November 9, 2018

HUNTINGTON — After Halloween’s Spooktacular, Camden Park was closed for the season. But the very next night, on Thursday, Nov. 1, Taron Watts was there on screen romping all through the park with a grin as wide as The Big Dipper.

Watts was one of the 40 or so video gaming students who stopped by a special Marshall University “Fallout 76” BETA event that night to test out the new West Virginia-set “Fallout 76″ that launches worldwide Wednesday, Nov. 14. Before everyone else gets to dive into the wild and wonderful virtual world of “Fallout 76” you can celebrate this epic gaming moment at Marshall University.

“The Official Unofficial Fallout 76 Reclamation Day Celebration of West Virginia” takes place 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, in the Don Morris Room of Marshall University’s Memorial Student Center.

The launch party will feature music by Heavy Hitters, Christopher Vincent of Qiet and The Dividends.

There will be Fallout cosplayers and the chance to play “Fallout 76” (dependent on the BETA schedule). Tickets are $20 or two for $30 and are on sale now at https://reclaimwv.com/

Friday’s event is a charity fundraising event to benefit Cafe Appalachia, a by-donation restaurant and coffee house that provides job training; the Children’s Home Society of WV, a child welfare organization; WV Autism, which provides support for autism families; and the statewide WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.

Watts, whose sister Tamara Westfall also plays Fallout, said like other West Virginia gamers, they have been geeking out since June when Bethesda Game Studios director and executive producer Todd Howard announced the new game would be based in the Mountain State.

“I was with my sister watching the live stream and when we heard ‘Country Roads,’ we started losing our minds and started theorizing how it could be,” Watts said.

“Fallout 76” is a post-apocalyptic prequel with an atom-punk style based on the culture and style of the American 1950s. It’s part of the popular “Fallout” series, which has featured four main “Fallout” games since 1997. The last was “Fallout 4″ in 2015. “Fallout 76,” is the third in a series of spinoff games that have included “Fallout: New Vegas” in 2010 and “Fallout Shelter” in 2015.

To get a scope of the impact of the video game, “Fallout 4” sold 12 million copies and generated more than $750 million in just its first 24 hours at retail in November 2015, according to industry figures. In 2017, Bethesda officials said “Fallout 4″ had surpassed Skyrim (which had sold 23 million copies) as its top all-time seller. It was also reported that “Fallout 4” was also the largest online streaming game, surpassing “Grand Theft Auto 5.”

Estimates are that “Fallout 76” could generate $1 billion in sales in its first 24 hours and is projected to be played by more than 20 million players.

Graphically, “Fallout 76” is four times bigger than “Fallout 4,” which, for players familiar with the Mountain State, means they will be navigating an eerily familiar world that showcases more than 50 sites including such iconic images as Camden Park, the golddomed state Capitol, the west entrance of The Greenbrier, the New River Gorge Bridge and Woodburn Hall at WVU in Morgantown.

Locally, there is also the Ric Griffith Pumpkin House, Hillbilly Hotdogs (called Hillfolk Hotdogs) and many other landmarks in the video game in which players battle such West Virginia monsters as Mothman.

Watts said it’s a little weird running around in the game and coming up upon Hillfolk Hotdogs, Camden Park and the Capitol.

“Being raised around here and seeing all of this stuff in a video game, in a series I love, that I play all the time, like Camden Park — I went there all the time as a kid, so going there in a video game is surreal,” Watts said. “It is really beautiful too. I think I was surprised by the graphics. It’s a lot more detailed than the other games. It really feels like West Virginia. You feel like you could just walk outside and just see this scenery.”

Veteran gamer John Barton, who organized Friday’s event at Marshall, said only a couple major sites in the game — the Youghiogheny River Dam in Pennsylvania and Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia — are not from West Virginia.

Although the game, set in the splendor of a colorful autumn, takes some creative license with the geographical placement of some of the state’s landmarks and quirky places, it creates a remarkably realistic landscape to explore.

“I know some people getting really hung up that things aren’t where you would normally find it — but haters are going to hate,” Barton said. “For the most part people are just really excited when they can find stuff and it looks really familiar. I randomly stop playing and get amazed (at) landscapes that I recognize. Not that this mountain range I recognize, but just the right combination of hill and trees and leaves and everything else, and I am like, ‘This is like I am outside.’ There is so much into it.”

