On Top of It #7: The Customer is Always Right

On Top of It #7 by Lisa Martens

The Customer is Always Right

Beth walked in to pick up the latest hardcover edition of Stoner by John Williams. At dinner the other night, one of her professor friends had said it was “wonderfully droll” and “brilliantly bland . . . honest.” This was exactly the kind of thing she wanted to read.

There it was, black with colorful stripes, on the display table. She orbited it. She would have liked to flip through it, but each copy was wrapped in plastic. She instead flipped through the new Humans of New York.

She noticed the wooden floors—they could be cleaner. They were gritty, like unbrushed teeth. There was a puff of white dog hair under the display table. A group of wine-scented candles made her sneeze. Someone she didn’t know blessed her.

It wasn’t a big deal, but the music in the store was a little . . . ethnic? Since that new guy started—he was darker, Indian, maybe, or something like that—the music in the store had changed. It was just a little too distracting. They used to play this French tango band, and sometimes classical music. But not anymore.

She wanted to say something, but then it would turn into a political thing. The song was fine if you were studying to be a belly dancer, but for the ambiance of the store—It just didn’t fit. She wasn’t being racist; there were just certain kinds of music you expected in a bookstore.

Beth tried to catch the eye of the thin black woman going through the cookbooks. If she could make eye contact, maybe she could receive some kind of confirmation. If that woman also thought that the music was a bit much, that would prove her point. But no, the woman didn’t look her way. She was engrossed in the different kinds of toast you could make, and then in prison ramen recipes.

Beth wanted the book. She came in for it, she had found it, and she wanted it. But she didn’t move to pick it up. Maybe that was the kind of lesson the store needed.

Beth looked at the mason jars instead. One was blue, like her kitchen’s accent wall, and the other was teal. The blue would match her kitchen, unless it almost matched and didn’t, and that would be even worse than a deliberate, intentional clash. She looked through her phone pictures to try to determine if the blues matched, but even those weren’t reliable since she had used filters on all of her renovated kitchen photos. Using VSCOcam, Beth had made her old kitchen more yellow, and the new kitchen softer with a pastel-like hue.

The song changed to something with fast, shaking drums. Beth sighed. Wouldn’t the store want to distance itself from that part of the world, especially with everything that was going on?

The store had some toys for kids. Beth could get something for her niece. She looked for something girly but not too girly. She didn’t want to enforce gender roles by getting something glittery. Something with science or math, of course, but nothing too masculine. But no, there was nothing that fit that description: something mathematical or scientific, but for five-year-olds, but that was clearly designed for girls, but wasn’t girly.

There was a book on finding constellations. Beth’s niece was probably too smart for that. Beth wrinkled her nose when she saw a wooden walker in the toy section. Everyone knew by now that those were bad for kids.

Beth left without buying anything. It served them right—the store had no Black Friday sales. She still liked the store, but she could probably get Stoner online cheaper, anyway.


Lisa Martens

Lisa Martens (Episode 22) currently lives in Harlem. In her past 10 years in New York, she has lived in a garage on Long Island, a living room in Hell’s Kitchen, the architecture building of CCNY, and on the couch of a startup. She grew up in New York, Costa Rica and Texas, and she’s still not sure which of these is home. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing from CCNY. Her thesis, What Grows in Heavy Rain, is available on Amazon. Check out her website here. Follow her on Instagram here.

Episode 181: Rick Moody!

Episode 181 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I interview fiction writer Rick Moody

Rick Moody

plus Ryan Rivas reads his essay, “Reporting from Inside the Vortex of Miami Book Fair,” which first appeared on lithub.

Ryan Rivas


Hotels Of North AmericaUnspeakable PracticesCheck out Rick’s new band, The Unspeakable Practices.


Team Drunken Odyssey had a deeply enjoyable time at Miami Book Fair International.

Team Drunken Odyssey

Matt Peters, Jared Silva, CT McMillab, John King, Jeremy DaCruz, and Shawn McKee.

Check out the music of the Bambi Molesters, whose songs “Long Gun” and “Catatonya” appeared in this show.


Episode 181 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #112: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre


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The Curator of Schlock #112 by Jeff Shuster

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Back when movie titles made sense. Quantum of Solace? What does that even mean?


