also relevant from a thematic standpoint.

Yes, I killed off some feral ghouls on this spot and put up a radio beacon telling people it would be a good place to settle: why does it necessarily follow that I am the best person to decide what gets planted where, who stands guard, where the shacks with rows of beds are set up, etc.? All we can really tell from that is that I’m good at killing things! Why does that make me a good people-manager? Unless the answer is “because you can rule by fear, which is awesome and totally the best way to rule!” (but which is not really true considering the settlers lack of concern about telling you their complaints about “the bed situation,” etc.) I don’t think it applies at all.

And as I’ve also said, I LIKE that there’s something to do in the game that’s not focused on killing things (except when it is, like when you have to go deal with yet another infestation of raiders at the Corvega plant)–I like that they include a mechanic for building in the waste, as well as for destroying/looting. I like to feel that I’m doing something useful, and indeed, by killing a bunch of raiders these people couldn’t take on themselves, I’m doing something for them that they couldn’t do for themselves. I like that settlements exist.

But the fact that I like to feel useful doesn’t mean I want to or find reasonable that I have to make every decision about these peoples’ lives for them forever after, and yet that’s how it works out…and the fact that the Railroad apparently feels it has to make decisions about synths’ lives for them forever after, too, is an interesting look at maybe what the game feels that ‘ordinary people’ need/are capable of, as well as a questioning of that.

What if these settlers (or synths), left to their own devices, would make terrible choices and all wind up dead? (Remember Oberland Station!) Is that up to them? Is it fundamentally our (or the Railroad’s) right, or responsibility, to make sure that doesn’t happen?

After all, another take on “I saved you so I own you” is “if you save someone’s life, you’re responsible for them.”

Arguably, saving synths and then standing by while they make self-destructive decisions and wind up dead (thus wasting all the effort you spent saving them and could potentially have spent helping someone else) is like picking someone out of the frying pan and dumping them in the fire.

“I saved you, run along, you’re on your own now” also feels like the wrong call…like ‘rescuing’ a bunch of animals from a pound and setting them loose in the wild where they’re immediately eaten by animals that actually know the first thing about the wild. One could argue about whether they’re better off probably dying in terror than living in cages, but on the whole you wouldn’t really have done them a HUGE favor there.

On the other hand, there’s a point at which you have to say “I got you out of the frying pan and set you down away from the fire, and if you want to walk back into it, that’s your call, because you are an adult and you get to make choices about your own life, which is yours to live and not mine.”

Maybe the RR, and us with our settlements, are kind of both trying to negotiate that balance. Where is the point at which we no longer have the right/responsibility to make decisions for the people we’ve saved?

Which of course, in the grand scheme, comes back to the parent/child theme that lurks behind the game. When do you have to protect your kids, even if they don’t appreciate that that’s what you’re doing, and when do you have to step away and let them make their own choices? When does your attempt to protect them become, in fact, inappropriate and intrusive? When does the parent need to back the hell off?

I like to imagine (though it’s a rather obvious interpretation) that the PC accepts this micro-managing role towards the settlements largely because he/she is unable to be a parent to the lost Shaun, and this fulfills some of the nurturing/parenting urges that will never be able to be expressed towards the actual child–but certainly other people could play it differently.

Butch:

It was one of the rare times in this game that NPCs talked to each other, which stood out. This game is rather sparing on that. And Deacon was all “We have to.” Didn’t Deacon take the stance of “we can’t save them all” when that whole “who is worth saving” bit came up early on in the RR line?

You having to personally manage settlements is relevant thematically, and in a sneaky way. The game kind of tricks you into doing it, and, here’s the thing, CARING about doing it. I want the little things to like me.

It also sets up a little mirror to you: When you ignore them, they’re likely to die, and how much do you care about that? Even though I’ve decided that I just don’t have time for all of them, when I leave a new settlement knowing I don’t care, I get a little pang of guilt. I should WANT to micromanage these people.

Or it’s doing what games do best: tricking you into becoming something you look down on. Sure, we can judge the BoS. But we’re actually choosing to do the things they’re doing. I mean, even when we’re talking about them, we joke, but our jokes have a tinge of seriousness to it. We’re genuinely exasperated (at least I am) that they’re not thrilled even though I GAVE them a beer bot and a disco ball. “I gave you what you’re SUPPOSED to like! I would like that! You should, too, you ingrates!” Which is what the RR and the BoS do, and we criticize them for it.

I was thinking about the parent aspect, too, that parental when to back off dynamic, especially in light of the fact that Shaun is growing up. When we last saw him, he was a baby. Indeed, we say “I’m looking for my baby” about a dozen times. Now we know, from Kellogg’s memory, we’re not looking for a baby. He is, at the very least, a child, and probably older than that. And yet our story, our main story, hasn’t changed. We’re looking the same way we were before, when we were looking for “our baby.” How’s that gonna unfold?

Feminina:

I think Deacon was a bit dismissive of the Gen-1s when it came up before…didn’t he say something along the lines of “it’s like defending the rights of a Protectron”? So he’s drawn a distinct line there in terms of ‘synths we save’ and ‘synths we don’t care about.’ Which one kind of has to do to get stuff done…it’s like saying “well, I’m going to focus on working for human rights, and not for orangutans” or something.

It is interesting the way the game essentially makes you, the PC, into a faction with your own approach to dealing with people, just as the BoS, the RR, the Institute, whatever are factions with their own approaches. Do you micromanage and try to make settlements happy, or do you abandon them? Do you pick favorites? Do you do the bare minimum?

I don’t know, though, ARE we still looking for Shaun in the same way we were looking for him when he was a baby? In my head, the meaning of the search has changed. I mean, yes, we’re still looking for him, that hasn’t changed at all, but at first it was a kind of “my helpless baby is out there somewhere!” urgency, and now–again, in my head at least–it’s a kind of wary, “I don’t even know what he’ll be like when I find him, but I have to find him” feeling.

I personally am very aware of the fact that he’s no longer the baby I last saw him as, and so I imagine my character also having complicated feelings about what it’s going to be like to finally meet this total stranger who is at least a child now and possibly even older. Yes, I’m still looking for him: I HAVE to keep looking for him, because I think I have to know who he is now even though it’s clearly not going to be anyone with whom I have the kind of connection I remember from his infancy.

But that was only six months ago or whatever, on my timeline, so it seems realistic to imagine that I wouldn’t have just given up, and I don’t know if I agree that I’m still searching in the same way that I would if I thought he was still a baby. I think there’s a little less urgency, because I know he’s NOT my baby (although this may merely be justification for the constant sidetracks I keep jaunting off on).

I know that whoever he is, he’s lived to this point without me, and however horrible the loss still is, it’s no longer the horror of “my tiny baby is out there and I am afraid for him because what if someone is not taking care of him” or whatever…I know he was taken care of as a baby, at least well enough to grow up into this kid, and to some extent I think that makes it easier to trust that somehow he’s still alive somewhere, even if it destroys my initial hope of getting back MY baby and raising him myself.

So…yeah. I don’t know. I guess I think that even though we’re still looking for our son, that doesn’t mean we still think he’s a baby and necessarily expect to immediately take over parental duties as if he were a baby. I think at this point I just want to know what happened to him–the search for me is potentially as much about closure as it is about reunion (possibly a closure that I dread as much as I want it, giving more justification for my frequent sidetracks).

But again, this is how I’m playing it, and not how it’s explicitly written, so there could be a lot of ways to approach this story.

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