Can Fallout 4 Predict Who You’re Voting For In 2016? – Rethinking


Does Fallout 4 know who you’re voting for? Oh shut up. It’s no secret that game developers mine the real world for influences on their
games. Hell, we have an entire series here on this channel devoted to meticulously pointing
out, like, every minute cultural, literary, and whatever-the-hell else references and
influences that are hidden within video games. But are politics really in our games? I mean,
really? I mean, games are universal, and appeal across ideological backgrounds, at least in
the West. Conservatives, liberals, we all like ourselves some Fallout, Mass Effect,
Skyrim, and whatever the hell else. So it’s unlikely that a game developer would
intentionally politicise its game, unless that were the point of the whole thing. And
that’s not the point of Fallout, right? Fallout’s about shooting ghouls, raiders,
and picking up every spare piece of trash you can fit in your pants. Oh, wait, there’s…a main plot? Oh, you
mean the whole “who’s gonna rule the wasteland” thing? RIGHT. I…kind of forgot about that
whole thing. That’s right. There’s the Institute, a relic of the old world, which
has all the best technology, which is not for you! There’s the Brotherhood of Steel,
which is also a relic of pre-war America, a faction born out of the United States military.
They also have a bit of a technology fetish, but are a bit more reserved. They fight with
lasers and plasma, wear power armor, and think that they average person shouldn’t be allowed
to touch their shiny stuff. Then there’s the railroad: radical underdogs who live in
the sewer, fighting to free Synths from what they believe is the tyrannical overlords at
The Institute. And that’s it! Three impressive, powerful, and ideological factions who are
willing to fight for their cause and–oh shit I forgot about the Minutemen. Um. There’s
them, too. They go around the wasteland building houses. Well, actually, YOU go around the
wasteland building houses. Each of these factions holds strong ideals,
many of them conflicting. You know what other factions hold strong ideals, want control
of America, and are willing to fight over it? Political Parties. If you live in the
United States right now, in fact, it’s basically impossible to miss what’s going on outside
your door. The biggest political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are currently
picking their main champions gladiatorial style to see who’s going to face off in
the big fist fight over the country. Okay, that’s not actually how it works, but this
video can only be so long, and there’s no way I can even begin to explain how presidential
primaries work, or the electoral college. I’m off track. In the west, we typically describe these two
different parties as being either “Left Wing” or “Right Right Wing,” left being
what is classically called “liberal” and the right being “conservative.” This is
slang that dates back to like, forever ago, and it doesn’t even come out of America.
It actually comes out of France. It references the seating arrangements in the French Parliament
after the revolution, where the rich aristocracy sat on the right side, and the commoners sat
on the left. So the historic image is that the “right” represents the rich establishment,
usually championing tradition, slow and cautious social change if any at all, whereas the left
is said to represent protecting the poor and disenfranchised, and often calls for swift
action and aggressive social and economic change. Now these are gross oversimplifications of
these two diametrically different worldviews, but even with this really basic way of looking
at politics and philosophies you can already see patterns emerging, both in the ways that
modern political parties market themselves to voters and, well, in the what the Factions
of Fallout 4 fight for. But it all feels kinda…basic? Doesn’t
it? And unsatisfying. Left and right. That’s not very descriptive at all. And it doesn’t
explain how organizations that may be more closely aligned want to fight each other tooth-and-nail. Well, it turns out that this left-right divide
is incredibly basic. In fact, most serious political scientists don’t even consider
looking at politics this way. I mean, look at the United States. We have Cruz, Trump,
Clinton, Sanders–and that’s just in 2016. On a simple left-right graph, they don’t
look different at all. Well, for starters, everyone’s fucking weird.
You get two democrats in a room and they talk long enough, they’ll disagree about something.
It turns out lumping people together into broad groups doesn’t actually tell you a
lot about an individual person. You see this a lot in Fallout 4, too. Deacon talks about
how members of the Railroad will argue for hours about whether or not, say, turrets and
toasters should have rights. And in the Institute, they’re far from a united front. There are
a few folk inside who think that maybe Synths should be treated as human, or there’s Dr.