Hey, umm, I forgot to do a cannibalism movie for Thanksgiving so your getting it on Black Friday. I know my loyal readers will be busy pepper spraying each other for $3.99 flash drives at Office Depot, but I shall carry on despite this. (Apparently Black Friday on the Internet begins at 3 AM on Thanksgiving morning so I’m going to shove my face into a pumpkin pie and scream real loud.)

So yeah, today we’ll be discussing the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, not that stupid remake where Jessica Biel takes on Leatherface. I remember when I first looked into getting the DVD back in 1998 and my mom freaked out screaming, “How can you buy a movie about those people!” Huh? I thought the movie was made up, but the trailer says the story is true, so I guess Leatherface is still out there.

Who is Leatherface? Just some guy who wears human skin masks and eats people.


He also has a chainsaw that he kills people with.


The hero of our movie is an invalid named Franklin (Paul Partain.)


We don’t like Franklin because he whines and thinks headcheese tastes good, and we laugh when bad things happen to him like when a truck knocks Franklin out his wheelchair while he’s trying to take a leak. His sister Sally (Marilyn Burns) is with him along with assortment of hippies. I think there all trying to go to Franklin’s grandfather’s house way out in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. 

One of the hippies spots a disgusting hitchhiker on the side of the road and demands that they “Pick him up. He’ll asphyxiate out there!” This is ill-advised considering the hitchhiker takes Franklin’s knife away from him so he can slice his own palm open for larfs.


The hippies don’t seem too amused by this, so the hitchhiker takes Franklin’s picture and asks for two dollars for the photograph. No one wants to pay for the photo since “It’s not a very good picture.” The hitchhiker takes photograph back, lays it on piece of tinfoil, places some gunpowder on top of the picture, strikes a match, and sparks fly everywhere. The hippies scream. The hitchhiker pulls out a straight razor and cuts deep into Franklin’s arm. It’s at this point that the hippies kick him (the hitchhiker, not Franklin) out of the van. One of them says, “I have a good mind to call a cop.”

Why start making rationale decisions now?

They stop for gas at a gas station that is out of gas. They decide to continue on to Franklin’s grandfather’s house. One of the hippies hears a generator running from a house nearby. He figures they must have some gas he can purchase so he waltzes right up to the house and walks in. Then Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) clocks him across the face with a hammer. One hippy after another keeps going into the house and Leatherface keeps killing them in fascinatingly gruesome ways. I have mixed feelings on this since the hippies are technically trespassing.

A man’s home is his castle after all. 


 Five Things I Learned from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

  1. Headcheese isn’t really cheese. 
  2. Don’t pick up hitchhikers.
  3. Don’t walk into other peoples’ houses uninvited. 
  4. Don’t walk into other peoples’ house uninvited when those people are cannibals.
  5. If you find human teeth strewn about the front porch, maybe don’t enter the house.


Jeffrey Shuster 3

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

The Lists #26: Yams Recipe


The Lists #26 by Patrick Jehle

Yams Recipe

  1. Take yams out of cryogenic yam storage.
  2. Contemplate your failures and sins.
  3. Peel yams.
  4. Remove any unsightly spots by digging them out.
  5. If a spot gets bigger as you dig, keep digging.
  6. Dig, donkey!
  7. The hole will get bigger and darker. Do not look directly at it or obey its commands. Do not give it succor.
  8. Hey, who wants marshmallows?
  9. Keep digging. Push past the pain.
  10. I want my childhood back.


Patrick Jehle and Patrick Jehle

Patrick Jehle (Episode 16) is a writer from Brooklyn living in Chicago. Don’t let him in your kitchen.

The Lists #25: How I Do My Bird

The Lists #25 by Patrick Jehle

How I Do my Bird

a. Stalk, disarm, and smother a swan until deceased.
2. Exult.
3. Learn to forgive yourself.
3. Stuff bird generously with explosives (whatever you have around the hovel).
d. Put in the oven and flee the house.
3. Strip, flap, soar, weep, and be free.


Patrick Jehle

Patrick Jehle (Episode 16) is a writer from Brooklyn living in Chicago. Don’t let him in your kitchen.

Aesthetic Drift #6: Psych Yourselves Up, Fellow Writers—NaNoWriMo is Almost Over!

On Top of It #6 by Lisa Martens

Psych Yourselves Up, Fellow Writers—NaNoWriMo is almost over!

