The New Vegas Diaries: Boone

I first picked Boone up in Novac, a town memorable only for a former tourist attraction known as Dinky the Dinosaur. Boone was the town’s night sentry; he sat in the gigantic dinosaur’s mouth, surveying the darkened wasteland with a set jaw that seemed rather at odds with the large plastic dinosaur teeth that cradled his sniper rifle.

I’d heard about Boone. The day-shift sentry mentioned that Boone refused to talk to him and expressed gratitude that, thanks to their rotating shifts, he rarely had to come face-to-face with the guy himself. A vendor hawking toy dinosaurs in Dinky’s hindquarters could only groan, “He’s got a real chip on his shoulder, that one.” The town’s innkeeper, a dainty-voiced grandmotherly type, was more sympathetic, sighing, saying simply that Boone hadn’t been quite right since his wife had left him.

When I finally encountered Boone myself, he did not disprove his reputation for being angsty and difficult. “Carla is dead,” he said to me flatly, unsmiling. “She was sold to the Legion as a slave, and I’m not interested in speaking to you again unless you bring me the person who sold her.”

This was certainly inconsistent with stories from the other villagers, stories that Boone’s wife, flighty and yearning for the city, had simply up and left one night, returning to Vegas. Maybe Boone was simply in denial that his wife had left him. Maybe he was a complete crackpot. In any case, I accepted his request: if were I to find the person that sold his wife to the terrifying, wasteland-pillaging Legion, I was to lure them out in front Dinky the Dinosaur so that Boone could exact his revenge.

Until this point, I had not assumed that Fallout: New Vegas would have very profound stories to tell. It took me a long time to get used to this more thoughtful, slow-paced style of first-person gameplay; I died repeatedly to the dumbest things and was overcome with childish frustration at the V.A.T.S. system’s incapability to simply carry me through the wastes, downing radiated scorpions and geckos for me. I was always caught in the act of pickpocketing locals, prompting me into a bad habit of auto-loading repeatedly until I’d finally successfully looted the handful of rusted bottle caps contained in my victim’s pockets. I wondered why my equipment was constantly on the verge of breaking. And to fail so often to a game that so many others adored, well, didn’t I like a right idiot?

New Vegas became my shameful secret. I couldn’t admit to playing it; doing so felt as though I was also admitting to failing at it. It was the more lighthearted aesthetics that kept me hooked. I’d tuned my Pip-Boy into the most embarrassingly country radio station I could find, and I was soon singing along to the occasional line that I could pick out from between banjo solos, my already-horrible singing voice affecting a hillbilly twang. I adored that visual representation of the game’s various stats and perks, the ubiquitous Vault Boy and his roguish wink; the ridiculous, ever-cheerful grin.

I had little clue of what New Vegas’ ‘bigger picture’ was supposed to be. I was truly a drifter, idly passing time as I traipsed across the desert towards some vaguely-defined goal.

So it was unintentionally that I found myself in the lobby of Novac’s inn one night, casually pocketing everything that I could find on the shelves. While looting the cash register, I noticed a safe built into the floor behind the counter. I figured that it’d be full of even more crap for me to sell right back to the town’s NPCs, so I got to work on the lock with a bobby pin.

What I found inside turned the course of the game for me. Aside from a few caps and an assortment of random everyday objects that were probably treasured as valuables after the apocalypse, there was a bill of sale. It named the unassuming grandmotherly innkeeper, Jeannie May Crawford, as the recipient of a large sum of caps, in exchange for the life of not only Carla Boone, but also the unborn child she was carrying. The two were fated to become slaves to the Legion.

It was a horrific dawning for me, to realise that the game encompassed absolutely wrenching sub-plots like this. Boone was more than a questgiver to me now; I was determined to help him avenge what had happened to his family.

It was 2am, but I stormed into every residence in town until I found Jeannie May, insisting to her that there was something in front of the dinosaur that she needed to see. “Well, all right, dear,” she said, with the agreeability of an adult humouring a child’s far-fetched stories. I followed her out of the house and to the dinosaur. In the chilly darkness, I could see the glint of a rifle between the dinosaur’s jaws. I reached into my inventory for Boone’s red beret, our agreed signal that my companion was the one who had ruined his life, and I placed it on my head. I held my breath, waiting to see what would happen. Jeannie May raised her face to look at me quizzically. A moment later, a shot pierced the air, strewing her brains across the dirt.

Boone’s voice did not seem any less hollow after executing his family’s betrayer. Jeannie May was dead – so what? It didn’t bring Carla back, and now he had even less purpose in life. He was as much of a drifter as I, with his traumatic past rendering him loyal to nobody but himself. I implored him to join me, and to my surprise, he agreed.

