Filthy, Rich, and in the Wasteland
Thursday, 22 April, 2010

Next up on the Schwartz-train is the value of wealth (again, from the category of “power”). Wealth normally refers to something along the lines of money and world possessions – though of course you can stretch it to other concepts like being “rich in love” or something. Seems to be that Schwartz is referring to being “well off” in a fairly traditional manner, though.

Now, Fallout 3 does have a currency, “caps”, that people use to purchase stuff. These are the caps that come of the top of soda bottles (go figure…). You accumulate caps mostly by just finding them around the place – desks, filing cabinets, fresh corpses. And then you buy stuff like… bullets, guns, iguana on a stick, and so on.

The thing is, though, that caps seemed like a bit of a non-event in my playing (could be an artifact of the easier difficulty level). I found all the equipment I needed in the field, I rarely ate any food (kind of disturbing in itself), and found the stimpaks needed for health along the way too. Which gets at the heart of the matter: all you need in Fallout 3 is, really, guns, ammo, and stimpaks. Thus, we could have a different, more functional idea of wealth: that it consists of those things you need to survive. If you have great guns, lots of bullets, and plenty of stimpaks, then you’re a wealthy person.

Or, it might be something else. Another way to think about wealth could be the exact opposite, to ask what is superfluous to one’s needs. In that case, Fallout 3 offers stuff like special clothing, alcohol, housing, decorative items for your household, and so on. But to add one more “but” to this, we’d have to question the significance of these things. No one in the game cares about this stuff (unlike in, say, GTA IV where your girlfriend notices your suit), and since Fallout 3 is a single-player game, your friends aren’t going to see it either unless you send them a screen-shot. If an avatar is wealthy in a forest, and nobody sees, is he really wealthy?

Wealth in Fallout 3 is a funny one. In such a desolate world, there’s a sense in which wealth as superfluous “extras” doesn’t make much sense, nor is anything in the world all that luxurious. The theory that wealth could be equated with your capabilities in terms of equipment holds some weight, but it seems a little empty. In effect, “wealth” wasn’t a preoccupation in the game for me in the slightest – my intention was always to survive.

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