Like many self-loathing, procrastinating writers who fear of dying before the world discovers their geniuses, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those of you with self-respect (to quote Louis CK), I will explain:

During the month of November, you write a whole novel. 50,000 words is the standard goal.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

This means no sleep, contact with loved ones, and usually being a zombie at work. It’s hard to write over 1,000 words per day, and if you miss a couple of days, you kind of want to die. But I’ve collected a few powerful comments from my Instagram followers to help you all going for that last gasp:

The reason: writing IS life. For a writer, writing is not optional. I understand being tired and others constantly demanding our time and attention. It’s a daily struggle. Your writing is worth it. You are worth it.  – Instagram @kimbaileydeal

Kind of depressing and motivating at the same time, like a photo of someone climbing a mountain with dignity and skill.

You have to write 10 pages of garbage to get a page of gold. – Instagram @thecreativechick

I love the nihilism! But it’s true.

Sometimes the night will be long and the coffee will be bitter, but when the words flow in the end you’ll be thankful you started. Never give up! – Instagram @the_prince_of_roses

People taste coffee? They don’t just tilt their heads back and swallow it with a bunch of aspirin and birth control pills?

The thing that hit me this month is that no one else is going to tell my story the way that I tell it. If I don’t write it, no one will. – Instagram @hollykirt

Absolutely. No one tells your truth like you. Keep writing, everyone! And if you’re not participating, check out the sleepless nights and stacks of papers by searching the #nanowrimo or #nanowrimo2015 tag on basically every social media platform.


Lisa Martens

Lisa Martens (Episode 22) currently lives in Harlem. In her past 10 years in New York, she has lived in a garage on Long Island, a living room in Hell’s Kitchen, the architecture building of CCNY, and on the couch of a startup. She grew up in New York, Costa Rica and Texas, and she’s still not sure which of these is home. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing from CCNY. Her thesis, What Grows in Heavy Rain, is available on Amazon. Check out her website here. Follow her on Instagram here.

McMillan’s Codex #14: I.R.L. (In Real Life)


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McMillan’s Codex #14 by C.T. McMillan

I.R.L. (In Real Life)

Videogames offer unique experiences.  With the click of a mouse or pressing of a key, you can explore fantastical worlds, solve complex puzzles, and live out taboo desires.  Since the dawn of the Information Age, we have never been more socially connected, and the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) is where such interactivity occurs in an imaginative context in group activities like raids, quests that require many players to complete, and the ability to organize guilds like clans.  Players from all corners of the globe can interact.  The possibilities seem endless, and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow explores those possibilities in his first foray into graphic narrative.

In Real Life

After a guest speaker at her school advocates for gender diversity in the MMO Coarsegold, high school student Anda decides to buy a subscription and play.  She joins a guild exclusive for women and comes to enjoy the experience.  In the midst of fighting other players, she forms a bond with one named Raymond and finds there is more to him than a virtual avatar.  His problems go far beyond the reach of gaming, and Anda takes it upon herself to do something about it.

As odd as this sounds coming from a critic, videogames are not that big a deal.  Most of them are brilliant works I hold in high regard, but more often than not they are just pleasurable distractions.

At the same time, In Real Life makes a valid argument that the connectedness of MMOs can be an avenue for change.  Much like social media, you can organize whole movements and support causes through interaction.  The cause in question is Anda trying to help Raymond get health insurance at his job in China by rallying his coworkers on Coarsegold.  It also talks about the gold farming industry, the ethics of paid-gaming, and the effect of MMOs on social issues.


Gold farming is the practice of acquiring digital assets to sell for real money to other players.  The farming aspect comes from playing a game for long periods of time to gather assets in bulk.  This entails many hours locked in front of a computer screen, resulting in health issues for gold farmers.  Businesses that engage in this practice, some of which are labor camps, tend to have mounting human rights violations by working their employees longer than ethically possible.

Raymond has back problems exacerbated by 16-hour workdays and his regular addiction of playing more Coarsegold for recreational purposes when he isn’t working.  He lied about his age to get the job and being from outside his place of origin (Hunan, China), his access to proper healthcare is limited to say the least, and his employer is reluctant to give him or his co-workers insurance.  These conditions are bad, as he tells Anda, “I was lifting boxes at a factory before this.  It gets especially bad when I’ve been sitting too long.  Sometimes I have to excuse myself to the bathroom so I can lie on the floor a little while.”

Before she met him, Anda was a part of a her own financial scheme where outside benefactors would pay her and another player to kill gold farmers in Coarsegold.