Boone’s been with me since. At first, it was a little strange getting used to having this overpowered sniper trail me – to hear him say, huskily, “I’ve got your back”, to turn and see him expressionless and stoic behind his dark glasses, not giving anything away. He obediently carries around my collection of guns and various armours; “It’s gonna be hard looking out for you when I can’t move my legs,” he says, sarcastically, should I overload his weight capacity. He was never a great conversationalist to begin with, but he’s been there to make up for all my shortcomings as a player.

He’s silent until he perceives a threat, at which point he turns into a cold, determined killer. He’s constantly scanning our environment as we travel, and has often managed to kill an enemy before I even became aware of it being in my proximity. He looks out for me.

He is merciless in defending me.

Now I know this probably wasn’t intended by the game designers, but it’s a real strength of the game that Boone’s companionship has so greatly affected my playthrough. He’s helped me love a game that I had so much trouble with, and not just because he can so easily one-shot enemies that used to slaughter me repeatedly. He’s been my only constant in the chaotic wastes, even a friend. I can’t help but wonder if choosing a different companion would still have tinted my game with such heartbreaking poignancy, or if my experience of the game would have made such a drastic turn had I continued to persist across the barren plains alone.

I’ve developed a frighteningly real emotional attachment to him. I know it’s probably not mutual, but in my head I colour the game’s mechanics with meaning. Boone had nothing left in his world when I met him. Now that I’ve helped close the door on what happened to his wife, I have become the only person in the world that he is loyal to, and that’s made for a pretty bittersweet journey.

**

We travelled all the way to New Vegas together. He fended off the raving thugs that targeted me in the ruined outskirts of the city, and together we dashed for the gate. He’s been with me as we explored the decadence of the casinos, freed a rich man’s spoiled son from the clutches of an upper-class cannibal society, dealt with mafia-like hotel bosses in smoke-filled dusty backrooms. Embarrassingly, Boone was even present when I solicited the services of a prostitute.

Upon gaining status as an honorary member of the Kings, a gang of sultry, smooth-talking Elvis impersonators who plied their moves just outside the city, I turned to Boone, wondering if my sexy new rocker’s outfit might elicit a smile. Instead, I noticed that a new dialogue option had become available. It’s time you told me what happened to your wife.

Haltingly, he told me.

After she had been kidnapped, he’d tracked down her enslavers in the hopes of rescuing her. When he finally caught up, he was crestfallen to discover her in the presence of numerous Legion soldiers. There were too many of them to fight, but he couldn’t leave Carla to a life of slavery. He raised his rifle to his eye and took the shot, killing her in an awful act of mercy.

Now I realise why his voice is so laden with misery, why he cannot fathom getting close to anybody again. Few could recover from such trauma; Boone probably never will. Maybe his fierce, brutal protection of me is the only semblance of catharsis he’ll ever have again. Maybe he needs me as much as I need him.

29 thoughts on “The New Vegas Diaries: Boone

  1. Nice piece, I also really dug Boone and stuck with him on my first playthrough. It’s interesting how his combat prowess got you into the game and also helped you care more about his story.

    I read somewhere that the developers thought they had overpowered his shooting and planned to patch out some of the awesome. I sure hope they didn’t .

    There’s more to Boone than that bit about his wife if you keep at it.

    • Apparently his awesomeness was a ‘bug’. I don’t know if they ever fixed it or not; I don’t rely on him so much now, admittedly, since I’ve finally grasped how exactly the game works. (He’s still amazing, of course, don’t get me wrong.) Can’t wait to find out more about him.

      Thank you for visiting :)

  2. fantastic! I am surprised at the depth of Boone’s story, I don’t think I expected anything quite like that from New Vegas. I bought the game the other day on the back of your recent comments about it, but I didn’t even expect it to be remotly like this. I am also really glad someone else commented that there was more to his story. I knew I was reading a mild spiler but I was dying to see what happened. When you led Jeannie May to the dinosaur and her brains got splattered…chilling.

    • I really hope you enjoy it, Ailis. Did you ever play Fallout 3? Apologies for the spoilers – I thought of adding a spoiler note, but then again, I feel that I’m really only spoiling my own experience. There are so many subtle choices to be made that your own playthrough could end up drastically different to mine.

      Boone’s just one character, too – there are a million more whose stories are all just as riveting.

  3. Loved this post, Katie.

    I’ve got to say, I really like how you weave our world and the game worlds together so seamlessly in your writing. I think many gamers can relate to how personal a gaming experience can become when you immerse yourself in the virtual world and ignore any suggestions that it’s restricted to existing only in the television screen. I know I can relate, at least.

    I’m impressed with how NV managed to open Boone’s story up to you without bashing it over your head. Finding the clue so unexpectedly in the safe let’s the story unfurl in a natural way. That isn’t something I don’t see too often in games. I’ve never played a Fallout game, but I am wanting to get my hands on all of them after reading this. Thanks for peaking my interest :D

  4. Ah, Boone was a faithful companion for me too. Most of the companions have really good stories in the game, but Boone’s was the most profound for me, for all the reasons you mentioned, and a few you probably haven’t gotten to yet. Ironically the only reason I went after Boone was because I heard he was one of the earliest companions you could get in the game. I wasn’t expecting to care about him, but dammit, by the end of the game I went on two complete suicide missions just for him. I owed it to him.

