As I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, I’m a big fan of Fallout 3 and New Vegas, with the latter being one of my absolute favorite games of all time.
Are they perfect? No, of course not, but the good things vastly outnumber any flaws in them.
But as I was playing through Fallout: New Vegas for the fourteenth time, molding and manipulating the factions and people of the Mojave Wasteland, like a machiavellian puppet master, to ensure my triumphant political and martial takeover and subsequent installment as sovereign überboss of New Vegas, I suddenly realized something strange about it.
It wasn’t some philosophical contradiction or anything big like that. It was something amazingly small, but very confusing.
You can’t smoke.
The game features cigarettes. You find packets and cartons of them throughout the Mojave, one of the supporting characters is identified from smoking a particular brand, you run around with two different lighters, one you use to light dynamite and one belonging to the aforementioned secondary character. One of the idle actions of NPC’s has them smoking a cigarette, there are smoking cigars in ashtrays all over the game…
So why can’t you take a puff? Why is that not an option?
Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating smoking here. I don’t smoke, and I don’t see the allure of inhaling smoke, dragging tar and carcinogenic fumes into your lungs. I’m not saying the game is severely lacking the option. In the long run, it’s not that important. But with all the other options the game gives us, surely smoking wouldn’t be that far a leap?
I admit I know nothing about designing a game, but I can’t imagine it’d be that difficult to add some effects from smoking, and changing cigarettes from “miscellaneous” to consumable items. Maybe smoking gives you +1 to charisma or intelligence but a -2 to endurance, or a temporary reduction to action points, for example? The effect of one cigarette lasts 10 seconds, a packet lasts a minute and a carton lasts five minutes? Surely that’s not an impossible task?
Or is it just a moral thing? We can’t allow the players to smoke, because it’s ethically or morally wrong, since smoking kills?
I suppose that’s true, but you know what else kills? And does so much faster and more effectively than smoking? A .44 caliber bullet to the skull. And yet, with the exception of children, there is nothing stopping you from taking a Smith & Wesson revolver and turn some poor bastards head into a canoe.
Let me I remind you that, in this game, you can lie, blackmail, threaten, bully, torture, mutilate and kill people. You can set them on fire, turn them to ashes or into puddles of green goo with energy weapons.
You can sell your friends as slaves or as food for cannibals,
You can get addicted to wine, vodka, whiskey, scotch, beer and soda!
You can use and abuse drugs of such a variety and to such an extent you’d make Janis Joplin, Keith Moon and Jim Morrison look like a teetotalist girl choir by comparison.
You can quite literally sell out the future of the human race to an army of technophobic, misogynist slavers, murderers and pedophiles, led by a clinically insane dictator and self appointed living deity, who intends to wind social evolution back, undoing 2308 years of history, and your payment is just having your face stamped on a commemorative coin.
But having a smoke? No way, man! What do you think we are, monsters?!