Barack Obama becomes the United States of America's 44th President today, or hadn't you heard? Video games aren't expected to play much of a role -- if any -- in the Inauguration Day festivities, but video games are still an ideal way to get in Obama's shoes for a glimpse of what the new President is seeing today.
Video games are an under-used tool for understanding current events. Let's change that and use the most graphically realistic version of Washington, D.C. ever created to get an enhanced perspective of today's Inauguration Day, shall we?
Slight problem: the best representation of Washington, D.C. and the National Mall in video game history involves a richly-rendered post-nuclear-war version of the nation's capital circa the year 2277.
So, through the magic of last year's multi-million-selling "Fallout 3" we can see Barack Obama's Inauguration-day perspective. But we've got the added (subtracted?) touch of nuclear devastation.
Try not to let it bother you.
Here's the National Mall as viewed from the top of a bombed-out Washington Monument. The Mall is a stretch of land the runs from the Monument to the U.S. Capitol. "Fallout 3" players can reach this location by traveling to the "Washington Monument" marker on the game's map, passing a security checkpoint and taking an elevator to the top. In real life, the Mall, is currently filled with hundreds of thousands of people.
Heading down that elevator lets us see the mall from a ground view, beyond the fictional security wall out to a Mall that isn't lush with grass and packed full of Americans. Instead, in "Fallout 3," it's patrolled by enemy super-mutants.
At the end of the Mall is the U.S. Capitol, which is in better shape in real life than it is here. Obama's Inaugural stage will sit nestled between those two staircases. (I shot this image when the game's internal clock was set a few minutes before noon, hopefully matching the time of day when Obama will be sworn in.)
This is one possible Obama view. I climbed the Capitol and stood at its first tier of balconies, overlooking what's left of the National Mall. You can get here by traveling to the U.S. Capitol marker on the "Fallout 3" map, but what you can't do is stroll up there easily. The area is swarmed by very powerful enemy factions.
Here I got myself one level higher (had to take care of a super-mutant) and am approaching the edge.
And this is one last view. Imagine making a speech to hundreds of thousands of cheering Americans here. Just imagine doing it before "Fallout 3"'s nuclear apocalypse.
Like me you will probably see today's Inauguration via television, which will provide even better viewes of the nation's capital than this photo tour of what I saw in "Fallout 3" this morning. But gamers and non-gamers alike would be well-served to step into virtual recreations of important places like this if only to get a little extra perspective that sitting in front of a TV can't give you and that in real life you can't always stroll up to.
"Fallout 3" gamers, if you have time today, walk in Obama's steps. It's an interesting experience.