Video Games

Briefly Noted: Post-Apocalyptic D.C.

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You're born in an underground vault, armed by age 10, abandoned by your father at 19, and violently ejected from your radiation-proof sanctuary. Fallout 3, a new video game from Bethesda Softworks, brings to Imaginary life the darkest fears about the nation's capital, thrusting players into a year 2277 Washington reduced to a post-nuclear badlands.

But wandering around killing mutants with Lincoln's .44 repeater isn't all despair. Even amid the chaos, a fragile economy with a bottle cap currency arises, and it's more than the usual game-world artificial scoring construct. Each microeconomy values the scraps differently; some put more stock in barter than in cash.

In what was once the seat of U.S. government, you will encounter a few characters clinging to the archaic ideas of a big central state. But most characters are simply trying to maintain human relationships, unflinchingly holding onto individuals who matter to them, constructing their own tiny oases of order in a chaotic world.