Barton said wherever you explore in the game you will run into sci-fi nods to real West Virginia history, and that anyone playing the game will learn about the state. For instance the Ash Heap region of the Coalfields (home to Welch, Beckley and Blair Mountain, which is Mount Blair in the game), makes reference to West Virginia’s Mine Wars and its forever tie to coal.

“If you look at the history of the Mine Wars, the Matewan Massacre, the Battle of Blair Mountain and also JFK’s 1960 campaign, all of that is represented. You show up in Beckley and there is Strike Breaker Robots attacking you,” Barton said. “The area is black and looks completely destroyed. It has nothing to do with the nuclear war. It is entirely because they devastated the land. It is completely self-inflicted. It’s mountaintop removal. And if you take all of the stuff with the Mine Wars and give it a sci-fi twist to the late 21st century, this is what you get — strike-breaker robots and mole miners. All of that is there.”

Cory Brown, 26, a “Fallout” fan who also happens to be a game and website developer for Strictly Business, has been taking advantage of the multiple Beta or limited-time preview playing of the game that have been happening on select days in the past few weeks.

As a video game maker, Brown looks at the game with a developer’s eye. He helped create an interactive video game used at Heritage Farm Museum and Village, and is now working on a video game (with AFO Studios) he hopes to release on Steam next year and that is based in Huntington.

Although a little bummed he didn’t get to work on a game like this, Brown, a senior at Marshall, said the Mountain State and its myriad of interesting places, landscapes and stories plays well in “Fallout 76.”

He said because “Fallout 76,” is the first multiplayer “Fallout” game, the sparse Mountain State landscape makes for an advantageous setting.

“I think the fact that for as many cities as there are in West Virginia, they are spread out,” Brown said. “When ‘Fallout’ was in Boston it was a pretty large city and it was pretty taxing. Especially making a multiplayer game, it really works out having vast areas to spread across. Graphically, it is done really well, and it is done in a way that I don’t notice too many bugs. We have noticed a few but nothing game-breaking.”

While Barton is not sure if they are going to be able to play “Fallout 76” on Friday night, the executive director of West Virginia Autism said he knew he had to do something special to celebrate a ground-breaking video game that could introduce 20 million players from around the world to the beauty and history of West Virginia.

“A major theme of ‘Fallout 76’ is Reclamation Day — the day the vault opens and residents leave to reclaim their homes despite the danger and devastation that awaits them outside,” Barton said. “We wish to recognize that spirit of resilience and perseverance West Virginians are known for and celebrate a game that captures what it means to be a Mountaineer so well.”

In organizing the charity event, Barton said he wanted to use the game’s popularity and celebration of home to create a ripple impact beyond tourism. He hopes to host an annual celebration of “Fallout 76,” since the game span of a video game can last for five years or more.

“If you look at how successful the Camden Park meet-up was in the summer, and then the Mothman Festival had an attendance increase between 30 and 50 percent, you see that it is definitely causing people to want to explore the areas in the game,” Barton said. “I wanted to give people a chance to collectively come together and do something good with that interest and to help shed a little light on the people here who are looking for solutions.”


WHAT: The Official Unofficial Fallout 76 Reclamation Day Celebration of West Virginia, a charity fundraising event to benefit Cafe Appalachia, Children’s Home Society of WV, WV Autism, and WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.

The Launch Party will feature music by Heavy Hitters, Christopher Vincent of Qiet and The Dividends. There will be Fallout cosplayers, and the chance to play “Fallout 76” (dependent on BETA schedule).

WHERE: Don Morris Room of Marshall University’s Memorial Student Center

WHEN: 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9

GET TIX: $20 or two for $30 and are on sale now at https://reclaimwv.com/

CONTACT: WVAutism@gmail.com or 304-412-1257 for more information.

OTHER MARSHALL “FALLOUT 76” EVENTS: VaultMU Reclamation Day Celebration: Hosted by Marshall University Special Collections and Marshall University Libraries, this event runs 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at Marshall University’s Special Collections at Morrow Library. Join Marshall University Libraries, Marshall University Digital Humanities, HerdCon and CIT in celebrating the release of “Fallout 76.” Play the game, enjoy Fallout-and West Virginia-themed snacks, take behind-the-scenes tours of the Special Collections department, learn more about West Virginia and Digital Humanities.

LAUNCH DAY: “Fallout 76” launches Nov. 14 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. For more information, visit http://www.fallout.com

ON THE WEB: To stay up to date on the latest “Fallout 76” news, visit WVtourism.com/Fallout76.

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