I put around 100 hours into Fallout 4. Even in my youth, the only game which claimed this much of me was Final Fantasy VII.
I’m not going to lie and say the entire thing was a honeymoon. If I had to save one more settlement from impending doom that was half the city away from them, I was going to shoot Preston Garvey myself. A lot of the quests were overly repetitive and many were even nonsensical. With the Brotherhood, I couldn’t tell if I was doing an eternally repeatable quest, or one that actually advanced their story.
However, I learned a lot from the game, and the midway point gave it a new life that I hadn’t expected. Be prepared for spoilers. If you plan on playing the game, do not read on. It will ruin one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in any medium or story.
In the game, you have the Institute. They are this monster in the closet. Supposedly there are real life people being replaced with robots so some weird and creepy organization can remake the Commonwealth (it’s the Boston are after a nuclear attack) in their image. When you start playing, you really don’t care. It sounds like bunkus.
When you join the Brotherhood, their motto is death to synths! So far I had only seen evil robots who looked like robots. Sign me up. Then they start talking about human looking synths. That’s their name. I laughed at their tinfoil hat, just as I’d laughed at everyone else telling stories of these robots. I’d been frozen for 200 years. But robots looking like people? Nah.
Then I joined a group of freedom fighters looking to free synths and give them free will from the Institute. Another group wearing those tinfoil hats. After doing some missions, the really hot chick came up to me and said, “I’m a synth.”
I had met synths that I talked to. One fought alongside me. I liked him a lot. But there was no way I would mistaken him for a synth. This woman who made my heart ache? The synths were real, and by all that was good, I would fight for
her they’re freedom!
We make war plans against the Institute, find my son (this is an integral part of the game that’s easy to forget while grinding out repetitive quests), and free all synths!
I entered, crouched. I pillaged everything I found. Every move when I entered combat was planned out. I would slaughter them all and rescue my kid.
Then a console spoke to me. It told me they were expecting me. I stopped sneaking, because what’s the point, and prepared to kill people. I was so prepared to kill people. The elevator descended. There was talk about getting to know each other, blah blah blah.
Was that a mall? I saw a mall. There was a mall. It was white. Everything was white. Except the clean water. And trees. They had grass. There were people in white coats, and it looked like they showered and did laundry. Waiting outside was bad hygiene, brown, and really ugly creatures. It looked like these people regularly used soap and shampoo.
I would not be swayed by civilization. My settlements were coming along just fine. Then I walk into a room and find out my son was not ten. He was sixty. He built all of this.
When I thought I was going to blow everything up, I was really just unlocking the final faction, with a lifestyle that I only dreamed of in the wastes. It struck me. I did not come to the Institute to rid the wastes of this scourge. I literally controlled the future of the Commonwealth. Would I empower the Institute, have them come up and use their robots to restore a resemblance of civilization? Would I work with the Brotherhood to purge all things not human? The Railroad to give synth freedom? The Minutemen to look after the common folk.
A game took me from me verse them, to open my eyes up to how a world could be, to seduce me with power and clean clothes, and at that point the entire game changed for me. When I realized my choices, I realized I was not playing the same game I had been just twenty minutes ago.
“Luke, I am your father.” Smeagol joining Sam and Frodo. Ned Stark loses his head. Star Ocean when the world is about to end, you’re all doomed, and suddenly you’re teleported onto a space ship.
This changes the reader’s perception of the world. It challenges what has been presented to them. Leave the hints. Lace them all over the place. In Fallout 4 it wasn’t hard at all for me to imagine my kid was sixty instead of ten. It wasn’t hard for me to imagine I was refrozen for another six decades.
The point of this is to freshen up the narrative. You are changing the story and the focus. You are jarring your characters, and through that the readers. What is life without conflict, and even more so, what is a story without conflict? And nothing is more conflicting then realizing preconceived notions are a lie.
So insert your misconception. Plant the seeds throughout the field of words you till. When you get to the point of fruition, after having everyone swear up and down that you’re planting corn, give them potatoes and see what happens.