Li, who thinks that making child Synths is wrong. Political Scientists hate this flat plane
because…well, look at it. Like if I tell you I’m right-or-left-leaning, what does
that tell you? Not much. That’s why most folk who dabble in politics actually use multiple
axis if they’re going to try to visualize an entire person’s political perspective,
and VOILA, you get QUADRANTS. Now, of course, nobody can entirely agree on what metrics
are best to measure by, because, as it turns out, people are STILL TOO COMPLICATED for
even TWO planes. Go figure. One of the most commonly-used charts is the Nolan Chart, which
was created by David Nolan in 1969, who for whatever reason turned his chart 45 degrees
just to irritate me. Actually, Nolan was the first person to make a chart like this. The
two axis measured are Social Freedom and Economic Control. This is the same basic way of looking at politics
that sites like Political Compass use. The top right being Low-Social Freedom and Low
Economic Control, the bottom right is High Social Freedom and Low Economic Control, the
bottom left is High Social Freedom, High Economic Control, and and last, the upper left corner
is Low Social Freedom, High Economic Control. For quick reference with some extreme examples
most of the Republican candidates for the United States right now are Upper-Rigthers,
almost nobody is a lower righter, Ghandi was a lower left, and Stalin was upper left. But what the hell does this mean for Fallout
4? It basically doesn’t have an economy. Well. No, it doesn’t. It does have bottlecaps,
but shit they’re basically a barter-system, there’s nothing really nuanced there. But
fuck it. These charts are, after all, just a tool to help us understand the world. So
let’s put on our political science hats and make our own goddamn charts. There isn’t
really control over the economy, but what there IS is control over technology. So what
if we scrap the economics plane altogether and replace it with Technology? That paints
a whole different picture. If the right is high control over technology and we retain
social liberties, damn do we get something different. All the way in the upper right we have The
Institute, with it wanting to maintain incredibly strict control over technology. They score
low on social freedom because they want to keep synths under control, and worse than
that, they actually replace key leaders in the Commonwealth with synths in order to maintain
control. So that makes sense. Down here in the bottom right we have the
Brotherhood of Steel, which honestly isn’t quite as extremely down south as the Institute
is up north, mostly because almost nobody inhabits that region at all. They’re way
less focused on controlling the wasteland, though they really do care a lot about the
conduct of their own. Still, they’re HIGHLY invested in keeping technology under control.
They’re not quite as extreme as the Institute in this regard, since they will trade, but
on the other hand they want to crush the shit out of any tech they don’t approve of. They’re
definitely diametrically opposed. Let’s zoom over to the bottom left, with
lots of social freedom and lots of availability of technology. The Railroad is about smashing
the Institute to bits so they can’t control a) Synths or b) the rest of the Commonwealth.
In fact, their core philosophy is about liberation, so they’re definitely pretty far down here.
They also score high on freedom of technology, since they use it very liberally themselves,
and in fact if you actually DON’T consider synths to be people, this only validates the
point further because they want to relieve the Institute of this and redistribute synths
and tech to the rest of the population. It also makes a ton of sense that they wouldn
be opposed to the Brotherhood. In fact, they’re opposed even more so than the Institute is.