    Great article. It really drives home what I love so much about New Vegas (and to a lesser extent Fallout 3).

  5. After reading your article I feel a little sad I didn’t take boone up on his offer to join me on my greate adventure. But you see I instead chose Veronica Santangelo
    !!!—SPOILER BTW!!!—
    Shes from the brotherhood of steel and had quite the same affect on my travels after I let her join me. She basically doesn’t agree with the directions the brotherhood is going (which seem to be a much much weaker force then what they were in the first Fallout). I agreed with her views that they needed to change and deffinitley found her companion quest’s to have the same emotional affect on me.

    She has quite a sad ending to her quest in which I implored her to go talk to the brotherhood of steel about their need to change the way they function in order not to become extinct. This made a very heart touching scene where the head of the brotherhood simple ignored her arguments where afterwards I had to comfort her on these issues after which I had really bonded with my companion.
    Because it really is a wasteland out there but if you can spend it with an NPC you’ve actually had conversations with and done enough quests with then it makes their character so much more believable as well as the game.

  6. Highly recommend you find the vaults and explore those if you haven’t already. EASILY the best part of the game from a storytelling perspective. Just wish it wasn’t so buggy :(

  7. Nice read, good job.
    Try talking to Cass, she’s one of my favorites. Comes off tough as nails and very similar to Boone’s personality, and her backstory is one of corruption and betrayal up to the highest levels of NCR bureaucracy.
    They put a lot of work into the character development and writing involved within the game and it shows.
    Bugs are kind of an . . . . issue though *shrug*

  8. Pingback: Top Posts — WordPress.com

  9. Pingback: The Nukezilla Sunday Supplement – April 3rd 2011 - Nukezilla

  10. Aw, your post makes me continue NV again, thanks! I too love the storytelling in New Vegas, but I get bored once in a while by the combat mechanics. Oh and the bugs can be quite horrifying *shivers*. But I do love all the choices you have in most quests and I believe the game can end in some 30 different (and some quite sad) endings, depending on your choices. I wish more games used this entire grey area of morale choices, instead of just black and white.

    About companions: I think Boone is one of the more boring ones, so consider yourself lucky for already liking him! Just wait ’til you meet the others ;).

    If you want to enhance your New Vegas experience by the way, somebody named (Dusk)Wulf made an excellent (and enormous) list of MODs that can be used together. A little warning though; it hasn’t been updated in months, so newer versions of MODs can (and probably will) conflict:

    Furthermore, there’s a sweet blog out there called ‘Feel the fallout’, which contains some strategies and some very nice stories set in the Fallout theme:

    • Thank you very much for this – will definitely peruse both links in future. I haven’t even finished my first playthrough yet, so it’s pretty mind-blowing to know there are 29-ish other endings.

  11. Quote: “I’ve developed a frighteningly real emotional attachment to him. I know it’s probably not mutual, but in my head I colour the game’s mechanics with meaning. Boone had nothing left in his world when I met him. Now that I’ve helped close the door on what happened to his wife, I have become the only person in the world that he is loyal to, and that’s made for a pretty bittersweet journey.”

    Don’t worry about it – it’s called role-playing for a reason. Sadly, many players just run around thinking about their XP and how long it will take them to level up.
    But immersing yourself in the story, mentally playing along like you apparently did is exactly how RPGs become immensely satisfying. It’s a key component of this type of game that computer RPGs can’t really enforce, while it is absolutely possible in Pen & Paper RPGs (assuming the Game Master wills it so).
    So instead, RPG players playing such games on their computer have to basically make the effort to think like this and literally “play along”, almost like actors need to get “in character”. If they don’t they essentially end up with a playing experience that they could probably get out (and better) of “Call of Duty”, “Crysis” or “Unreal” or other Action/Shooter Games.

  12. For me, it was Veronica. Her grief isn’t so open, but you find it eventually. And in the end it really changed the game for me. I had intended to go along with Mr. House, and not betray him. He had a plan, he had done great things, he had been good to me, it seemed petty to off him for power for myself.

    But he wanted me to kill the people Veronica considered her family. I understood why, he was logically right, and they were hardly “good people” (though not evil either.) I’d certainly killed other people for even less reason.

    But I couldn’t do it, couldn’t kill Veronica’s family, especially not after they’d accepted me in large part on her word.

    So, I betrayed Mr. House. It was betray his trust, or betray Veronica’s trust and I chose Veronica. She’d been fighting by my side, she’d made her family accept me and I couldn’t repay that by slaughtering them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s