If any form of media has taught us anything: It's when a town appears to be too happy, you can bet your ass everything dark and twisted is happening behind those smiling facades.
Fallout Shelter is a pit that tosses in bits and pieces of both a Utopian and a dystopian world. It has a noble story to begin with, build a shelter known as the Vault where everyone can hope to rebuild civilization. Like all propaganda schemes, it's never that simple.
As Overseer of the Vault, survivability and social reconstruction are the primordial concerns. It paces forward with breakneck speed, its whiplash fatal if the game has been left alone for too long.
It's a journey of self-discovery that will show players exactly what kind of Overseer he or she is destined to be. At most, Fallout Shelter is an incubator for tyrants. The day-to-day routine is a palm-sized laboratory fit for twisted experimentations. These few handful Dwellers under the Overseer have, in some way, given up their humanities so that they will can continue working on their meagre tasks without much to look forward to.
This is not a game about the reconstructing civilization. It is an opportunity to redesign and repurpose society into the Overseer's will.
In the first few minutes as Overseer, my top priority was to make sure that my Vault had enough electricity, food, and water. Weapons, in case when giant roaches attack, or when raiders breach through my gates. When that was achieved, repopulation became the primary concern, but soon enough resources were drained faster than my Dwellers can produce. Accidents, roach and raider invasions became frequent, posing as constant challenges that cuts resources and undermines everything my Dwellers have been working for.
The solution was simple: I will need more people to work, for resource gathering, security, and exploring the Wasteland and bring back anything of value. The Repopulation Solution was trickier than I expected. It has its ups and downs, but it is ideal to consider the long run. More people would mean more manpower, and safety comes in numbers. The Vault would have its children.
It was an honorable start: Pairing couples, letting them build a family of their own and rediscover some ancient relic of the past known as happiness, and allow their children to contribute to society as soon as they grow up.
Several hours in, I was able to expand production of electricity, water, and food. I had established training grounds for my Dwellers to excel greater at what they do best and to reinforce their weaknesses. But by this time, the family plan program has become chaotic. With the constant demand of resources, the outside threats, the increasing number of Dwellers, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandpas and mas, exchanged partners so often that they produced children with the same DNAs from their forefathers and mothers. Alas, the true story behind the mutants in the Wasteland.
It's not the Dwellers' fault. It was Overseer's.
Which begs a question. Are my Dwellers people? Or are they clones of the now extinct humans? Or has the fallout somehow screwed with their genes that they not age at all after reaching a certain threshold? The children become adults, but the adults do not reach elder status. They do not expire either. They simply cease being individuals and become drones that work day in and out, without shifts, and without much to look forward to. They do not even retreat to their quarters to rest. Those rooms are reserved for the breeding programs.
Leave the Vault alone for the Dwellers to fend for themselves, and they begin to wither: Community morale drops and resources are never utilized. Ironically, a robot has to harvest everything the Dwellers need, which rounds back if these Dwellers are actually clones trying to learn basic functions. It is apparent, that these Dwellers only live for the Overseer.
Searching the Internet for different playstyles, I have read, how much of an overlord one can become. Dwellers are given numbers instead of names, and only the pure or the socially ascended are allowed to have names of their own. Women locked behind closed doors that opened only when it was time to procreate. It is interesting and terrifying how people play this game.
In my own Vault, number 636, some modicum of humanity remained. At least, the way I still perceive it as humane. Happiness average lingers between 85% and 90%, which should be a good thing, right? No, not really. These Dwellers have been subjected to a world stripped down to its loincloths, scavenging for any piece of cloth that may add a percent of moral decency.
Observing, ever observing, a newly established living quarters four floors down the surface, a male dashed out, a huge smile on his face. A female walked out from the room, a child curled up inside her swollen belly, waiting, eager to be exposed into the violent world, unknowing that it is the most unfortunate time to be born. The female walked slowly and slouched, looking exhausted, but smiling. Was that a true smile? Or a smile to appease the male and the Overseer? She might not even care. Her duty was to ensure to be impregnated. A duty she carried out without question.
Male. Female. Not even a direct reference to a human being. Videogame or not, this is a simulation of how one with power will lead their following. It is a simulation that judges the player's own choices and effort into redesigning society.
The survival route, the one devoid of moral choices, is the easiest one. We have seen it all in movies and books: The Hunger Games, Mad Max, 1984, the list can go on. It is a simulation that continues to repeat itself, much to the mundane routines of Fallout Shelter. Control the population, make fear known to them, and continue to bathe in the Dwellers' blood and sweat for their illusion of a better tomorrow. It is an incubator for the mad, to test out all forms of experiments.
This is all a necessity to bring back a piece of civilization. Of course that's what we tell ourselves.