While the irradiated wastelands of Bethesda’s Fallout series are seldom fertile ground for teamwork, a collection of content creators are using the game to come together and forge something new. Fallout Community Stream Team is a collective effort from over forty creators who have come together to promote inclusivity in the Fallout fandom and raise money for a variety of charities along the way.
Now, some twelve months after its conception, the team are in the middle of their biggest push for change yet. Fallopalooza is a week-long digital event that kicked off on May 24th to support the American Heart Association’s plant-a-tree initiate, a fantastically ironic spin for a community forged in the fires of a post-apocalypse. I had a chat with Kenneth Vigue of CHAD: A Fallout 76 Story about how this all came about and why it matters now more than ever that folks come together.
Don’t They Know? It’s The End Of The World
Fallout For Hope started with humble goals and the best of intentions. In early 2020 beloved Fallout 76 roleplayer Brent “Dr. C.J. Martin” Fairchild was struck by tragedy as his home was engulfed in fire. While rescuing his family from the blaze, Fairchild sustained serious injuries and the community he himself had been an in-game carer to took it upon themselves to care back. A GoFundMe campaign quickly went viral, drawing in donations from around the world as well as from some Bethesda employees themselves. Vigue tells me it was the moment he saw something special worth nurturing in the Fallout community.
“I was struck by how swiftly and globally the entire Fallout community came together to help one of our own…I’d never seen anything like it“, Vigue recalls, an inciting incident right as the world would need it most. As 2020 wore on and our entire way of life began to fall apart in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fallout community galvanised around helping those who needed it. “Later in the fall we helped a Fallout 76 streamer WastelandMedic, a real-life paramedic, who was in dire financial straits as a result of COVID-19“, Vigue told me via email, “Utilities were being turned off and her only vehicle was being repossessed. We rallied again and in a few days she had enough to stop the repossession, pay down bills and get enough of a leg up that she could recover“.
WastelandMedic’s story is, unfortunately, one of the countless tales of loss and hardship that would largely define 2020. As the end of the year rolled around and our first Christmas in the new locked down, isolated world was on the horizon, Vigue and the community began to wonder how they could try to bring some light to the closing days of a very dark year. Vigue had personally been donating to St. Jude, a nearly century-old institution of children’s health care, for years and decided to throw together a last-minute push for support. “I thought we could end that awful year by getting together and finding one cause EVERYONE could get behind and that is simply saving the lives of children who shouldn’t be spending the holidays in darkness to the sound of an EKG monitor”
Vigue admits even he was surprised at how all-encompassing that “everyone” turned out to be. Shortly after the fledging campaign began, Fallout For Hope quickly surpassed all of its hoped-for goals and began to rapidly grow, picking up support from over 368 streamers in one week, going on to raise $109,000 worldwide during its run. A third of this, Vigue tells me, was from popular Fallout YouTuber Many A True Nerd whose community pushed Fallout For Hope to a new and much wider audience. Since then, the community has gone on to raise money for homeless folks impacted during Texas’ devastating Winter freeze and are now facing down their biggest year yet.
Fallout For (A New) Hope
While December 2020’s St. Jude fundraiser was a surprise success, Vigue is already excitedly planning for this coming Christmas to be even bigger. “St. Jude’s reached out to me in January, and we began planning for a much larger, more organized 2021 campaign for 2 weeks this December” he reveals, “They’ve been very hands-on in helping me and the community planning team..We have some big plans and big hairy audacious fundraising goals. To make things easier this time around, we also formed a Fallout Community Stream Team on Twitch, comprised of 41 of the most established streamers that can serve as a core group by which we can rally and organize around community events and fundraisers more quickly.”
We’ll be checking back in with Vigue and the Fallout Community Stream Team later this year but if you’re looking for an example of the kind of audacious events the team has in store, turn on Twitch right now. The team is currently in the midst of its biggest charity push to date, mounting a weeklong digital event across social media and streaming services to raise money for the American Heart Association. Vigue recalls when the association first reached out to him for a joint event that he found it difficult to ignore the opportunity to help on the largest scale yet.
“Their REVIVE fundraising campaign with the gaming community that we are doing right now is to support their plant-a-tree initiative. They did a surprising study on heart disease factors and discovered that America’s inner cities lacking green spaces had a 25% greater risk of heart disease from lack of clean air as well as excess heat in the summer months without shade” Vigue explains. He goes on to note that the push struck a very specific chord with him, “It reminded me of our mission in Fallout 3 in securing the G.E.C.K. (Garden of Eden Creation Kit) in which you use it to bring clean water back to a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. We’d be working together to plant trees in these cities and create new green spaces to give people and children clean air, shade and also increase property values for a better standard of living.“
At the time of writing the event has proven to be a massive success already with close to $8,000 raised by day two alone. The above Twitch link will take you to the hub of streamers and content creators who have come together for the event and you can donate directly by following this link. Like the previous campaigns before it, this one has also grown beyond its initial scope with tonight’s stream having featured Fallout 4 voice actor Danny Shorago.
The highlight of the week will be an in-game music festival held at a specially designed wasteland venue. Things kick off at 1pm EDT (3am AET for us locals but the event will run for most of our Sunday) and features eight well known musical acts for your viewing pleasure.
Found Nuclear Family
It’s not all that surprising that in the wake of 2020 folks found new ways to form communities and makeshift families. The impact of such a year, and frankly its ongoing impact, remains to be fully seen but the isolation and hopelessness many of us feel are what drove Vigue and his community to fight harder.
When I asked why he thought Fallout players, in particular, had reacted as strongly as they have to Fallout For Hope’s community he explained, “I think we grew up playing all of these games that push you out the door into just the worst kind of nightmare you need to survive through. You walk a long, broken road in a world and your choices shape that world for better or worse. But they are still your choices, and the power you have to impact the lives of others“.
Again, a very familiar parable for many people who now more than ever are facing down an uncertain, often cruel world. But much like the pandemic forcing us to reconsider how we connect, Vigue notes that the games we play have adapted too. “Fallout 76 is the first instalment of the series that allows us to directly interact with each other and despite a rocky start, there are those of us who saw what this game could be.” he says, “I’ve seen fight clubs and boxing matches, role-playing groups, weddings and funerals for people we’ve lost in the real world, all of it created by the community.”
With over two hundred streamers and growing already committed to the Fallout Community Stream Team and Fallout For Hope fundraising efforts, it’s a push that shows no signs of slowing down. For Vigue, a man whose passion for change strikes me as one of the most genuine causes I’ve seen in a long while, this growth is an organic extension of the world we live in. “I think Fallout For Hope and so many other new ways in which the community is collaborating is happening NOW is because for the first time we can work together to create new experiences, tell our stories and also take the power of all of that and facilitate change in the real world“.
Fallout For Hope is a fantastic and diverse grassroots community that you can support by clicking here. Kenneth Vigue hosts and produces the Fallout 76 radio drama podcast “CHAD: A Fallout 76 Story” which you can find on Twitter and the official site. We had the pleasure of talking to Vigue about the origins of the show and you can read all about it right here.
And for those interested in whether or not the new and improved Fallout 76 is for you, we recently dived back into the game and have updated impressions for you to enjoy!