*Spoiler alert, this article contains descriptions of the events after completing the main story line in Fallout 4.*
A wandering lab coat
My time in the Commonwealth took me in many directions. To complete my first playthrough I focused on roleplaying as a scientist, curious about the science behind the things I encountered in the wasteland. I stuck with a lab coat for the majority of my playthrough, with Piper as my trusty assistant to keep me honest and kind. My focus on the Intelligence skill tree meant that I could tinker with all manner of weapons and leveled at a fast pace, getting new skills to play with every few hours.
I was happy to roam the wasteland at my own pace and explore each faction. I joined the Railroad for some missions to help synths in need, the Minutemen to build out some settlements, and even the Brotherhood to understand their tech and what they believed in. I swore no allegiance and only played focusing on the principle of being a force for good.
(My favorite equipment for the majority of my playthrough)
Family vs Friends
By the end of my playthrough I had developed strong allies among all the factions and I enjoyed having been able to explore each with my character. I thought I knew what I wanted as I ventured into the Institute for the first time, I thought I knew what was right; then I met “Father” the leader of the Institute, the man my son Shaun had become.
Roleplaying as a scientist I was excited to see the Institute from the first mention of their existence, I wondered if I would be able to become a synth, I hoped that there was some good to them. I hoped that as with many things in the Commonwealth, its people’s superstitions and lack of education had caused them to scapegoat the Institute as an evil entity for things they did not understand.
When I finally reached them and found out what Shaun had become and what he had created in his lifetime, I felt the strong urge as a father to support him, to honor his mother by protecting him and fighting for his dreams. I was aware that I could have been duped, I was aware that the Institute could be playing off of my emotions, yet still, once I believed it was my son, there was no turning back, no saying no. I would deliver him the world that he wanted, I would be an instrument of his will.
Doing what had to be done
The hardest part then came from doing what had to be done, there was no other way about it, the Brotherhood of Steel’s military power was focused singularly on destroying the Institute, and the Railroad too sought to undermine the practices of the Institute, thus both had to be eliminated. These were my friends, my confidants, characters I had come to know and cared for, people who I had faced and survived harsh trials with.
(The destruction of the Railroad)
With the cold calculating detachment of a synth, I followed through with Shaun’s plan, I eliminated them all, and returned to the Institute. I remember the betrayal in their faces and those images haunted me after completing the missions, but there was nothing I could do, in a world where my only son and I had barely survived a nuclear holocaust I could not leave his side. Not after going through what I had gone through just to see him again.
Disappointment and emptiness
My time with Shaun came and went I was left alone in the wasteland again. What had I accomplished? I was the leader of the Institute, I promised to help restore the Commonwealth, to serve the people, that we were a force for good, but how could this be with the immense destruction we had caused? The remaining allies I had, met me with disgust and shame for my actions, questioning my judgment and pointing out the danger in what I had done, what it meant for the Commonwealth and its people.
I’m conflicted because the choice I made, I believed in, still believe in as the right one for that character, still I’m not sure the world that Shaun and I created is the right one. I am afraid that the power I wielded in its creation, pales in comparison to the true strength of the Institute. Once my naivety wore off I began to wonder if they had simply cannibalized the humanity of my son and I to serve as the catalyst for their conquest.
After a playthrough of goodness, of kindness, I had chosen my family over my friends, put my son above all else only to lose him again. I granted his final wishes, but at the end of the day I came down from the high of being reunited with my only living kin, to the low of realizing the destruction I had wrought, that the Commonwealth was now reshaped by the fallout of my choices.
(I assumed the role of Father for the Institute)
Playing that character again is bittersweet, he is the furthest along of any of my characters and has the world at his fingertips, he has all the skills and resources I could ever want and yet I feel like he has no purpose. I feel like his entire identity was wrapped up in being there for Shaun, and that by being left without Shaun, there is nothing left for him to fight for. I feel like all of my hours of gameplay and all the good that I did were for nothing because of the destructive choice I took at the end.
The difficult question this poses is how do we determine the difference between making the wrong decision for the right reasons, versus making the right decision for the wrong reasons? Is there a difference? What principles do we hold to at our core when we must make a choice in which our principles fight each other? When we must pit valuing family over friends, committing to our bond when it goes against our morals.
Have you completed a playthrough of Fallout 4 or another RPG and wished you had done things differently? How have the consequences of your actions and choices in-game impacted your ability to make tough decisions? Have the experiences helped you grow as a person? You can read more about my experimentation with a Dogmeat focused build in my article Lights, Camera, Dogmeat!: making Dogmeat the hero, and about my character vs roleplaying article Consumed by the Commonwealth: Resistance is futile. I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.