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Homer, Nostos and Fallout New Vegas

“I’ve been to your home, the place you kept returning to… may not be the place you were born, was the place you gave life to, same thing.”

Ulysses, Lonesome Road

One of the main recurring themes in Homer’s Odyssey is the idea of nostos. This is not just the journey home, but the anticipation of returning home and the fear of what might greet you on your arrival. For Odysseus, his home is destroyed by the suitors. For Courier Six, the player character in Fallout New Vegas, their home is destroyed by their own actions.

Fallout New Vegas is one of those fantastic games that dumps the player in a post-apocalyptic setting - in this case, a few centuries after the world is destroyed by nuclear war - and forces Courier Six to make choices that will change the world. There is even a faction called Caesar’s Legion, but this isn’t about Caesar: this is about nostos in Lonesome Road, the DLC that explores an area known as The Divide.

Throughout the game, it is noted that Courier Six has some memory loss from getting shot in the opening cutscene. It therefore requires Ulysses (no, not named after Odysseus, but named after Ulysses S Grant from the American Civil War, but a character with high in-game intelligence can make the connection to Odysseus during a speech-check) to introduce The Divide and its horrors. Courier Six is also followed by the charming ED-E, a robot that makes wonderful comments like “happy beeping” and “sneaky beeping” as applicable. Ulysses even tells Courier Six that The Divide is their home:

“The road you made with your tracks, again and again. You were the only one willing to make the journey to and from here… a hard road. Kept the land before the Divide alive through seasons, storms… can’t have been just a job. Was something more to you. Don’t feel for a place that hard unless it’s home.”

This compares rather nicely to Odysseus’s comment to Calypso:

“Nevertheless I long - I pine, all my days - to travel home and see the dawn of my return… Much have I suffered, labored long and hard by now in the waves and wars.” (Book 5, Lines 240-250)

For both Courier Six and Odysseus, home is somewhere they have deserted by their actions; in the case of Odysseus it was by going to war, but Courier Six brought in the device that would create The Divide by launching a series of nuclear bombs. For Odysseus, returning home after a decade-long war and a further decade of journeying was both a dream and a nightmare: what would greet him? Would his home still be there? For Courier Six, The Divide is full of horrors and death, without the promise of the safety of home. For both, going home is terrifying and they must face the consequences of their actions.

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