InRealLife 52 53

On the outset this appears like a solution to those who pay gold farmers to make unethical jumps ahead in their avatar’s power in the game, but it is not long before she discovers there is no difference between killing gold farmers and being one.  Both make money playing the game, on a long and regular schedule, and for a singular, monotonous purpose.  It presents a moral grey area and Anda realizes she is more in the wrong than Raymond.  She learns of his health problems, the working conditions, and decides to help him. She says, “Raymond is a real gamer!  Gold farming is just a job…  What else is he supposed to do?  Make zippers for 25 cents a day?”

While her goals are lofty and heartfelt, Doctorow is not shy about the real world implications of Anda’s activism.  Even though Coarsegold provides a way for widespread communication, it does not change the fact she does not really know a whole lot about the culture of Raymond’s region or that of the workplace and her decision to help him is motivated by pure naive emotion.  What seems unethical to some is normal to others, and Anda learns the hard way when her meddling gets Raymond in trouble. One of his coworkers tells her, “The boss caught him conspiring to take down the company and fired him immediately… Nice job, American.  You don’t know anything about us.  Next time stick to our own game.”

IRL does not hide the fact you cannot entirely change the world through gaming.  Even conventional social media struggles to have the same effect as genuine activism.  But Doctorow is optimistic nonetheless.  The story remains steadfast that despite the complexity of the world and its cultures, everyone from all walks of life has the capacity to come together on common ground, be that social media or MMORGs.  Like standing on a picket line, it takes time and sacrifice.

In Real Life 1

The book is surprisingly exceptional as a graphic narrative.  Jen Wang’s style is simple with an aesthetic reminiscent of Adventure Time and Scott Pilgrim, but more realistic, accurate body proportions, skin color, and hair.  The story shifts between the real world and the world of Coarsegold.  Everything in reality is painted in dark earth tones, whereas the game world is bleached in bright colors that complement its fantastical elements.

In Real Life 068

As a comic, the book is consistent in its use of visuals to tell the story.  A lot of information can be gleaned from expressions and the images in each panel.  You cannot just read the dialog without the pictures to help you along with what the characters are feeling. A fellow classmate is rebuffed by Anda’s friends:

“D&D and Jenga are, like, completely different things.  So, thanks, but I think we’re cool just playing here.”

“Okay, well.  Let me know if you change your minds.”

In prose, those lines would not make sense unless the characters’ voices and expressions were described.  With comics, it is as simple as drawing a smugly risen eyebrow on one character, and a sad face on another, and IRL’s effective visuals make it a page-turner.

I appreciate In Real Life for making videogames seem more than recreational material and for considering their potential for self actualization and seriously socially destructive behavior.  The fantastic art by Jen Wang and the incredibly tight story telling by Doctorow make it a quick, engaging read that makes you think about where the MMO culture is going.


CT McMillan 1

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.

Episode 180: Mixtape 5 (The Difference Between Luminescent Dreams and My Grandmother’s Typewriter)

Episode 180 of the world’s greatest writing podcast is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I share some music.

mixtape 5


This is where I’ll be this weekend. Besides undertaking too many interviews, I’ll be reading on Saturday in The Swamp on Tiffany Razzano’s Saved by the Sunshine State panel.



Episode 180 of the world’s greatest writing podcast is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #111: Legends of the Fall Part 2

The Curator of Schlock #111 bu Jeff Shuster

Legends of the Fall part 2

No, they didn’t make a sequel to that stupid Brad Pitt movie!

Okay, here is part two of my continuing series on fall movies, and by continuing I mean that it’s ending this week. Sometimes your curator has to leave the museum and see what’s going on the world. That means I sat in a theater and watched four more movies.

The Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts movie

Yeah, I saw a kid’s movie, but it’s Charlie Brown and nostalgia tugged at me. I used to watch Charlie Brown movies when I was a kid. I remember one where they went camping and rafting and then Cropsy murders them all in their raft. Oh wait! That was The Burning. Anyway, The Peanuts Movie features all of the classic characters you know and love except now they’re CG. It doesn’t look bad at all, but I can’t help but feel they went to huge expense to recreate the comic strip style with computer graphics just so could show the movie 3D.

