Wednesday, November 14, 2018

West Virginia leverages new Fallout game, which is set in the state, with a tourism campaign and research

Fallout 76 players explore Camden Park, a real-life amusement park near Huntington, W.Va.
The newest video game in the popular Fallout series is set in West Virginia, and the state is ready to capitalize on it. Fallout 76, which goes on sale today, features open world play with more than 50 real locations in the Mountain State such as Camden Park (pictured above), the New River Gorge Bridge, and the state Capitol, as well as nods to local folklore like Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster, Matt Combs reports for the Register-Herald in Beckley.

It's not West Virginia as most people would recognize it, though: the Fallout games, created by Bethesda Softworks, are set in a post-apocalyptic future. Fallout 76 takes place in 2102, about 25 years after a nuclear war; players in the online multiplayer game are tasked with rebuilding America while dodging mutant monsters, Combs reports.

Three West Virginia University researchers are planning a study to see how the game's setting affects players' perceptions of the state. Jaime Banks, Christine Rittenour and Nick Bowman, all associate professors in the Department of Communications Studies, will conduct the study as a three-part survey. "It presents a unique opportunity to look at how people experience the state and whether/how its culture is represented," Banks said in a news release. "We’ve studied avatars and gender identity and racial identity in games. But we don’t know very much about regional identities."

The game is worth studying because it resists lazy stereotypes about West Virginians, the researchers said. "But Fallout 76 seems to flip that script. They built this fallout shelter and survived. Now they’re the saviors of humanity," Banks told Combs.

The West Virginia Tourism Office hopes the game will spark new interest in the state, and has partnered with Bethesda Softworks on a promotional campaign to showcase the state and the game, Kate Queram reports for Route Fifty. It's not so far-fetched: though the game is set in a nuclear apocalypse, it's one that's returned mostly to nature, and features breathtaking views of West Virginia's natural scenery.

The campaign will include targeted advertising, promotions, official travel itineraries echoing in-game missions, and tour opportunities for game fans who want to see its settings in real life. Some identifiable places in the game are already starting to see increased traffic because of the game, Ruby told Queram.

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