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How Fallout Shelter made me sexist

One small design decision made me systematically discriminate against every female Dweller in Fallout Shelter. It's a fascinating example of how a game decision can have unintended consequences.

I love Fallout Shelter. I don’t think it will 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.

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