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Why Fallout 4's character creation scene is such a success

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This is one of the secrets to success of the game's first hour

This post contains spoilers for Fallout 4

The first thing Fallout 4 asks you to do as a player is to create a character. This is pretty standard for open-world games, and you can watch the process in the above video. Players are having a great time creating characters that look like them, or like other fictional characters. Nothing about this is very new or shocking.

But wait! The setup for the character creation is actually clever, and it may take a bit for this to sink in. You create your character as they stand in front of the mirror with their spouse, which means you have a man and a woman inside their own home, in a scene where it makes sense that they be together. This isn't the standard character creation where your avatar is an idea until you breathe life into them, these are two characters who already exist in the fiction, and have a relationship with each other.

And that's the fun part. Since both characters exist no matter which gender you choose to be in the game, you can spend time creating not just a character, but two characters who are married. I spent more time than I'm comfortable admitting creating both, and coming up with an elaborate backstory about how they met and fell in love. By the time I was finished I had two characters, both of whom I enjoyed looking at, and the first hour of the game allowed them both to hang out, having a life, and interact with each other and the world. It was like a tiny bit of The Sims hidden in a Fallout game.

By the time I was done with character creation I liked both of my characters, and was happy they seemed to be happy with each other and their baby. By setting up character creation so that both characters existed in the fiction it gave me an excuse to really have fun making my characters, and explore all the options for both the man and the woman character model.

Until, of course...

The problem, or opportunity here, is that the time I spent was "wasted." I chose to play as the woman character, and within an hour my virtual husband had taken our child into what turned out to be a stasis pod, only to watch him be thawed out and murdered by scavengers who then abducted the baby.

The idea of your child being taken by someone who doesn't care about them is already nightmarish enough, but my husband, the character I had spent all that time creating ... was dead. A moment that could have been boring and expected in another game was given at least a bit more heft due to the fact I had created that character. I felt a connection to them. The first NPC to die in the game was someone you had made.

These may seem like trivial things, but they all work together to give Fallout 4 an interesting, heavy beginning. We knew the game was going to allow us to choose and create our main character, but the fact you can, and I did, create them only to die was an interesting touch. Creating not just a character creation screen, but a character selection screen in a way that neatly fit into the game's idea of a nightmarish version of 1950's suburbia was just the right touch of cleverness to start the game off right.