The Institute merely views the Brotherhood as a possible military threat, whereas the
Railroad views both the Institute and the Brotherhood as a threat to their very ideologies
and what they stand for. The Minutemen, sadly, do not occupy the upper
left. I don’t think anybody does. But they’re decidedly more moderate. They’re definitely
hig h scorers for social liberty, although they don’t really marry themselves to the
Railroad’s cause. They’re all about unhooking the Institute’s control, but at the end
of the day they’re more invested in making the Commonwealther better. Compared to everyone
else, they’re basically moderates, which actually makes a lot of sense. They get along
with just about everybody. When you look at the wasteland this way, it
makes a hell of a lot more sense why these people are all fighting against one another. So how does this compare to politics in our
world? Well, honestly it’s hard to say. Our little home-made chart here is pretty
good at depicting how politics work in the Fallout World with its Fallout Problems, but
it doesn’t really translate perfectly 1:1 when you compare it to the United States in
2016, but here’s a chart from Political Compass, which uses the Nolan method, with
a few folk you may have heard of before on it. So, that means whoever you sided with is who
you’re voting for, right? The Institute is Trump? You went Minutemen, you’re Feeling
The Bern? Well…probably not. For one, these factions in Fallout aren’t perfect analogues
for modern day political parties. Sure, the Institute has a lot of tradition behind it
and may under some lenses be folk who violate the rights of others, but they don’t deal
with the same problems you and I do. They’re not worried about, like, Global Warming and
the economy and shit. They’re trying to survive. Same with The Brotherhood of Steel,
the Railroad, and the Minutemen. Also, while there are definitely undertones
of modern politics in these factions, they’re all relatively simple. They’re essentially
caricatures of what you and I really care about and think. They have to be. Video Games
aren’t quite capable of fully replicating what a complex group of complex humans thinks
and feels, just like there’s no chart with enough axis on it to perfectly tell you what
a person thinks and feels, or why they value what they value. So maybe it’s easier to
just side with whoever because, whatever, it’s just make believe. And I think that’s the final reason. It’s
a video game. Who gives a shit what you do? The stakes aren’t exactly that high, at
the end of the day. In fact, if you hate your choice, you probably even have an old save
you can go back to and choose someone else. You’re not stuck with your choices for years,
and your real life isn’t really all that affected by it. Fallout 4 has less authority
than a Buzzfeed quiz. At the end of this some of you may be like
“What the hell? Jesus, this is a bunch of shit. There’s no way Bethesda did this on
purpose, and you’re looking too far into it.” That could honestly be. Actually I
wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Bethesda didn’t do this on purpose. They just wanted
to create an interesting game with conflict and depth, and when you create organizations
that opposed one another, they’re going to end up at different ends of different spectrums.
But at the same time, the folk at Bethesda live in the United States, most of them were
born and raised here. All in all they spent about 7 years developing Fallout 4, during
which a ton of important and world-changing political issues and conflicts have arisen.
Even if they didn’t put these undertones in there on purpose, you can’t make art
in a vacuum. Just like how J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft influence World of Warcraft
and Skyrim to this day, a game steeped in American culture and history can’t help
but be affected by the wars that were fought on its soil, even if it’s a war fought in
voting booths with ballots instead of bullets. And while it doesn’t perfectly mimic the
actual beliefs of modern day politics, Fallout 4 does illustrate pretty well how catastrophic
it can be for groups of people if we choose to fight instead of listen, and when we try
to paint people with different beliefs than our own with a broad brush, when we decide
that other people are stupid and not worth thinking of as human, and when we choose war
over cooperation. And if there’s one thing Fallout taught
us it’s that war…well, you know the rest. Thanks for watching. Before I get to the rest of the outro I wanted
to announce something really exciting: Shoddycast has recently entered a sponsorship partnership
with G2A.com! They’re going to be sponsoring the Hidden History series, which is pretty
sweeeeet. G2A.com is a website that sells Steam Keys at a discounted price. I don’t
know how they do it. It shouldn’t affect your life too much if you’re a frequent
watcher of Hidden History, but here’s some cool bits: If you use the discount code CAST
you get 3% off your purchase–wait, what? 3% That’s, like, less than sales tax. Whatever.
If you use the link in the description to buy games, we get a little commission for
it, which’ll help keep our lights on so we can keep making videos for you guys. So
if you were planning on buying a game anyway, you can buy it WHILE helping our channel.
ALSO I have 10 $20 gift certificates that you can use to buy games on G2A, which I know
doesn’t sound like a bunch, but, hell, last time I looked Fallout 4 was only $35 on there.
Anyway, to enter to win the gift cards, just hop on Twitter and find Shoddycast and tweet
at us with #ShoddyG2A who YOU sided with in Fallout 4. And that’s it! I’m not gonna
bug you about it again. It’s your life. Do what you want.

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