Fallout Shelter Reflects the Real World

Fallout Shelter is a game created by Bethesda. It appears to have been released in 2015. I’m just getting around to playing it now, on my Xbox Series S. What I did not expect was how much the game has an eerie resemblance to the real world.

The basic idea with Fallout Shelter is that you are the “Overlord” of a Vault. The outside world has become a nuclear wasteland. The first thing that happens is a line of people arrive at the door of the Vault. It is too dangerous to be outside.

In the real world right now parts of California are on fire. Louisiana is experiencing hurricane Ida. In other places, there are droughts or flooding. The delta variant of covid is out there, making some people sick and killing others.

With all that in the back of my mind, I decided to accept all who came to the Vault door. Once inside, the people are given identical uniforms to wear. This makes them look interchangeable. It becomes harder to tell the people apart from each other.

The people in the Vault have conversations. Most of it is small talk as they go about their work. They ask trivial questions to coworkers. What kind of pet would you have if you could have one? One person wants an iguana, but worries it would be all weird due to the radiation.

Other questions are more serious. A person asked a coworker if they would ever be able to go outside again. It reminded me of the lockdowns that were put in place in an effort to prevent the spread of covid. I remember the uncertainty of it, worrying about being able to get enough food and toilet paper.

A few of the people are super happy to be working. One claims he is the G.O.A.T. at his job. Another hopes there is a chance to get some overtime. Not everyone feels that way. A worker in the diner told his coworker that “the Overlord is always watching us”. It sounds like a conspiracy theory – but he is right. I was watching them.

Since none of them can safely leave the Vault, they are given living quarters. The game recommends you increase the size of the living quarters, so I did. Now, several people can share the same one. They have absolutely no privacy at all, and can be called back to work at any time. Jobs are interchangeable, and there is no guarantee what task they will be assigned.

The situation reminded me of news articles from 2020 that pointed out that workers were being monitored by their employers through their work laptops. This sounds incredibly violating, especially considering that all of these workers were in their own homes. One cannot have work/life balance with that going on.

How is my newly created Vault going? We’re constantly running out of food, water, and energy. I’m hoping the workers will drink more Nuka-Cola because the bottle caps are currency I can use to build more rooms. The water processing plant keeps catching on fire. Everything is fine!

Vampire the Masquerade Requires Trust

Vampire the Masquerade is a TTRPG game that was originally released in 1991 by White Wolf Publishing. Each player creates a vampire character – from a clan of their choosing. They are guided by a Storyteller, who weaves together a dark and mysterious tale that can require the players to make difficult choices.

While Dungeons & Dragons can have serious moments, it also allows for goofy fun. Not so with Vampire the Masquerade. This is a game of secrets that are kept hidden from other players. A revealed secret can cause tension and danger for those who know it. There is also a conflict if the player characters are from different clans, each of which have motives that are unique to them.

The biggest thing to know about Vampire the Masquerade is that it requires trust. Don’t jump into this game with a group of strangers. It works best when it is with a group of friends that you have played other TTRPG games with over the years. A group like that has had time to learn where people’s boundaries are.

This is important because the mechanics of the game allow for the potential of violence happening where one player character attacks another, if the story warrants it. Some clans strongly dislike other clans. There are skills that some player characters (or non-player characters, for that matter) can use to get into the minds of others. The purpose is to “persuade” someone to do something that is not in their best interest, and that they otherwise would not choose to do.

Vampire the Masquerade can also allow for moments of sensuality and/or sexuality in the story. A group of friends who trust each other can go into the game knowing that nobody is going to take things too far. Things can be mentioned or suggested without requiring detailed description.

Those who play as vampires must be comfortable with blood. Your vampire must feed from the living in order to survive. The game is not for the squeamish, and definitely not for kids. It is for those of us who enjoy vampire movies, and who are comfortable with a dark and scary world to play in. It works best with a group of friends who trust each other.

Xbox Adds Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech Features

Xbox posted information in its June Xbox Update that focuses on newly added features for Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. The Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech features can be used in party chat.

At Team Xbox, we believe that gaming should be inclusive, approachable, and accessible to everyone. That includes making it easy for gamers to play and communicate together. Party chat, used by gamers around the world to talk to their friends while playing, now supports converting speech into text and text into speech. Each of these features can be used to help games who are deaf or hard of hearing and/or cannot or choose not to speak.

This is a wonderful decision because it makes gaming more accessible. People who are deaf or hard of hearing will now be able to see what is said in party chat because those words are transcribed into text.

The Speech-to-Text feature, once enabled, will automatically turn all words spoken by the people in a party into text. A transcription will be displayed in an adjustable overlay on top of gameplay.

A person who uses American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary means of communication can enable the Text-to-Speech feature. The text posted will be read by a synthetic voice to the rest of the party. The Xbox June Update says that there are several voices per language that a person can choose from.

The Text-to-Speech feature will also be useful for people who are selective mutes and who do not want to use their voice in social settings. People who are nonverbal can use Text-to-Speech. It can also help autistic people (and other neurodiverse people) who may feel overwhelmed by the sensory experience of a video game and having to try and participate in verbal conversation at the same time.

