Once upon a time, I had a minor obsession with time management iPhone games like Simpsons Tapped Out and Marvel Avengers Academy. It got to the point where I was setting alarms for the middle of the night just to make sure I maximized character tasks. Eventually I hit a breaking point, however, where it was no longer possible to ignore the pointlessness of these games. Get currency so you can buy something that helps you get currency so you can buy something… over and over forever. The epiphany obliterated any enjoyment the games had to offer and I deleted them from my phone with an overwhelming sense of relief. I was free.
Saturday, that moment finally came for Fallout 76. I was playing with my BMD Beta Brothers, Andrew, Russ and Scott. They were all across the map trying to repair a trashed nuclear power plant, while I wanted to finish up a solo mission before joining them. After completing several legs of the quest, it became clear this was going to be yet another mission I was incapable of finishing - either due to a game bug or an item or piece of info I could not find, or sometimes just because I could never quite figure out how to follow the onscreen mission guides.
So I gave up and joined my pals. They weren’t having much luck with their mission, either. A timed event, they only had minutes left and still so much to do. The idea was to let the time run out and try again. Even if we were all on the same team (for some reason we weren’t capable of making that work this time), I couldn’t stand the idea of going into that gigantic plant, cleaning it of zombies and super mutants, picking up every goddamn thing in sight, and trying to resolve three different branches of broken power plant issues. Not with a timer, and not with all the times I was sure to die, respawn outside, and fight my way back in. I just couldn’t make myself do it.
And then I looked at the long line of unfinished missions on my screen and realized I couldn’t make myself do any of those, either. I thought about just walking around a little, but it all suddenly seemed much more pointless than before. I dropped all my belongings for my friends to scavenge, exited the game and quickly deleted it from my PS4. I committed Fallout 76 suicide.
What a relief. No more worrying about being over encumbered, breaking my only decent weapon, finding the loot I lost after respawning, making sure I wasn’t dehydrated, living with a disease I had no way to cure or a hundred other things that consistently made Fallout 76 feel like a chore. I no longer had the burden of figuring out the “right” way to play this extremely huge and empty multiplayer game.
I have to assume big changes are on the way for Fallout 76, some of which might even make the game fun. Fallout games are strange birds to begin with. You don’t play them unless you’re ready for a lot of risky exploration for its own sake. But in past games, it felt like you were really doing something with your time. In Fallout 76, nothing feels permanent. The map is large and filled with a thousand areas to scavenge, but there’s really no compelling reason to do that. Any good stuff you get only serves to help you survive to the next scavenge site between long bouts of tedious walking, breaking down junk and suddenly getting killed. I’m happy for all the people who find something to enjoy with this game, but my time with it only oscillated between boring and frustrating, and I get plenty of that from the real world.