Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Chris Kocela

Second Advisor

Cal Thomas

Third Advisor

Ian Almond


The “sandbox” video game is typically defined, with reference to its childhood namesake, in terms of non-linearity and freedom of choice. However, in Fallout 3, the “free-form” quality of gameplay is compromised in advance by the very mechanics that are supposed to enable the sandbox in the first place. While the player may choose a variety of playstyles and outcomes, the selection of choices is nevertheless limited. Likewise, the leveling and quest forms of play, together with the narrative resurgence of capitalism within a supposedly post-apocalyptic universe, stage the return of linearity and of filmic logic. This return, anticipated by analyses of ideological interpellation put forth by Barthes, Lacan, Baudrillard, and Žižek, is accompanied by a radical alienation of the player’s agency, which, once ejected into the computer simulation, lives on in an uncanny, autonomous universe that does not even need the player’s active input in order to continue running.