Update: Fallout 4’s lead writer reverses gear, says main character is not actually a war criminal

Update: That was fast. Shortly after this story first went live, Bethesda design director Emil Pagliarulo amended his reveal about Fallout 4’s male protagonist, whose default name is Nate.

“I wanted to share what I thought was a cool Fallout tidbit without realizing how divisive it might be,” Pagliarulo tweeted. “I should have… Not every bit of Fallout info I share is automatically canon. Nate is NOT a war criminal.”

Alright, fair enough. I hope Pagliarulo isn’t getting too much flak for this, since it’s all the theoretical history surrounding a fake guy who lives in our desktops. I cannot stress enough that Nate Q. Falloutfour is not real, and neither is America’s 2072 annexation of Canada—yet.

While Nate is innocent, the now unidentified second guy from Fallout 1’s intro cutscene is not. Sir, you are on notice.

Original Story: Well, this was unexpected: Fallout 4 lead writer Emil Pagliarulo took to Twitter yesterday to reveal that Fallout 4’s male protagonist participated in the extrajudicial execution of a Canadian partisan during the illegal US occupation of its neighbor “up ‘nort” in the 2070s. I always knew that guy had bad vibes.

Ok, let’s pump the brakes here, what does all that mean? “Given the great vibes recently, and the millions of amazing Fallout fans (that’s you!) I feel like the time is right to share an unknown link between Fallout 1 and Fallout 4,” Pagliarulo tweeted. “Remember the Fallout 1 opening movie? Annexation of Canada? SAME. GUY. (No, NOT the shooter!)”

Fallout 1 has like, the sickest opening cutscene of any game, with “Maybe” by the Ink Spots playing over a black and white Galaxy News dispatch of “our boys in annexed Canada.” Two soldiers in the now-iconic T-51 power armor contemplate an unarmed prisoner, with one (apparently our guy) holding a plasma rifle while the other cocks a pistol. 

The second soldier then marches up and unceremoniously executes the prisoner, with the two then noticing the camera rolling and cheerfully waving, seemingly unbothered that this was caught on film. The broadcast then cuts to adverts, with the view slowly panning out to reveal a bombed-out city surrounding the TV. It’s the perfect introduction to Fallout’s haunting atmosphere and bitter, ironic sense of humor.

In Fallout 4, meanwhile, your choice of protagonists are a married couple with established histories and personalities, with whoever you don’t pick becoming an NPC in the game. Your lady protagonist is a successful lawyer on the home front, while Mr. Shaun’s Dad gallivanted up the Yangtze as part of the US’s invasion of China. Now we know that, before all that business, Johnny Where’s-My-Son was up in Saskatchewan visiting brutal imperial violence upon the Fedaykin of the Tim Horton’s Resistance.

What do we do now, burdened with this knowledge? On the one hand, Pagliarulo’s reveal reminds me of JK Rowling’s old style of social media, before becoming a full-time creep about trans people. Remember when she’d just tweet which characters in Harry Potter were secretly gay or Millwall fans? At the same time, maybe there’s a bit more meat to Pagliarulo’s disclosure, if this was something Bethesda had in mind during development⁠—did the studio ever plan on making this connection explicit in the game?

Whatever the case, if you don’t want to roleplay Shaun’s Dad as a war criminal, I have great news: these are all just stories a bunch of people in Maryland and California made up, and you can make up your own too. Whether New Vegas, the Fall of Shady Sands, or Mr. Fallout 4 helping to kill that guy are “canon” or not, you can still just crack open a soda and download a mod from the Nexus that turns Preston Garvey into Goku or something.

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