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How Fallout Shelter made me sexist.

By on July 21, 2015
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I love Fallout Shelter. I don’t think it will be keep me for ever. I’ve got 200 Dwellers, I’ve gone nearly as deep underground as you can, and I’ve almost run out of things to do.

It has also made me into a misogynistic manager who systematically discriminates against women. All because of one simple design decision.

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Here is Denise Peters. She is a powerful Dweller with high stats. (If you haven’t played Fallout, those bars above the letters SPECIAL represent attributes such as Strength, Charisma and Luck). She works effectively in my water treatment works and can hold her own in a fight against invading Radroaches.

She’s also pregnant.

Pregnant dwellers no longer fight. When a Radroach attacks, or raiders raid, or fires break out, they put their hands in the air and run screaming for safety. So Denise, who is one of my best characters, doesn’t have a weapon. No hardened flamer. No guided missile launcher. No enhanced Fatboy. She is unarmed.

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Here is Kathy Cook. She is also female. She has strong stats. She is not pregnant. But she has no gun. In fact, most of my female dwellers have no weapons, and none of them have high powered weapons.

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Here is Sean. He is not a strong character. But he is male. I know that even if  he becomes a father, he will still fight off Radroaches. So he has a powerful gun.

Of course, I don’t need to discriminate against ALL women; only the pregnant ones. Women will fight just as well as men (until they get knocked up). But that’s hard work. Any time a woman gets pregnant I have to check her weapon; change it; give her powerful gun to someone who won’t run screaming from a fight.

Or I could just give it to a man.

It’s easier. I don’t have to remember to make changes. It has become my default decision: men get the best outfits and the best guns, because some women might, some day, get pregnant.

In a stroke, with one unnecessary design decision (pregnant women no longer fight ), Fallout Shelter has turned me into a systematic, discriminatory misogynist.

It’s a fabulous example of how the way society perceives or treats some women can work to the detriment of all women, and the pervasive, systematic discrimination that results.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • Gibbons

    It seems to me that outfits connotating leadership cannot be worn by women in the game. I tried to put a clergy outfit on my most charamatic character to boost her productivity in the radio, but it wasn’t an option… oddly enough the men that wear the clergy outfits get laid faster than anyone! Also, I have the mayor outfit and my women can’t wear that either.

  • Avern

    >Guy asks for evidence on obvious exaggerated claims
    >Throws ad hominem to distract people from realizing there is no evidence, only feelings and drastic assumptions of mass discrimination when its really just isolated incidents.
    >Your experience in a game doesn’t equate to real life. So yes, it is invalid in comparison to real life experiences. Get over it.
    >Feelings are subjective.
    >You fail at logic.
    >I pity your lack of intellectual capacity.

  • Jona

    Why should they when they can just leave and not have the baby in danger at all?

  • Jona

    Euurgh.

    Misogynist? The hatred of women? Fucking gosh darn we really are very dramatic aren’t we.

    I just don’t bother switching guns. It’s not like pregnancy lasts a long time?

    And no, this isn’t the root of male led society, that’s caused by men being physically stronger and as such having the upper hand in past times when physical strength was an absolute requirement for leadership.

  • Davo Mavo

    Keep it about your feelings then. You made assertions in public space, I challenged them. Unsatisfying.

  • So it’s OK if you are discriminatory, as long as the rest of the world isn’t? This post is about my analysis of my feelings as I played this game. I’m going to keep it about that.

  • Davo Mavo

    Any personal experience would be anecdotal, let’s stick to real numbers. You’ve made the inference that women are systemically discriminated against in the workplace, I’m asking you to back that up.

  • Davo Mavo

    “Shelter has turned me into a … misogynist” – dictionary definition man, no need to get personal I’d rather question the ideas than make it a competition.

  • I also query your definition of “sexist” as meaning “hating women”. Sexism is a broader concept, that can encompass belittling, mistreating, not accepting and many other things, including hate. I never mentioned hating women: that was your interpretation. I wonder what that says…

  • Just to be clear, you are arguing that there is no discrimination against women in the workplace? I think you are also arguing that my experiences in this game are invalid because you didn’t feel the same way.

    Are you an employer? Can I ask what proportion of the workforce you employ is female?

  • Davo Mavo

    “employers being subtly influenced against women” – show peer-reviewed evidence if you’re going to make assertions like that, quite a divisive picture to paint if you can’t back it up. I’ll counter in kind.

  • No, that’s not what I’m saying. Because women behave a silly way when they get pregnant, I find myself not giving them weapons. Then I realised I wasn’t giving *any* women guns, in case they get pregnant, which is analogous to employers being subtly influenced against women by the perception that they one day have babies. Even if they have no intention of doing so. Even if they never do so. Which struck me as really rather interesting.

  • Davo Mavo

    So… Making the men go to war and kill each other while the women are safe from combat is sexist exclusively against women and means additionally that you hate women? Because women are victims and dudes are bad, literally no matter what the scenario. Also I can’t tell what’s satire anymore, someone point out if I missed something.

  • Brandyn Moskal

    or a more logical response if you’re pregnant is run away, WHY the hell would you put you’re unborn baby in danger unnecessarily. ALSO lets not forgot what era fall out citizens where raised in.

  • I’m intrigued by your idea of “logical sense”. The pregnant women of my experience are completely capable for the first six months of pregnancy, and many carry on working and leading normal lives until just a few days before delivery. They would definitely fight to defend an unborn child.

  • Benjamin Denes Hoyt

    Yeah. I’m really frustrated and confused by how the game determines who gets to wear an outfit. It seems to have something to do with level, but even that doesn’t seem to be consistent, and gender certainly also seems to be a factor.

  • JC Haswell

    I’m glad someone is bringing this up.

    When I was playing it a lot, it not only felt sexist*, it also just seemed like a terrible design decision. As a min/max player, it forced me to constantly micromanage my equipment between optimizing for normal performance and then trying to switch everything around during crisis.

    *Yes, in reality most pregnant women may feel less inclined to physical violence than non-pregnant men, but why did the developer decide they need to throw their hands in the air and run around screaming? Come to think of it, wouldn’t a pregnant woman blasting a radroach with her gun while her husband runs around screaming be hilarious and awesome?

    Besides that, it also
    1) Made me feel like I was treating women like their only purpose was reproduction, and
    2) Reduced their individuality in comparison to the men since all pregnant women look like they’re wearing the same outfit in the game, regardless of what they’re actually wearing (which also seemed like questionable design decision since I could no longer tell at a glance which woman was wearing what).

  • Faye Windsor-Smith

    If you have 200 dwellers I can’t really see a good reason to have any pregnant women – it not only makes them awful fighters, it makes chucking them into the wasteland when a training cycle’s complete impossible, and it means that even if you kill off some of your lesser-performing dwellers to make room for potential lunchbox celebrities, they’re likely to pop a sprog before you get a chance to roll out the red carpet. Keep ’em out of the barracks and you’ll get a lot more use out of them.

    Related to this – I don’t understand why some of the +5 or +7 SPECIAL outfits cannot be equipped to women, whereas all can be equipped to men.

  • Ewan Lamont

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll start disarming my gals

  • Albert Finnigan

    You blame the game for making you “sexist” inside the game and for SJW reasons you call the design (Which makes a lot of logical sense) unnecessary? Good on you. Back to reality, please, or else violent games might make you violent and racing games might make you drive too fast.