Bethesda Softworks is giving gamers more ways to feel like they belong in their latest installment
It’s rare that a video game company does something very good by doing nothing at all.
Last week, Bethesda Softworks decided to not make polyamory a big deal in Fallout 4.
Polyamory, the act of responsibly being in a relationship with two or more partners, is a viable lifestyle choice for the player of the game in this installment.
News first broke of the possibility of polyamory through gaming journalist Jim Sterling’s YouTube video series The Jimquisition on Nov. 9. It has since been verified and reported on by sites such as Destructoid, Fusion, and has made the rounds of Reddit.
Internet reaction has been mixed, however. Sites such as Destructoid have reported on the positive effects of this new implementation. Staff writer Jed Whitaker said in his “You can be polyamorous and bisexual in Fallout 4” article that he had no interest in Bethesda Softworks’ new game “until I learned that I can finally be represented in an actual video game.”
On the other hand, other responses have been less positive. Although some have been quick to hail the progress that this potentially means for video games, others, as Reddit user Spackles pointed out in his summary of user comments, have highlighted that “Bethesda Softworks is [just] too lazy to actively exclude people.” For these individuals, polyamory is seen as a glitch that was not caught in the game’s production.
Others, such as YouTube user Mike Sloan, feel that this is a slippery slope for the gaming industry. He commented on Jim Sterling’s video: “Where does it end for some people though, can you make love to the dead before you eat [them] in the game?”
Clearly it’s long before popular opinion matches the advances made by Bethesda Softworks on this issue. Bethesda Softworks has made no statement suggesting that this feature will later be patched out as a glitch.
For those who are polyamorous, Fallout 4 provides a sense of acceptance in its handling of the topic. Concordia undergraduate student and gamer, who asked to be only identified by their gamer handle Soykaff, put this issue into focus. “Somebody over at Bethesda gets [polyamory],” they said. “It isn’t presented as a weird life choice … That message isn’t active acceptance and incorporation, but rather, treating the subject the same way you treat every subject.”
It should be noted that larger websites such as IGN and PCgamer have not yet noticed the polyamory feature. This speaks to the optional nature of engaging in such activities. Much like the option to engage in same-sex relationships in the game, this content will probably not be found by many players.
What makes the option to engage in polyamory any different than the option to engage in same sex relationships in game such as Dragon Age: Inquisition? In both cases, game developers are giving players the space to feel like they belong, without taking away content from those who are not interested in these experiences.
Isn’t that what we want from our video games anyway?