The early Fallout games are beloved by RPG fans because of the high reactivity of their game worlds. Depending on your choices in the character creation system and the game itself, all sorts of surprising situations can occur.
I'll always have fond memories of Black Isle era #Fallout because of the little nuggets of reactivity that made me feel like my experimentations in the game were always being rewarded with a cool trick or scene, like when my low Intelligence character could have an erudite conversation with the village idiot, or the first time I discovered I could hilariously assassinate my enemies by reverse-pickpocketing ticking dynamite onto them.
But there's one particular, hard-to-find interaction from Fallout 2 that remains the most shocking of them all, something so disturbing that it's unequalled even by the darkest and most provocative games. And yes, it's a sex thing.
Love In The Age Of Mutants
The game designers weren't shy about applying that celebrated attention to detail to certain delicate subjects. Recently, designer David French spoke candidly about the creative process during those freewheeling days, particularly when it came to Fallout 2's 'sex formula', an algorithm for determining just how the Chosen One's sexual performance would impact the game.
Fallout 2's sexual situations, which included being forced into a redneck shotgun wedding and becoming a porn star, were generally played with tongue firmly in cheek, but what I liked about them was the fact that they also had significant impact on gameplay and story. You won't find the high stakes love affair of a Bioware-style romance arc here, but it's not gratuitous either. I also liked how despite having a tone and sense of humor that was distinctly skewed to a young male demographic, content and options for female characters were still robust.
Fallout's dark sense of humor allowed the games to get away with a lot of dicey situations. The face of the game is, after all, the cheery Vault-Boy, pepping you up for the nuclear apocalypse with a wink and a grin. Gun down a kid. Sell your friends into slavery. With all this going down and still somehow working in the context of the game, there's still a moment that seriously gives me the creeps. Every. Single. Time.
It's something that can only happen to a female protagonist, and only under certain circumstances. And even though it has no impact on game stats, it made my stomach churn in a way none of the violence or other grim aspects of the setting ever could.
In Fallout 2, it's possible for your protagonist to be sexually assaulted by an NPC. Here's how it happens.
Myron Crosses The Line
Let's talk about Myron, the charmer pictured above. Myron is a child-genius chemist, the inventor of Jet, a highly addictive drug with horrific side effects. He uses his wonder drug to aid the Mordino mafia family's attempts to control New Reno and the surrounding area, and also to barter for prostitutes, a laboratory, and cash.
It's clear from the start that Myron isn't a nice guy. He's completely selfish and contributes to human suffering in the region on a grand scale (even manufacturing Jet involved using a lot of slaves as lab rats, often with fatal consequences). Aside from this, he's also a coward and a creep.
Although arrogant and condescending to any protagonist, if the player character is a female with low intelligence or endurance, Myron's creepiness goes all the way over the edge:
The above video from StylesV13 shows what happens when a female player character talks to Myron with certain conditions fulfilled. Though a fade to black (like in all Fallout 2 sex events) prevents us from explicitly seeing it, let's be clear—Myron slips the player character a drugged drink, and sexually assaults her.
This can only happen if the player character has a low Intelligence or Endurance stat. Myron's a coward and will only pick on the vulnerable. If stats are higher, he will creep over the player character in his dialogue, but the player can easily shut him down. Even a low Intelligence PC can back out before drinking, thankfully.
Of all the messed up moments in the Fallout games, this is the one that never fails to gross me out. One reason is that rape in video games is rare, and almost always off-focus, in some sad backstory off-screen. The other is that the player character is a victim, which I think is a unique element here outside of games specifically oriented towards fetishists.
A Special Kind Of Betrayal
It gets more potentially messed up if you know that Myron is a recruitable player companion in the game. He can join your party and adventure with you. As in, your mentally disadvantaged protagonist can end up traveling around with her rapist. You can even use him for good by coercing him into making a cure for Jet addiction.
He never stops being a smug, insufferable douchebag though. In previous playthroughs I'd had Myron tag along and he was frequently the butt of the party's jokes and object of disgust for his selfishness, creepiness and cowardice.
It wasn't until I did a low-Intelligence run that I realized the depths of Myron's depravity. That the slimeball may have followed my lead before, but it was only my female Chosen One's intellect or toughness that prevented him from trying to violate her. That's not just a betrayal in-game, but a real subversion of expectations in RPGs generally. RPG companions are usually just that—actual friends or colleagues with the potential for affection. When betrayals from NPC followers happen in games, they're usually for plot reasons, and never such a physically intimate violation.
In Fallout 2, Myron betrays you not for any grand scheme, but because he's a despicable bottom feeder who takes what he wants from anyone vulnerable enough. In this respect, the player is nothing special, just another victim in a list of victims. This most definitely cuts against the grain of the typical video game as power fantasy approach.
So Why Not Just Kill Him?
GameBoyNL, in the above video, showcases the typical reaction of gamers who've been messed with by Myron. Given the freedom in Fallout 2 to kill whoever you want, Myron stands out as especially deserving of an intimate moment with the business end of a plasma rifle. This holds true whether he assaults you or not. Unfortunately, there's a couple of problems with this.
Firstly, he's actually pretty useful in several quests, providing you can stomach his odious company and let his crimes go unpunished. Secondly, because Myron is under 18-years-old, killing him will actually earn the 'Childkiller' trait for your character, marking you permanently as one and earning you bad karma, as much as that despicable dweeb had it coming to him.
For creative players though, there is a way to deliver some justice to Myron without being put in the same box as baby-murderers. It's possible to use the automated organ extraction table in the Sierra Army Depot to give him a horribly violent death via brain extraction without incurring the trait. However, using the machine always results in high negative karma anyway.
It's likely that the game creators were aware that many players would love to kill Myron themselves, but would avoid doing so because of these penalties. If you beat the game and Myron survives, his ending states that he is stabbed to death by a Jet addict, and his role in the creation of Jet is forgotten (a nice kicker, given Myron's insufferable egotism).
Did 'Fallout 2' Go Too Far?
I love Fallout and Fallout 2 to bits. I think that the writers and designers did a great job overall. Yet there's something about this incident with Myron that makes me uncomfortable. Maybe because it's a threat unique to female NPCs. Maybe it's because there's precious little that can be done to address it by the player. None of your companions even do anything to stop it happening.
Ultimately, part of the discomfort comes from my own background. Playing a character different from ourselves in video games can be elucidating in how they expose us to experiencing situations as an 'other'. In this case, as a man, I was confronted with a situation that reminds me of certain privileges I have, in how far from my own life experience this would be.
Thankfully, although the Chosen One has her agency taken away, this doesn't happen to the player, who retains the option not to drink the spiked beverage. Myron's lascivious intent is heavily telegraphed, and ultimately this scene is one that is very hard to see unless the player wants it to happen for roleplaying purposes. The character might not consent, but the player does. This is what keeps it, in my opinion, from being gratuitous and unjustifiable.
It's weird that, with all the over-the-top evil and villainy that exists in the Fallout games and video games in general, this seconds-long, hard-to-trigger interaction with Myron has burned him into my mind as my most hated video game villain.
He's no world ending boss of an evil army, but a manipulative scumbag who preys upon vulnerable people that he can gain the trust of. Who he is and what he does makes him much closer to the kind of villain that we're more likely to meet in real life.
It's easy to see why this interaction is an almost unique example of its kind in video games. Myron's rape of the player character highlights a different kind of evil than we're used to fighting against in games. One closer to our everyday lives and almost too painful to confront in escapist entertainment. As much as I find it morbidly fascinating that Fallout 2 went there, I think it's for the best that later games didn't.
What do you think? Did Fallout 2 go too far?