Another great thing about the Text-to-Speech feature is that it can be used by transgender people who happen to dislike the sound of their voice. The ability to choose a synthetic voice can make gaming with strangers a safer, more comfortable, experience.

The Speech-to-Text feature can be useful for people (like me) who have chronic illnesses that cause exhaustion and/or pain. A person who is having difficulty typing can communicate with their party just by speaking. Pain can affect a person’s voice, so the option of using a synthetic voice could make communicating easier.

Twitch Added New Tags for Streamers

Twitch recently added more than 350 new tags  that streamers can use to show people a little bit about who they are and what they play. Many of the tags help a viewer to find their community on Twitch.

LGBTQIA+ related tags:

Androgynous, Aromantic, Asexual, Bisexual, Demisexual, Gay, Gender Variant, Genderfluid, Genderqueer, Intersex, Lesbian, LGBTQIA+, Non-binary, Pansexual, Queer, Transgender

The Transgender tag is one that got a lot of support on Twitter. It is my understanding that the Transgender tag was added after a community of people who are transgender requested that Twitch add it. The addition of that tag shows indicates that Twitch welcomes people who are transgender. That’s really important right now, as the United States and the UK (to name a few) have been creating bills and laws that are intended to take away the civil rights of transgender people.

There is an Ally tag “for streams featuring content relevant to collaborators and accomplices of fighting injustice and promoting equality”. Previously, streamers who were not LGBTQIA+ were using that tag to show support for that community. They probably meant well, but using that tag made it harder for people to find streamers who are LGBTQIA+.

Race related tags:

African American, Alaskan Native, Asian, Biracial, Black, First Nations, Hapa, Hispanic, Indigenous, Latina, Latino, Latinx, Multiracial

I noticed on Twitter that there was support for a Black tag on Twitch. My best guess is that the rest of the race related tags were also supported by people in those communities.

Neurodivergent related tags:

ADD, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Learning Disability, Neurodivergent, Nonverbal, Tourette syndrome

It is wonderful that Twitch created an autism tag, and did not create an “Autism Community” tag. They may sound alike, but are very different. The autism tag recognizes autistic people, while the “Autism Community” tag focuses on parents, teachers, and doctors of autistic people. In short, the autism tag is supportive while the “Autism Community” tag is not.

Physical Disability related tags:

A11y, Amputee, Assistive Technology, Blind, Chronic Illness, Closed Captions, Color Blind, d/Deaf, Disabled, Disabled Veteran, Down Syndrome, Dwarfism, Hard-of-hearing. Invisible disability, Neurological Condition, Paraplegic, Quadriplegic, Visible Disability, Visually Impaired

There is a difference between A11y and Ally. The A11y tag is for streams and content featuring the accessibility community.

Mental Illness related tags:

Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality, Depression, Dissociative Disorder, Mental Health, Postpartum, Psychosis, PTSD

Diablo Immortal, Diversity, and Disability

Diablo Immortal is currently in Closed Alpha. I was fortunate enough to have been given access to this wonderful, creepy, addition to the Diablo game series. There were two things that stood out immediately. This game includes more diversity in character options than previous games. It also provided me, a person with physical disabilities, with a game that feels very accessible.

This version of the Closed Alpha focuses on the newly added Crusader class. The classes that were released in the Technical Alpha are still an option, but it appears that many players picked the Crusader this time around.

In Diablo Immortal, players pick a class and can choose to be either male or female. They then can decide what their character will look like based on three options: Black, White, or Asian. Each version of the female Crusader has scars across their faces (some more subtle than others). These are battle-hardened women who have seen some things and lived to fight another day.

This is noteworthy because it is the only video game I have played where all versions of the female character for a specific class have scars. In general, female characters in video games are designed to be pretty, and often look younger than the male version of the same class.

The other cool thing is that the default option was Black. The Diablo Twitter account featured the female Black Crusader in a video shortly before the Closed Alpha started. I chose to play as the Crusader I saw in that video because, to me, and to the Diablo team, she is the Crusader.

In Diablo III, players also have the option of playing a male or female character for whatever class they pick. There is only one race option per class. Crusaders in Diablo III are White; Wizards are Asian; Witch Doctors have dark skin, and a quick internet search reveals discussions about whether or not that class its portrayed in a racist way. Diablo Immortal provides an improvement by giving three customization options for each class.

Another great thing about Diablo Immortal is that it is very accessible. It is a mobile game, which gives players more options about how and where they play. My disabilities include chronic illnesses that often cause pain and exhaustion. It would be possible for me to play Diablo Immortal while I’m lying down and waiting for my medications to kick in. Mobile games give me the ability to play without having my hands hurt when I’m done.

I’ve noticed that Diablo Immortal has short quest lines (at least at the start) which are easier for people like me to finish in one go. There doesn’t seem to be a penalty for pausing after failing to kill a boss in a dungeon. The game lets you take a break when you need to, and starts you where you left off.