Mascot Mania: Crawl out through the Fallout

Written By Sarah Gibson, Mascots Correspondent

Honestly, it’s a wonder that I’ve gotten through the semester without writing about Fallout. I started playing the games in March right after quarantine started, and it very quickly turned into one of my favorite franchises of all time. In short, the story of the franchise as a whole revolves around a hyper-capitalist America that nearly ends the world via a nuclear war with China, as well as the wasting of natural resources through unbridled consumption. Bombs are dropped across the country and nearly wipe out everything. In each of the games, America has been transformed into an irradiated wasteland. I could get more into it, but that’s all you really have to know. This week, I want to talk about one of my biggest pet peeves regarding Fallout: The Vault Boy. 

(And before you complain, yes, I checked with Jordyn Hronec, Editor-in-Chief, and this does technically count as sports, since esports count as sports, even though none of the Fallout games are actually played at competitions. That being said, this is my column and it’s the last week in the semester, so I’m going to talk about Fallout.)

So, as I’m sure you’ve already gathered, Fallout started out containing a lot of satire, and one of those pieces of satire was The Vault Boy. In the game, Vault-Tec is a company that specializes in making underground vaults that you can buy a spot in just in case the world were to–Oh, I don’t know, face total atomic annihilation. As a concept, it’s naturally morbid, but not incredibly unrealistic. There are companies out there today that will come to your house and install underground bunkers in case of an apocalypse scenario.

Now, what was the Vault Boy, and how was he satirical? The Vault Boy is a squeaky clean cartoon of a vault dweller, often seen with a wink in his eye, giving you a ‘thumbs up.’ (In reality, it has become ‘The Fallout Logo,’ but we’ll get to that later.) The Vault Boy mascot was originally made to poke fun at how capitalism tries to turn brands into your friends (A good real-life example of this is how brands act on Twitter, trying to seem more personable than what they are in actuality— a company who wants your money.) The Vault Boy was silly fun. Even in Fallout 4, which many fans agree is one of the more disjointed games, there were short films which played before the game started of the Vault Boy playfully being melted, shot, robbed and murdered in various ways to show vault dwellers what life could possibly be like once they exit the vault and venture into the nuclear wastes. Taking this adorable little mascot and brutalizing him was funny, and it was meant to contrast the nature of the business with the persona that they projected to the public. 

Now, all of that is fine. As a mascot aficionado, I thought it made for good commentary. My problem comes from the fact that Bethesda, the game development company responsible for the Fallout games, seems to have forgotten what the Vault Boy stood for in the first place, and has started using it as a mascot unironically. As a reminder, the Vault Boy was crafted specifically to make fun of businesses that use dumb mascots like the Vault Boy to cheaply advertise and cater to the public. If you look at Fallout merchandise online, many of the items can be easily summarized by “_____, but there’s a Vault Boy on it.” Christmas sweaters, figurines, T-shirts, pins, et cetera. It really has become the quintessential ‘Fallout’ symbol, and in that decision, we can criticize the games and Bethesda as a whole. I understand, as a fan, that people want merch for this game. I understand, as a business, that you want to make more money and give those people what they want. However, as a creative, don’t you want to stick to your guns, and shirk off the rampant commercialism that you made fun of when you were first creating concepts like the Vault Boy? This is a symptom of a larger problem, which is that Fallout has lost touch with it’s original motivations, but I’m a mascot reporter so I’ll stick to the mascot. 

Overall, while the Vault Boy has a clean design, I hate it, because it seems that in the canon of its own creation, it has gone from making fun of itself to becoming the face of the franchise, unironically, for what he is. 

With that being said, I’m signing off for the year. It’s been a great one, Point Park, and I’m as excited as ever to come back next semester to talk about the best things that the mascot world has to offer. Have a good break. Chill out, eat some cookies, play some video games (I recommend the Fallout series) and don’t be afraid to think about the dumb stuff a little too much. That’s what led me to starting this column, and I’m having a pretty great time with it.