Fallout 76 is a new online multiplayer game developed by Bethesda. It launches this month and I have taken part in a couple BETA testing events. Bethesda as a game company has had a mixed-to-negative history on inclusion and representation of gay characters in its games, particularly in the Fallout series. In the last iteration of the franchise, for example, all players were forced to play a straight character at the game’s start. They could then seek to “romance” a handful of same-gender NPC’s later in the game with no real insight, connection, or consequence to the larger plot.
Human NPC’s are mostly missing from Fallout 76. Disaster befell all humans before the players arrive, emerging from nuclear bunkers. Corpses are scattered around the landscape, and messages (both written and recorded) survive, but the only moving humans in Fallout 76 are the other players. Romancing NPC’s, therefore, is not possible (and the cynic in me wondered if this could be one way for Bethesda to sidestep having to be “inclusive” with same-sex relationships at all).
Non-hetronormative expression is still hard to find in the game, but I did discover one small example embedded in a core systemic role that many players will encounter (if they are paying attention). In a quest designed to teach the player about the “mobile camp” system in the game, the player travels to an airport where, until recently, a small group of human survivors had created a base. If a player takes the time to investigate notes scattered around the area belonging to an NPC named Miguel Caldera, they can learn a bit about Miguel.
We first read on his computer terminal that he “met someone,” a fellow refugee in the post-apocalyptic setting. A second journal entry suggests there is a romance, because Miguel’s ever-present pet robot, Mr Fluffy, stands next to him all the time and is “really ruining my sex life right about now.”
When things begin to go badly at the base, Miguel plans to leave. He wants to go off into the woods with his special someone that he finally mentions by name: Garry.
A few notes the two lovers left to each other can be found around Miguel’s robot workshop. In one, Miguel calls him “My sweet Garry bean” and says he’s going up to his camp in the woods where he’s looking forward to relaxing in the “great outdoors,” adding, “I love you, dear heart.” In another note, a to-do list, Miguel mentions he needs to buy Garry a gift “for his next visit.”
Garry returned to the camp but could not find Miguel. He left a note saying he was looking for him and signed it “Find me! I miss you!”
Unfortunately, this is Fallout and no stories end happily. We learn from a final entry on Miguel’s computer that while he was away at the camp, a of monster overran the base and killed Garry. Miguel buried his lover on a hill overlooking the base. Then, heartbroken, Miguel went back to his camp in the woods.
The players are eventually directed to find Miguel’s camp. And there they also find the body of Miguel Caldera, now watched over by the ever-present Mr. Fluffy.
It’s a sad story, and ultimately has no effect on the game at large, but the inclusion of Miguel and Garry’s doomed love affair is a nice addition to Fallout 76.