‘Fallout 76’ does West Virginia no favors

December 16, 2018

The Charleston Gazette-Mail published this editorial on Dec. 10 regarding the reception over a video game set in the state:

West Virginia, having been exploited by industrial interests for decades, has now fallen victim to the video game industry.

Fortunately, no one is losing their job or contracting black lung. But it is a black eye for the state in an unwitting way.

“Fallout 76,” the game released last month as the latest installment in the popular video game series, this time set entirely in a post-apocalyptic West Virginia, is a disaster, according to players and critics.

The game is filled with bugs. Servers crash in the middle of playing, there are lock-ups, enemies walk through walls, weapons occasionally do no damage, etc.

The review site Gamespot gave “Fallout 76” a score of 4/10, marking the game “poor” on its rating scale. It’s a shockingly low score for any serious release with a devoted following. The previous installment in the series, “Fallout 4,” got a 9/10 and was rated “superb.” IGN rated the game “mediocre,” concluding: “The rich wasteland map of Fallout 76 is wasted on a mess of bugs, conflicting ideas, and monotony.”

Bethesda, which developed the game and the entire series, even messed up some of the marketing, selling special editions costing around $200 that came with collectibles that were not what was pictured when delivered.

The general consensus is that the entire project was rushed and thrust out into the marketplace well before it was ready. The company has since issued some fixes, and a lukewarm statement that more might be coming in the future, but gamers devoted to the franchise are furious at receiving such a shoddy product after shelling out at least $60 for a copy of the game. Many have already moved on.

So why should West Virginians care? It’s not like this game was designed and released by the state office of tourism. The Mountain State just happens to be the selected backdrop for this latest installment of “Fallout.” It’s just a game, right?

It’s also a huge missed opportunity. The setting generated plenty of pre-release buzz, with fans having gatherings at sites that are featured in the game, like Camden Park and the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant. Bethesda even had a beta testing event at The Greenbrier resort.

Because it’s a video game, this demographic of tourist is typically younger. A state that flips with Florida nearly every year on which has the oldest population in the country could really use an infusion of younger visitors. Tourism still might see an uptick from some of the hardcore, devoted fans of the series, but it’s hard to imagine a boom in visitors after such a poor initial showing.

It’s not West Virginia’s fault that Bethesda released a bad game, but it would’ve been nice if, for once, an industry coming into the state could have done right by it.

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