I'm having trouble writing Fallout 4 posts, because I can't shake the feeling that I'm not currently playing Fallout 4. It's been a while since a game has made me feel this way. It hasn't quite started to invade my dreams, but I'm guessing that's probably because I haven't gotten much sleep since I started playing this game.
It's a weird feeling, exploring the world of the Boston wasteland. I've played several Bethesda games for this blog, but every one of those was one I'd already played extensively before. I knew their landscapes and potential even before I went in, so I was more of a tourist than an explorer. Here, everything is new, which is not something I've experienced in a long time. I can see diversions from the main quest, and I don't know whether it would be interesting or fruitful or simply inconvenient to swerve away from my determined course to check them out.
It's thrilling, but also a little overwhelming. There's just so much to see and do, and even the stuff that isn't a big deal can be fun and worth a detour. There's a neon-lit noodle stand that is almost certainly an homage to Blade Runner, staffed by a Protectron that only speaks Japanese. The Brotherhood of Steel has an airship. The first time it appeared, it crashed my game, but I reloaded and got a good look at it and it was sooo coool! There is even spectacle in the random environmental effects. I got caught in a radioactive storm with boiling green clouds with lightning jumping between them, and I was so awestruck, I could only stand there and let myself get irradiated, and for all the hundreds of hours I've played Fallout games, this was the first time I really felt like I was in an alien world whose dangers I could barely comprehend.
There are so many paths to go down. So much potential spectacle lying around every corner. I want to see it all. I want to do it all. Yet I know that my time is limited, not by my blog deadline (obviously, this is one that I'm going to go past 20 hours on), but just by my life. How long am I going to put my other hobbies and interests on hold to explore this game? How long before I become jaded by its particular brand of spectacle, and seek some other diversion? How much of the game will be wasted, and what will I lose out on when I inevitably move on?
I never finished Skyrim. That's one of my big gaming regrets. This game feels even bigger and more interesting. So now I have two monster games that I'll desperately need to revisit later on (and that's not counting all the other, not-quite-so-big-but-even-more-deep games that I've had the pleasure of prematurely abandoning). It feels like a big responsibility. Which is ironic, because if I let myself be irresponsible, then it is a duty that is a joy to perform. I want to go down a hundred blind alleys and poke my nose into various ruined buildings, to obsessively collect the various plungers, broken bottles, and screwdrivers that will become the raw material for wasteland settlements (not to mention the occasional odd high-tech super weapon). I want to meet a bunch of strange npcs and do random favors for them. I want to get lost.
But is that something you can do on purpose? I know myself. My mind will begin to wander. I won't lose interest, but I will gain interest in something else, and there will come a point where my enthusiasm for continuing will be 99%, and my enthusiasm for, say, building a rocket ship in Kerbal Space Program (yet another game where I quit due to sudden distraction) will be at 100%, and so I'll take a "little break," and then before I know it, it's years later, and I'm doing a Fallout 4 retrospective just in time to have to cut myself short to make room for Fallout 5.
It's a distressing cycle, and one that I know in my marrow to be unnecessary - for years Alpha Centauri was my only PC game, and I loved it - but I don't really see any way out. I live in a time of abundance, but there's only one me. I just have to accept that modern games live and die according to a pattern, and that my waxing and waning attention is part of that life. Like summer turning to fall, the initial high of post-release binge playing must eventually give way to benign neglect. It's the only way future games will have the space to live at all.
And while it's undeniably sad that I'm going to lose Fallout 4 before its time, that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate its beauty in this short time we have together. Summer may not last forever, but for now, it's long enough.