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies

This is one of those newer Spielberg movies, which doesn’t have any extra terrestrials in it, but this one actually isn’t too bad. Tom Hanks plays this lawyer that has to defend a Russian spy (Boooooooooooooo!!!) during the Cold War! Something about everyone in the United States deserving a fair trial. The judge throws the book at him anyway because he’s a Russian spy and a Soviet COMMUNIST! Plus, this spy has the nerve to sport a Scottish accent! How dare he? The Scottish aren’t communist…I think. Hanks convinces the judge not to kill him because they may need to trade him for an American spy one day and wouldn’t you know it, that day comes. Guess who has to make the trade? Tom Hanks! By the way, Tom Hanks plays James B. Donovan who was a real person so I guess I just could read about this in a history book instead of plunking down a ten spot for this movie.

The Martian

The Martian

No extra terrestrials in this one either. And it’s called The Martian! Matt Damon plays some astronaut that gets left for dead on Mars by the rest of his crew. He spends the rest of the movie listening to disco music and growing potatoes in garden he made from human feces. He runs out of ketchup at some point. Jeff Daniels plays the President.

 Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender plays Steve Jobs in the movie Steve Jobs. This film mainly consistsof protracted dialogue scenes where Steve Jobs consistently disagrees with everyone he talks to. Jeff Daniels stars in this one, too, as the CEO of Apple. I keep getting Jeff Daniels confused with Bill Pullman. Bill Pullman was in David Lynch’s Lost Highway. David Lynch also directed Mulholland Drive which I recently purchased during a Barnes & Noble’s Criterion sale. The DVD has no chapter stops. It’s like David Lynch wants me to watch the whole movie instead of just skipping to my favorite parts. How dare he!

Mulholland Drive


Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

McMillan’s Codex #13: Fallout 3 and New Vegas



McMillan’s Codex # 13 By C.T. McMillan

Fallout 3 and New Vegas

The dystopia appears quite often in fiction. Its most basic form is a world that appears perfect, but has problems and issues hidden behind a gilded veneer. It is a setting that appears stable and peaceful, but its seamless order is maintained by a state of perpetual control at the cost of individuality, openness, and life itself. 1984 and many young adult works are examples of fictional dystopias, whereas North Korea and contemporary Russia are real.

Another form of dystopia is a world that started perfect until its utter destruction. The new world in its place is a direct contradiction, full of savagery and hostility. One common example is the post-apocalypse, a wasteland where anarchy reigns, the only order is personal justice, and survival is a constant struggle. The cataclysm that brought about the destruction varies, but one of the more interesting is that of a nuclear holocaust.

Fallout 1

I never heard of Fallout before I bought the third canon game in the series 7 years ago. It was developed by Bethesda, the same studio behind Elder Scrolls, a fantasy RPG series I reviewed not too long ago. Before my purchase I heard Fallout 3 was basically “Elder Scrolls with guns” and when one combines a perfect role-playing system and firearms, how could I resist? Three hours into the game I realized I bought something far more unique.

The reason Fallout is so well regarded and the appeal for me is the world. With the post-apocalyptic setting is the underlining aesthetic of atom-punk, a derivative of cyber-punk where the speculative future of the 40s and 50s is literal. Fusion powered cars, radiated soft drinks, robots, and lasers are the norm, trapped in a time warp of 2077. After a costly resource war, the remaining superpowers squared off in a nuclear exchange that devastated the planet. Those who found refuge in the many Vaults, advanced fallout shelters, emerged to a place transformed by chaos and horror, the Wasteland

Barrowing from A Canticle for Leibowitz, religion plays a big part in the many factions and groups that make civilization in their own way. The Children of the Atom pray to an un-exploded nuke and the Brotherhood of Steel treats old technology like precious relics to preserve while defending the innocent. Starship Troopers and Foundation contribute much to the aesthetic with the atom-punk and the use of power armor. Mad Max references are plentiful as Raiders wear armor made from random scrap, whole towns are built from refuse, and wandering Slavers look for fresh captures to sell off.

Exploration is the best part of any open world RPG. What sets Fallout 3 apart from conventional wastelands is that it takes place in Washington DC, an area rarely depicted in a post-apocalyptic light. Monuments and famous buildings still stand, but as saturated ruins hastily repaired or converted into settlements. The National Mall is a no man’s land of trench works as a constant battle is waged between heroic soldiers and mutant abominations. In the shadows, lone treasure hunters comb the landscape for iconic documents and artifacts. Licensed tracks help the feel of the world with music by the likes of the Ink Spots, Roy Brown, and Bob Crosby that can be heard over the in-game radio.

