Sometimes, I turn my back on the real world, and all the wanderings it offers, and retreat into an open world RPG (Role Play Game for all you Normals out there), where I can wander about in a world that looks so real that it *could* exist. Except I don’t get tired, run out of snacks or, you know, have to get up off the sofa.
If, like me, you’re a bit of a video game geek, you’ll love what follows. And Taphophiles fear not! There may just be something here for you too.
In 2013, I went on a virtual tour of a cemetery in Grand Theft Auto V, that I later realised was heavily based on the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles (on my cemetery Bucket List). It was so much fun that I decided to embark on a similar virtual-venture when Fallout 4 came out in the UK in November 2015.
I’m going to assume you already know what Fallout 4 is, but if not, click the link!
I don’t know about you, but there’s something incredibly relaxing about wandering around a post-apocalyptic wasteland, being occasionally attacked by horribly mutated creatures. It’s peaceful. Although that’s probably because my character is almost literally the only human left alive out here in the virtual wilderness.
Fallout 4 is set roughly 200 years after the apocalypse. My character, from a polite 1950’s style suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, has been cryogenic-ally frozen since the bombs fell and has now been thawed out and left to navigate this dead and barren land. There are things to discover, and amid all the debris in the form of abandoned tanks and wrecked houses, lie historic remnants that pre-date the tragedy that gave this game it’s name. And because the game bases the landscape (roughly) on the real life Boston and it’s surrounding areas, and because advances in technology means that this game looks so blimmin’ REAL, I can squint and almost pretend I am really there.
During my wanderings of this wasteland, I find many things that Sheldon and I would definitely be exclaiming over if we found them in the real world. Things that strike parallels with what we HAVE found in the real world over the years. On a cliff-top, high above the virtual ocean, I find a sheltered and overgrown graveyard behind a derelict house. It is full of pirate graves that look just like the ones I found for real last year on a cliff in Whitby, North Yorkshire. And just like in real life, I stand in the game and stare at the graves and imagine times gone by. You know, fake pixelated times.
Remember folks, this is after the apocalypse. But these graves have evidently been here since long before that.
One day, as I stumble away from a wasteland battleground that leaves several unfortunate Super Mutants and evil raiders liquidised and forgotten, I come upon a sight that immediately inducts my video game character into Cemetery Club.
This is Wildwood Cemetery. Strangely, it exists in the real world, near the town of Winchester, Massachusetts. I’m unlikely ever to go there, but it doesn’t matter, because I am here now. Virtually speaking. And it looks just like any one of a dozen cemeteries that I have physically been to over the last few years. Rows and rows of gravestones that are set in a circle around a big tree (it was probably a Yew tree once, now it’s just dead, like everything else in this game), intersected by pathways. In fact, the layout of it is far more organised than most of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries (the notable exception being Highgate West).
The thing that makes this particular cemetery visit stand out is something I hope to never encounter in real life.
As I stride into it, I realise that the whole place is crawling with Feral Ghouls. Including a couple of horribly irradiated ones that prove difficult to kill, and determined to eat my brains. If this ever happened at Nunhead I’d be screwed. As it is, I deftly aim my laser rifle at their heads and turn them into rubble. After all, you cannot possibly explore a cemetery in peace if you’re being chewed on by the Undead (actually, Feral Ghouls are not the Undead – they are just really irradiated humans that have gone mad, but that’s not for here). Once I’ve cleared these inconvenient obstacles, I’m free to walk around and look at stuff.
The attention to detail by the game developers is truly astounding. I might really, actually be here.
As it starts to rain(because the game has its own weather system, and right now it’s autumn -sorry – ‘fall’) I find an open Mausoleum high up on the side of a hill. Inside is a fantastic sight…
At that moment, a raider in search of loot comes up behind me and tries to blow my head off. Which isn’t very respectful, given that we’re standing in front of a shrine and everything.
Well, a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do to stay alive.
I beat a hasty retreat, in case I get interrupted again. With one last look over my shoulder at this peaceful, if slightly murderous place, I head off on my way.
Later on, at sunset, I find a lonely chapel. It is called, perhaps quite aptly, Lonely Chapel.
It’s got an old army bunker underneath it, which is full of more enemies that I have to kill, but we’ll ignore that. Look how peaceful it is!
I like wandering around virtual worlds for much the same reason as I like wandering around cemeteries and other spaces for the dead in the real world. It’s a form of escapism – you can pretend that nothing else exists except you and the things you are here to see. This is particularly true of cemeteries, even in the city. The rest of the world falls away and it’s easy to feel like there isn’t a main road just outside. That there aren’t a thousand business people in suits on the other side of that fence, feeling harassed. Imagine my delight when I can combine these two geeky pastimes – cemetery wandering and virtual wandering.
Video game fans, I hope you’ve enjoyed this almost-pointless walkthrough of one of the less exciting sites in Fallout 4. And Tombstone Tourists, I hope you realise how lucky you are not to be ambushed by zombies in real life. That would really throw a spanner in the works.
All screenshots courtesy of the people at Bethesda, the people at PlayStation 4 and erm, me I guess.