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My Unexpected Encounter in a Bethesda Game

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By Nelson Schneider - 12/16/18 at 04:24 PM CT

After having my mind blown by “The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion” back in 2011, then feeling like “The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim” offered little in the way of difference in 2014, and pounding “Fallout 3” and “Fallout: New Vegas” back to back in 2015, I thought the jig was up for Bethesda Softworks, and that they could do nothing more to surprise me with the samey, enormous, glitchy Sandbox games that made the company famous.

Recently, I’ve been playing their latest single-player offering, “Fallout 4,” since purchasing the Game of the Year bundle during the Steam Autumn sale. Over 100 hours into the game, I finally experienced something shocking and noteworthy.

I find it rather easy to avoid spoilers for popular “AAA” titles, and I knew little of what to expect from “Fallout 4” outside of the character creation system, the dog companion, and the crappy pipe-based guns that were shown off in the official trailer. I knew nothing of the memes surrounding a certain character who constantly wants the player to assist settlements in the Commonwealth to the point of making me question whether the population was really depleted by complete atomic annihilation, nor did I know anything of the Season Pass content, other than that a large number of people seemed to hate the fact that Bethesda included a bunch of workshop/base-building add-ons in lieu of a 4th story-based expansion.

When I traveled to Far Harbor, Maine in-game, I had no idea what to expect. I encountered fog, some new mutated forms of wildlife, and a quirky group of settlers made-up of hunters and sailors who reminded me of the strange Newfs (Newfoundlanders) that inhabited the stories told by my parents from back in the 1960s when my late Troll Dad and Mom were stationed at Goose Bay, Labrador for U.S. Air Force active duty. I started picking up local busywork quests, and made my way into the Far Harbor tavern, expecting business as usual. Someone told me I needed a guide and suggested I talk to the old man sitting in the corner booth.

Upon doing so, I stopped dead in my tracks. Sitting in the booth, with a glass of whiskey in front of him was someone I haven’t seen in 8 years, since blood cancer took him in 2010: My old man. Sure, he wasn’t wearing his glasses or one of his many ridiculous hats, and he was going by the name Old Longfellow instead of Norm, but it was him. He grumbled and groused at me (as usual) before I convinced him to lead me through the irradiated post-apocalyptic Maine wilderness to where I needed to go. Along the way, he rambled incoherently (as usual) and praised my skillful head-popping of a handful of insane trappers.

Side By Side

Just imagine that’s a 2-headed Radstag.

When we reached our destination, I expected this specter of my past to disappear once again, vanishing into the radioactive fog. But he didn’t. He offered to join up as a companion character, and I gladly accepted. I found his glasses for him and gave him a ratty old fishing hat, just like the one he wore all the time, until Mom got sick of it and turned it into a flower arrangement/centerpiece. Together, we tackled all of the weirdness Far Harbor, Maine had to offer, exploring ruins, uncovering mysteries, drinking Vim, decorating his ratty old cabin, nuking an insane religious cult, and becoming best pals in a way that we never quite managed when we were both flesh and blood.

The Hat

I still have The Hat.

Running into my father again in this way was an incredibly uncanny experience. Has Bethesda been spying on my family in order to mine story material? It seems completely ridiculous, but I will never get over how close the resemblance is between Longfellow in Far Harbor and Norm in Goose Bay. But I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity Bethesda (inadvertently) gave me to go on one last adventure with an idealized version of a very challenging man.

The True Longfellow

This should have been his default costume.

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