Progression is similar to Elder Scrolls with the SPECIAL, skills, and perks systems. SPECIAL determines the player’s proficiency with abilities like how much they can carry and how well they can sneak. Skills directly affect gameplay and what you can do. A high Small Guns means you are adapt with pistols and rifles, Lockpick allows you to open doors and safes, and Speech could mean the difference between talking your way out of confrontation or going loud. Perks can help your stats and skills, while some make your attacks especially powerful like Bloody Mess or give you unique dialog options for female characters like Lady Killer.

In many ways Fallout 3 is no different from any game in the series or RPG for that matter. But the vast array of detail and the setting of a destroyed DC made it remarkable and cherished as one of the best games of all time.

Fallout 2

While Bethesda developed Fallout 3, Obsidian Entertainment took charge of its follow-up two years later. The studios came to an agreement that one will set the games on the east coast, while the other took place in the west. It is fitting considering Obsidian is made up of former employees that worked on the series before Bethesda took over.

As a result, a lot of the lore in New Vegas is based on Fallout 1 and 2. The Brotherhood of Steel is more secluded and does not care about innocents. The Followers of the Apocalypse is a missionary outfit that helps the poor and sick. The New California Republic (NCR), as their name entails, is a fledgling superpower with bureaucratic expansionist ideals. There is plenty of new material like Caesar’s Legion, a faction inspired by ancient Rome and the titular city, whose majesty is that of legend. The lore is presented in a familiar fashion, as if the player already knows what is going on. Though it takes away from the sense of discovery as you progress, it makes sense because your character is a local. But the loss of wonder is one part of the game’s biggest problem.

New Vegas takes place in the surrounding area of Las Vegas, a setting that is already a wasteland. Immediately the otherworldly charm of the post-apocalypse is gone because the place that was supposed to be a barren ruin, started out a barren ruin, and remained as such after the apocalypse. Simply put, there is no reason for the setting to be a dystopia because no disaster took place, even in the backstory. Why anything is in disarray can be boiled down to convenience.

The city is kind of different with a vast slum in its periphery called Freeside, but it is still a generic copy of the same location with some aesthetic changes and different hotel names, one of which run by cannibals. Even that is not interesting considering there are maybe a few quests per hotel and they serve no purpose other than to house mini-games in the form of slot machines and a variety of tables that you will never play.

While the game fails thematically, it succeeds on conceptual grounds alone. The background of the main story centers on the NCR and Caesar’s Legion fighting for control of the Hoover Dam to exploit its resources. To gain the upper hand, both sides are trying to gain greater influence in Vegas, but Mr. House, the mysterious overseer of the city, has other plans. It is up to the player to decide the fate of the Wasteland and who controls Vegas.

You directly affect how the world develops on a political and cultural level. The NCR brings old world ideas, while the Legion was born out of the apocalypse with values akin to underdeveloped societies, and Mr. House is a balance of the two with totalitarian tendencies. You choose sides by gaining the trust of other groups and convincing them to lend their support to whomever you deem worthy. Either choice presents a variety of outcomes tied to the factions’ traits, but who says they have to control the Wasteland? Being player driven, you have the option to forgo the select groups and claim Vegas and the Dam for yourself. It is entirely up to you as you shape the outcome to suit the morals and ethics of your character.

The gameplay mechanics are also improved. Fallout 3 is as basic as you can get when it comes to a shooter. With the exception of series’ trademark VATS (Vault Assisted Targeting System), you just point and shoot at whatever you want to die. New Vegas gave the mechanics a contemporary spin with the use of iron sights and the option for different ammunition types. Missing from the formula, however, was the ability to sprint and one-button grenades.

While the magic that made the previous installment great was nonexistent and the environment uninspired to the point of banality, New Vegas had a lot to offer in other respects. Where it fails in aesthetics the game is exceptional in its role-playing and depth of choice as the factions you support and destroy reflect your personal morals and ethics. It was a new addition that built upon an already perfect concept.

Fallout 3

Fallout 4 just came out and I am nonetheless enjoying it to the point of losing sleep. A review is inevitable and I would like to play enough of the game to understand it as well as the last two. I highly recommend buying it ahead of my critique, but I also recommend Fallout 3 and New Vegas as a primer for both the lore and the world.


CT McMillan 1

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.


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