I’ve talked a little bit about being a D&D nerd back in the day; My interest was intense for a period of time in the 6th grade, and then casual for a few years after that. I was also into a sister game called Gamma World, which was basically D&D in a post-apocalyptic setting. Something about this game caught my interest a lot more than dragons and swords. Some history:
In 1982, my family moved from blue-collar New Jersey to a town in white-collar Connecticut, and I started at a new school. We were bused in from a remote cul-de-sac on the far side of town. I was pretty isolated until school started (the only other kid on our street was two years younger, and all he wanted to do was sit inside and play Mrs. Pac Man) but after a rocky couple of weeks I met up with a guy who lived less than a half-mile from my house through the woods. He introduced me to a bunch of his friends, who lived nearby, and one of the things we bonded over was a game I’d never heard of before: Dungeons and Dragons.
I didn’t understand how the game worked at first. There were dice, and rules, and they gave me a character to play, and I enjoyed using our imagination to solve problems. We played on and off again that fall, between building forts in the woods around our houses, riding bikes, and Pitfall! I enjoyed one of the best Halloweens of my life that year when my friend’s father showed us how to melt the plastic tip of a can of shaving cream to shoot the foam in ten-foot streams; we roamed in and out of epic battles with older neighborhood boys, using our knowledge of the local woods to escape and regroup.
My parents gave me the beginner’s box set of both D&D and Gamma World that Christmas, and after that I was obsessed. We played through the spring until school let out, when my friends vacationed out of town. I spent a lonely August swimming in the pool, reading books from the library, and creating Gamma World campaigns for my friends to play through when they all got back.
That fall, we started at the middle school across town. I was dumped into a new system where I knew no one, and all of my friends from 6th grade had dissolved into other classes. D&D suddenly wasn’t cool in the cutthroat atmosphere of 7th grade, and I was adrift in rough social waters.
When we moved to New York, I spent one lonely semester in 8th grade until I made it up to the High School, and found new friends. One of the things we did was play D&D and Gamma World informally here and there; I’m not going to lie, but I miss those Coke and pizza-fueled sessions with friends, because we had a great time. (I remember an epic 10-hour session during an ice storm my Junior year).
Fast forwarding, I had a little credit with Amazon last week and decided to find a game that Finn and I could play, as well as one that I’ve been dying to try for years: Fallout 4. Fallout is a series that’s been around since 1997, but Fallout 4 was released two years ago. It’s as if they took about 90% of Gamma World and made a video game out of it. You control a character who awoke from a cryogenic vault 200 years after a nuclear war, and you spend the game wandering a gigantic wasteland, killing evil humans and radiated monsters (if you can) while picking up objects along the way. You can use these objects to craft new weapons, structures, or special items. You can start settlements for people, working to keep them happy and safe. You can find special powered armor suits which help you defeat huge, powerful monsters. In short, everything that was cool about Gamma World but without your friends playing by your side.
I’m already about 20 hours into the game and I can’t put it down.