When I first started this blog, I wrote a number of posts about the game Fallout 4. I played that game religiously for the first year after release. When I was writing my first book, I’d spend most of my free time in the wasteland of Fallout 4. That is a big reason why I chose kevlar-reinforced vault suits as the armor of choice for certain characters in my series. Well, that, and I feel the vault suit represents convention culture quite well and the point of these survivalist characters is to explore what it would be like for people fully engaged in escapist culture to have to actually survive their greatest fantasy.
One of those posts was a theory about P.A.M., an assaultron character who works with the Railroad faction, and how she may have been the Fallout 4 equivalent of Skynet. I wrote that blog post back in May of 2016, and then in March of last year I convinced Josh Vanderwall of the Escapist to run the theory as an article…and I deleted the original blog post. I thought I had just reverted it to draft status, in order to avoid search engine overlap, but no…it’s gone forever. That was a sad discovery. Fortunately the article is still up and running, and you can read it here.
What started the whole theory was an interview that Fallout 4 game director Todd Howard gave with one of my favorite comedians, Pete Holmes at the 2016 DICE convention. In that interview is the following exchange:
If you’ve read my Escapist articles or my books, you know that I am a pretty analytical guy. I love piecing things together and following breadcrumb trails of clues to various mysteries, and composing my own theories about various topics. So when I heard about this unknown Easter egg four months after release, I made up my mind to scrutinize every terminal I came across from that day until someone found it. I hoped to find it, and experience my own Ready Player One type of moment, but I didn’t really think I stood a chance against the millions of other players out there who were just as dedicated as me. The interview came out in February 2016. I started writing my book the next month. The month after that, I was on a new playthrough and joining the Railroad faction. Your first mission for that faction is to clear out their old base, a top secret Defense Intelligence Agency underground facility disguised as a doughnut shop, called The Switchboard. It was my third trip through that quest.
In the facility there is a room with a poster showing modifiable robots called the Databanks room. That poster was an easter egg for the first Fallout 4 DLC, Automatron. I believe it was put in that room to draw attention to it, because there is also a terminal there that paints a very chilling picture of what actually happened the morning the bombs fell. The initial entry reads as follows:
The P.A.M. Initiative is already bearing fruit. Foreign operatives report that corrective measures employed in the Taiwan Strait region have already greatly stabilized matters after the Pascale Incident. The first few iterations of P.A.M.’s core code have increased the effectiveness of the program dramatically, but without drastic action we’re approaching a point of diminishing returns.
The team asks for double the funding for the upcoming fiscal year. With additional cutting edge databanks we can boost the processing power of P.A.M. three-fold. Additionally, the P.A.M. Initiative needs to be fully tapped into all military and civilian agency intelligence apparatus. The combination of these two spends should give us a decided edge against the Chinese.
That second to last sentence sent chills down my spine. I grew up on Terminator. I know what happens when cutting edge computing technology is plugged in to have full access to the defense and intelligence network. I instantly put down my controller and went to google “is P.A.M. Skynet”, or some combination of that phrase and came up with no discussion. No videos. No posts. Nothing.
Although I was just at the beginning of what would wind up being a lot of research, I had a good feeling that I was onto something big. Rather than rehash the theory itself (which can be found here) I’d like to share my story of putting it together and trying to get it out there. So there is another terminal at the Switchboard which gives the timeline of events leading to the bombs falling. In past Fallout games there are also snippets and accounts of how things went down. There is a certain ambiguity about whether the Chinese really fired first, but the general consensus is that they did. I explored the rest of the Research Terminal entries which mentioned Chinese stealth submarines that might be stationed around the US coast. The IONDS report mentions possible USO (Unidentified Submersible Objects) off the Californian coast. I remembered that there is a Chinese submarine in the harbor and immediately went off to do that quest and piece the chain of events together.
I compiled the theory that P.A.M. was like Skynet and towards the end of my research discovered that there is a robot companion in Fallout 2 whose name is Skynet. My first Fallout game was 3 and I had no idea about that connection until I was mostly convinced. Discovering that connection sealed the deal. I knew that I wasn’t jumping at conclusions, or making connections that didn’t exist. I was, rather following a very deliberately planted breadcrumb trail of clues indicting P.A.M., a character instrumental to the Railroad and coveted by the Brotherhood of Steel, in causing the war in the first place. P.A.M. instructs you to “terminate” Institute Coursers on one questline (Coursers are obviously based on the Terminators). I refuse to believe that particular dialogue choice is a coincidence. P.A.M. is the Fallout 4 version of Skynet.
For the weeks leading up to my blog post about it, I was sure that any day now some youtuber or other fan would put the pieces together and get the scoop, but it didn’t happen. So I went to Momocon in May of 2016 with some Resistance is Dead bookmarks. (We were doing serial novels released a chapter at a time back then). While I was there, I cornered a number of cosplayers in vault suits and shared my P.A.M. theory with them. Then I took to Reddit and got a pretty good thread going there, but no official word from Bethesda. After the reddit share, I reached out to Bethesda through their website and got no response. I made a post in their forum which got no response, so I got discouraged and moved on to other things. Fast forward to last March and I brought up the theory to Josh at the Escapist and he gave it the green light to turn it into an article. Once again, I’m excited that this theory or observation is going to get exposure, maybe an official word from Bethesda, and once again it didn’t really take off. A bit of discussion went down in the comments, but beyond that, no one really seemed to care that much, or to see the connections as I saw them.
I eventually moved on to other games, other subjects, and mostly forgot about it. Then I started playing Fallout 4 again a month ago, and went to Youtube to see what kind of fan theories there were out there and stumbled on this video by Youtuber Oxhorn which mentions my theory. I was kind of shocked, and pleased. While he doesn’t completely agree, I really appreciate him taking the time to discuss it.
Oxhorn discredits the theory by stating that he doesn’t believe P.A.M. actually pushed the button. I wasn’t exactly insinuating that she did, but the point of his whole video was that the answer is deliberately ambiguous, and so I understand where he was going with that.
After seeing that, I discovered yet another video about Todd Howard’s mystery terminal from last month by Youtuber JuiceHead which also mentions my theory as a main contender.
JuiceHead tweeted Bethesda to see if they could give an official word, but hasn’t heard back as far as I know. It’s strange that a discussion is being generated now, since the game is now over two years old, but maybe the recent release of Fallout 4 VR has stirred something up.
I have a twitter account, but am admittedly terrible at having a social media presence. Maybe the need to find out from Bethesda will be incentive enough to get me to actually tweet things…don’t hold your breath on that though. Baby steps to social media presence. I’m working towards psyching myself up enough to do it. The truth is that while I may be a theorist and an author, I am a shy and private person as well. I’m battling through that shyness, but looking back through my recent post history and you’ll see the evidence of that. For the longest time I’d come up with a new post maybe once a month, if that. I would put a lot of thought and work into them, but I wasn’t really comfortable with the blogging format as it usually manifests, with constant content updates. I hope to change that in the following months. If there is an official confirmation from Bethesda about the P.A.M. theory, I’ll update it here. Until next time.