5 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Fallout 4 (And 5 You Shouldn't)

by Jeff Marchiafava on Jan 02, 2016 at 02:00 PM

Video games are often viewed as a fun but ultimately trivial use of one's time. However, just like other forms of fictional entertainment, games can teach us important lessons that apply to the real world as well. Although you (hopefully) won't find yourself scavenging your way through a post-apocalyptic hellscape anytime soon, here are some helpful life lessons you can learn from playing Fallout 4...and a few you probably shouldn't.

Lesson #1: Don't Judge People By Their Appearances
We've all made assumptions about people based on how they look, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. After all, sometimes a super mutant turns out to be a pretty cool guy. Like in the real world, characters in Fallout 4 frequently have more going on with them than it would appear at first glance. That might not be enough to prevent you from headshotting a raider a thousand yards out the moment you spot him, but it's a good reminder to occasionally check your preconceived notions – especially since there's a very good chance that you look like a horrendously dressed idiot yourself.

Lesson #2: Achieving Your Goals Requires Planning Ahead
Plenty of video games contain skill trees, but Fallout 4's new approach to the SPECIAL system practically requires a five-year plan to maximize your potential. Since perks are now tied to your SPECIAL levels, it's not enough to allocate your skill points based on the underlying stat or a few abilities that tickle your fancy – you've also got to think about your broader goals, the late-game perks you'd like to acquire, and the perks you can do without. Coming up with a long-term plan will help you minimize the time it takes to reach your goals. As in the real world, you'll also need to make some shrewd choices along the way – the Pain Train perks may sound tempting, but if you never use power armor, they'll be about as useful as a degree in Russian Literature...

Lesson #3: Money Is Kinda Dumb...But Still Hugely Important
As adults, we work so hard in the pursuit of the almighty dollar that it's easy to forget that they are still just scraps of paper with dead presidents doodled on them. Money only has value because we say it does, and nothing drives this home like the Fallout series, which humorously undermines the abstract concept of money by casting aside our familiar paper bills for an utterly – or perhaps equally – absurd form of currency: bottle caps.

That said, while collecting and trading bottle caps is totally arbitrary, you can't opt out of the system. Like in the real world, the people in Fallout 4 have things that you want to buy, and you'll have to deal in their choice of currency in order to get them. But hey, look on the bright side: At least with bottle caps, every Nuka Cola you buy actually costs one less cap than its asking price.

Lesson #4: A Home-Cooked Meal Is Better Than Junk Food
The wasteland is littered with processed food, but just because that can of Cram survived the apocalypse doesn't mean it's good for you. Most of the ready-to-eat food you'll find while scavenging in Fallout 4 offers little nutritional value – a mild HP boost that likely comes with an unwanted dose of radiation. The healthier option is to forgo the junk food entirely and eat a homemade meal instead. Cooking stations offer a bunch of easy-to-make recipes that will not only replenish your health but bestow some solid bonuses such as increased endurance or carrying capacity. Cooking is also considerably cheaper than buying food and medicine from vendors. All of these aspects are true in the real world as well – though hopefully radiation poisoning is less of a daily concern.  

Lesson #5: There Is No Cosmic Morality
Most video games present player choices as black-and-white, good-versus-evil decisions. This morally simplistic approach to player agency often carries supernatural consequences – perform enough dubious actions for instance, and you might take on the ominous red hue of an evil overlord, just to reiterate the fact that you are now a Bad Person.

Not only are the choices you're presented with in Fallout 4 a lot more ambiguous, there is no such form of cosmic justice. You're decisions do carry consequences, but like in the real world, their impact is much more personal – you only get in trouble if you get caught red-handed, and in most cases that boils down to whether those close to you approve of your actions or not. Granted, Fallout 4's denizens often express their disapproval with shotguns, but you can chalk their tempers up to living in a post-apocalyptic world.

Coming Up Next: Five lessons you totally shouldn't learn from Fallout 4...

Despite the fictional backdrop, Fallout 4 contains some real-world wisdom. At the end of the day, however, it's still just a video game – not everything you do in Fallout 4 should be applied to your life. Here are five observations from the game that should probably be left in the wasteland.

Lesson #1: Clothes Don't Really Make The Man
While your clothes can certainly have an impact on how people react to you in the real world, there are some hard limits to this that Fallout 4 chooses to ignore. For instance, wearing the hat you stole off a corpse in an abandoned church will in fact not make you more charismatic. Also, since Fallout 4 fails to include an Annoying Hipster stat, thick-rimmed glasses and trilby hats are considered way more charismatic than they are in real life.

Lesson #2: Your Dog Is Not A Super Pooch
Unlike Dogmeat, your real-life pup can't carry 150 pounds of junk. Trying to load up a pile of fire extinguishers, bowling balls, and bags of concrete on your four-legged friend will reduce him to a crumpled mess – you're better off getting a shopping cart like all the other hopeless hoarders. Real dogs aren't immortal either, so if you somehow manage to accidentally shoot up your beloved pet (seriously, what the hell are you doing?), don't just stand around and wait for him to miraculously heal – find a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Lesson #3: Keep Your Hands To Yourself
Bethesda has always included the ability to steal items in its games, along with reasonably realistic consequences for getting caught. However, there are some peculiarities to Fallout 4's take on theft that don't hold up in the real world. For instance, people generally object to you rifling through their pockets, even if you decide not to take anything. Also unlike in Fallout 4, you can't successfully steal an object in the real world by holding it directly in front of you, walking out of the vicinity of other people, and then dropping it on the ground before taking it.

Lesson #4: Cannibalism Is Not A Viable Option
Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but Fallout 4 treats cannibalism more like a lifestyle choice than an option of last resort. After all, there's not really a shortage of food in the wasteland – even if you don't want to bother cooking your own (non-human!) meals or scavenging boxes of Fancy Lads (as opposed to just eating fancy lads), you can always buy a bowl of ramen at Diamond City for a few bottle caps. Chowing down on a deceased roomie from your settlement is never okay. Which brings us to...

Lesson #5: You're Probably A Crazy Person
Seriously. We get that things would be different in a post-apocalyptic world, but Fallout 4 majorly glosses over some behaviors that would get you classified as a grade-A nutbag. Sleeping on a soiled mattress in a rundown shack? Crazy. Storing hundreds of guns in a trunk next to said soiled mattress? Not helping your case. Even if you did live in a hostile wasteland where you're forced to constantly defend yourself from deadly raiders, the act of stripping down every one of your defeated foes and leaving their underwear-clad corpses in the street is not an acceptable practice.