Falling out with obsession

Fallout is a franchise many people adore. I’m not a fan myself, primarily thanks to the oversaturation of news and blog posts around the time of the latest release, but I know a number of gamers and bloggers who feel it’s one of the best created.

I think the first time my stepson heard of it was when he found my other-half playing something on his laptop in late 2015. He asked his dad what it was and Pete informed him it was Fallout 4; and in usual Ethan fashion, he then asked hundreds of questions for the next hour. This is a normal occurrence with our kid when it comes to video games. He may not care about the title itself or even want to see it but if you’re playing it, he’ll want to know the ins-and-outs of the world, the characters within it and their stories.

Despite not playing the game and only viewing a brief and carefully-controlled section on Pete’s screen back then, Ethan has been obsessed with the Fallout series since – and this isn’t an exaggeration. He might have been in love with Minecraft when he was younger, subjecting us to tantrums we eventually came to refer to as ‘Minecraft behaviour’ after less than an hour at a time with it, but that crush was nothing compared to his continuous three-year infatuation with Bethesda’s project.

He’s read every book on the series that he can get his hands on. He spends his pocket-money on framed posters and bobbleheads, showing them all proudly around his bedroom. The line of Funko Pop! Vinyl figures featured on a shelf is set in a specific order, and his prized possession is a Pip Boy we found at the London Gaming Market. And if he’s not wearing a too-big Tunnel Snake hoodie I got him from Loot Crate, you’ll find him in a festive Fallout 76 jumper that my brother gave him at Christmas. Yes, even in June.

It’s several things that attracts my stepson to Fallout. First is the apocalyptic setting; after all, what 11-year old doesn’t enjoy an end-of-the-world scenario with the potential for zombies? Next is the fact that he’s a bit of a lone-wolf who enjoys his own company, and this has caused him to identify with the protagonists. Then finally it’s the soundtrack. He’s always enjoyed an incredibly varied range of music, often preferring far older stuff than the usual pop other kids his age are into, so the 1940s songs get him singing along and his feet tapping.

In the paragraph above I mentioned Ethan’s relationship with the protagonists, and it’s worth pointing out here that this isn’t necessarily the character who appears on-screen. The majority of everything he knows about the Fallout series comes from things he believes to be true. Most of his knowledge started off as a point of interest picked up from a book or discussion with his dad; then evolved with leaps logic and a touch of imagination into my stepson’s very own version of the Fallout world.

London Gaming Market, Ethan, Pip-Boy

His obsession hasn’t caused any major issues so far but we can see the start of some possible frustrations since he joined secondary school last year. He doesn’t seem to understand why nobody else there is interested in the franchise, even when we try to explain that Fallout 4 is almost four years old and everybody has moved from the poor release which was Fallout 76. We’re sadly getting the impression that he’s beginning to believe he’s ‘the odd one out’ or as that he doesn’t fit in.

The pre-teenage years are awkward enough without you wanting to talk about a franchise your friends view as ‘ancient’, while they’re all playing the ‘latest thing’ which doesn’t interest you in the slightest. On one hand I’m kind of proud that Ethan doesn’t like Fortnite and wants to devote his time to a video game that’s detailed, atmospheric and story-rich; but on the other, I get that the preference makes it more difficult for him at this stage in his life.

So what’s a dad and a stepmum to do? Pete and I have always tried to have an open communication channel with Ethan, and regularly discuss video games and their responsible use with him. Right now I guess that’s all we can keep doing. Maybe one day he’ll find something to replace his Fallout obsession, the same way The Legend of Zelda eventually did with Minecraft, or perhaps even find himself a friend who shares the infatuation so he has someone to keep him company in the wastelands of Boston.

Let’s hope so.

20 thoughts on “Falling out with obsession

  1. I feel his pain! I was always a bit of an outlier among my game-loving friends, but I’ve deliberately leaned into that angle in the last… probably ten years or so. I’ve made friends in the process, which is great, but I can imagine it’s not that easy in the modern school environment.

    Perhaps you could encourage him to try writing about the things he enjoys? That worked for me as a youngun and is why I do what I do today. They don’t even have to be published anywhere, sometimes simply just typing something up, printing it out and putting it in a special folder or ring binder can be enough. Something to allow that overflowing enthusiasm out of his head and channeled into some sort of creative pursuit.

    Just a suggestion. Encourage him to love what he loves rather than succumbing to peer pressure though — not enough people like that around these days 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funnily enough, this is exactly the path that Ethan has recently found on his own. Last month he bought himself a stationery set based on The Legend of Zelda and was going to use it to write a story about Link – so I explained to him that this was called ‘fan fiction’, and said we should publish was he created on the blog.

