So, I may well be the only one here who cares about this, but that's fine. A long long time ago, a computer game called Wasteland became a bit of a cult success in the computer role playing games communities. It was set in a post-apocolyptic future, mainly in California and Nevada if i remember right. About ten years ago, give or take, a spiritual successor was developed. The game was Fallout. Originally, this was going to be the first computer game to use the pen and paper RPG G.U.R.P.S., though lisencing problems resulted in the developers writing their own rule system instead. That rule system, incidentally, seems to have had a bit of an impact on the development of the third edition of D&D, almost certainly the most famous role playing game system there is. But what made this successor so significant was not the rule system (which was damn, damn good), nor the atmosphere (which was, after all, harkening back to an earlier game), but the method through which you were immersed in that atmosphere and setting. For pretty much the first time (at least in my experience) in a computer game, you could ROLE PLAY. Talk to someone, and you would have four or five (or more) possible responses. The nature of the response you chose would have profound impacts on the relationship between you and the character you spoke to, and on the game world itself. Most innovative of all, if your character happened to be particularly intelligent (or, god save us, particularly stupid), this was reflected in your dialog options. Characters in the bottom 20% of the intelligence bracket could not communicate effectively, and had to find other options to proceed through the game than dialog or diplomacy. Characters in the top 10% of the intelligence bracket could often talk their way past every obstacle in the game. This gave an amazing semblance of life to the game world, and a real sense of character and personality to the.. um.. characters you met there. And above all, it let you feel like you were playing the game YOUR way. Be a hero, be a villan, be something in between, you were only limited by the branching dialog trees written into the game and there were PLENTY of branches to follow. Because of this emphasis on dialog and real conversation (in many role playing computer games before this, conversations were either non existant or pre-scripted and immutable), I often played through the game to simply see what other ways these personalities could respond to my various characters. It wasn't just about killing mutants to go up levels. But oh, oh the killing. Fallout's homemade rule system included a wonderful combat system that worked in turns so you didn't have to have perfect reflexes or marksmanship skills like in an action game, and it offered an unprecedented level of tactical choice in the form of targeting your shots. Many times I was out there in that barren radioactive desert with just a few shots left in my rifle, and my life was saved by making a harder shot aimed at a bandit's eyes rather than his torso. If the shot connected, the results were often spectacularly gory. Fallout offered a dark, hostile world that was a challenge to survive. Life after a major nuclear war isn't pretty. But they also managed to imbue the game with some very dark humor and blackest comedy. In a game this grim you might find it odd, but I laughed out loud with Fallout as often and as hard as I've laughed with Pratchett. The game was rife with references to sci-fi, monty python, and other pop culture references. I recall stumbling on a rare encounter in the wilderness where I found a crashed UFO. Stenciled on the side of the craft was the legend 'property of Area 51', and inside the UFO were two desicated and mishapen skeletons, one of which was holding a velvet painting of Elvis. Fallout was so successful and impressive that a sequel was released which, in almost every way, expanded on the good qualities the original had. The publishing company started to face financial difficulties however, and some less than inspired spin offs were released that were devoid of the 1950's cold war feel of the role playing games, the witty dialog, and worst of all the fun. Then the publishing company announced that the studio that had developed Fallout, Fallout 2, and Planescape: Torment (one of the two computer games that actually caused a profound change in my life, it was that good) among other titles was to be disbanded. Eventually they filed for bankruptcy and lisencined the Fallout IP to another company. That was in 2004. A month ago, we saw the first trailer for the new Fallout 3, and I nearly wept it was that good. Today, I found a transcript of an article in a computer game magazine that had me squeeling out loud and giggling madly in my excitement. We can only be thankful that Grace has been out all morning teaching so that she didn't have to witness my near orgasmic bliss at reports on an early demo of the game. The game isn't due out until fall of next year, and I'm already having palpitations. For those who want to glean even more insight into just how sadly devoted I (and many many other people) are to this franchise, this is a transcript of the article in question: No Mutants Allowed - Your Post Nuclear News Center! Over on the official message boards for the game, debate is still hot and fast and vitrolic on issues such as first person vs. third person perspective, real time vs. turn based combat, and other game related issues. Most stunning of all, to my mind, is the debate that took shape after that trailer was released, with a number of people angrily protesting that the developers were trying too hard to please the die hard fans by making something that looked exactly like what they'd want. There's just no pleasing some people. But not me. I'm still giggling and am about to go find my Fallout cds for a few blissful strolls through the bombed out ruins of Los Angeles. Lord knows it looks better in a ten year old video game than it ever did in person.