      He then went on to enter himself into a writing competition at his school with a story which was remarkably like his version of the Fallout world. Who knows, we may have an author in the family!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. If it helps I’m 37 in a couple of weeks and you could just as easily be talking about me here lol.

    No one I know cares about Fallout, even people who played previous installments for over 1500 hours like my brother in law… That’s why I join in discussions whenever I see a post about it. That’s why I’m playing Fallout 76 on my own.

    I’ve decided to love what I love and who cares what other people think/play. I still enjoy Borderlands 2 even though everyone else has moved on. I did the entire series solo too.

    Sometimes you don’t discover something for years, it doesn’t mean you love it any less than someone who discovered it when it first came around.

    If you don’t enjoy what is popular, that doesn’t make you any less a gamer and it certainly shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment of the things you are passionate about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said, Dan. ❤

      I get exactly what you mean about not enjoying what's popular. The few guys at work who know I enjoy video games have never heard of anything I've played because they're all into the big-budget stuff rather than indie releases. It makes them think I don't play as much as I say I do – when the reality is that I probably pick up a game more frequently than them! 😂

      I guess you learn to not give a f*** as you get older and love what you love. But being a teenager is difficult, so there's going to be plenty of family chats ahead.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. He’s definitely a kid with a massive imagination and if the Fallout series was measured in calories feeding imagination, us fans would be well beyond morbidly obese. I would celebrate his interest even with the difficulties among his friends as while this time of his life is important in terms of education it doesn’t always set the template for your adult social life – I’m in touch absolutely zero friends from secondary school because of the similar reasons, they just weren’t into the same games as me.

    I find there’s nothing more interesting about a person than someone with a specific interest who sticks with it no matter what anyone else thinks, seeing their passion, and therefore learning more about the world and that individual because of it. A bit like when we met Tim at Kitacon, I’d never seen anything like that level of cosplay before! This then lead into GeekOut and learning more about tabletop gaming.

    This also says something about how much of a grip the general media has on the public, to hear people damning a game they’ve never actually played because of clickbait headlines. Not to say there isn’t truth in what they are reporting – I feel it doesn’t leave people the room to make up their own minds about a game.

    The original Fallout series created a brilliant world and a wealth of story that Bethesda has faithfully preserved, only dumbing down some of the RPG elements and using a buggy game engine. Anyone that get’s into it will be gripped for life and it seems that’s what happened to Ethan, and congrats to him because it’s such a rewarding experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Coincidentally, we’re taking Ethan to Bristol to meet Tim and some others this summer. I’m kind of hoping that hearing him talk about GeekOut and his passions will make the kid see that it’s ok to love what you love!

      And there’s a good idea for a post: ‘Comparing the calorific value of video game series’.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re meeting Tim and co!? Can I come pleeeeeeeeeeease!

        Maybe let Ethan see the Bethesda E3 conference and live streams if it’s appropriate for his age so he gets to see the size and support of the community. With the early backlash for Fallout 76 I found an escape from all that when watching their developer discussions as you could see their passion for the series and appreciate their efforts more. It certainly put the nagging voices of naysayers out of my mind and reminded me of the awesomeness we once saw in Bethesda Game Studios back when Skyrim came out.

        This is a recommended watch for Ethan – 40mins of them talking about upcoming Fallout 76 content and some funny experiences the devs have had with the community: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zIQaXj8h6o

        Liked by 2 people

            • I haven’t played much of it either, mostly down to the performance of it and a few bugs. I am tempted to start again!

              You could share the experience with him. If not just get him into Elder Scrolls Online instead 😆


                • Yeah but didn’t you stream for 12 hours or something 😆

                  I played some Fallout 76 last night, still get terrible lag and Fallout 4 is just better in my opinion. I feel like my time would be better spent going back in the series. I’ve still got 3 and New Vegas to play!

                  Maybe if I was squadding up it would be more interesting? I don’t know, I think there’s enough lore and familiarity for me to “finish it” but it’s certainly not going to get the kind of play time Fallout 4 has for me.


                  • I must admit, I’ve been enjoying ESO even more now that I’ve recently been playing with Tim and Jake from GeekOut South-West. Not only have they been really good in helping me create a new build and level up, it’s just more fun to go running into a dungeon with people you know. 😉


  4. Haha this sounds a lot like me in a way the crazy collection of Pop Figures, the Special Editions I have of the games including the Pip-Boy.
    You should make Ethan a Guest Blogger writing weekly posts on Fallout :p


    • I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he had ha ha! But I’ll be sure to mention them to him this weekend, just in case. 😉


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