Week 11 – Eating Like a Gamer

Yes, this is a blog post about video games and real food. While I am described as “granola” by some, I am called a “gamer” by others. Not all gamers thrive on pizza and energy drinks; some of us love our fresh fruits and veggies! ^_^ I am pleased to bridge divergent worlds to multi-class as a gamer geek and a food geek.

Bethesda Softworks is a game studio that makes two wonderful games with rich stories and detailed game worlds: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion takes place in a fantasy setting full of Elven wizards, Nordic warriors and “Argonian” spies (Argonians are a race of lizard-people); Fallout 3 takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of the greater DC Metro area after nuclear war has devastated the entire world, leaving in its wake some human survivors, as well as super-mutants and zombie-like ghouls.  In both games, you create a character and roam the world. You are free to find quests and complete them, or you can just run off into the horizon, pick flowers (or drink radiated water) and defend yourself against bandit attacks.

My Oblivion character at a table spread of Real Food: carrots, bread, berries, pumpkin and cheese.

In Oblivion, you find “Old World” food everywhere.  These are the foods our ancestors would have eaten, and they include apples, venison, leeks, cabbage, pumpkins, corn, wine, and you even find the occasional sweet roll or shepherd’s pie. Real Food advocates such as Michael Pollan and Nina Planck encourage us to get away from processed foods and fake foods and to return to Old World foods for many reasons. Old World foods have stood the test of time, whereas the fads of processed foods rarely last a decade. Old World foods are whole foods; when foods are processed many of their nutrients are lost.  Old World foods make you feel better and healthier, whereas processed foods often leave you unsatisfied and lacking key nutrients while also making you overweight and lethargic.

In Fallout, there are no plants left alive, so the only foods you find are those that survived the nuclear war. That means your character has to eat processed foods, the only foods that would be able to last for decades. Some examples of these food items are potato crisps, pork n’ beans, and junk food. An added twist: everything that is eaten gives your character radiation poisoning. My favorite food item in Fallout is the Nuka-Cola, a soda in a 50’s style glass bottle that gives you 2 points of radiation for each 10 points of health that it grants you. Even cola can’t escape! (A full list of food and consumables in Fallout 3 is available here. Note: While there are fresh fruits listed, they exist in one location in the game: in a secure lab where a team of scientists are trying to figure out how to grow plants again. The only way you can obtain the fresh food is by stealing it, which will make the scientists hostile, and their guards will start shooting at you.)

In Oblivion, there are farms and farmers like this one all over the game world. Your character can "harvest" food from the respective plants, and after a few "game days" the food even grows back!

In Oblivion, the “Old World” foods all give your character healthy benefits. The most common effect is “restore fatigue,” which is game-speak for “you get more energy.” Garlic helps you resist disease; the Crab Meat restores endurance; and Mutton fortifies your health. The only way you can turn one of these common foods into something that could harm you is by making potions through alchemy. What does that mean? In order to get sick from healthy food in Oblivion, first you have to process them! (A full list of “alchemical ingredients” in Oblivion is available here. When your character eats a raw ingredient or food, the only effect she experiences is the primary effect, which is in the leftmost column.)

The concept that processed foods are not as good as fresh foods is such an innate concept, even the game developers at Bethesda Softworks naturally included it in two of their most popular and acclaimed games.  They don’t make a big deal about their preconceptions regarding processed and unprocessed foods; the way food works in each game world simply makes sense; and, because it makes sense, it makes the game world feel more real. Incidentally, when my character starts eating cabbage and cheese wedges, I get craving for the same; however when my character needs radiation treatment because she ate another meal of “Cram,” I don’t feel so inclined to dig in.

Next time you pick up a box of Fruit RollUps at the Super-Duper Mart, ask yourself “If these could withstand nuclear fallout, are they really the best choice for my nutritional needs?” You might just reach for a fresh apple instead. Go ahead. The guards won’t bite.

By ekwetzel

(Clockwise, from the eggs)
Eggs (again, the farm has young hens, and they are laying smaller eggs this week, so we received 18 eggs instead of the normal dozen)
Is this Arugula? Dandelion greens? Other unknown greens? ^_^ I forgot to ask.
2 Beets
2 Onions
Haricot (Green Beans and Yellow Beans)
1 Head of Garlic
Summer Squash
2 Cucumbers: 1 is long and green, and the other looks like a pale little lemon!
2 Heads of Lettuce
(In the middle)
6 Pluots on the left (a cross between a plum & an apricot)
4 Tomatoes on the right


One Response to Week 11 – Eating Like a Gamer

  1. Sherri Erickson September 18, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    I had no idea about food being part of the gaming world. How cool is this? I love that it’s incorporated naturally. The difference in how different foods affect is built into the game, naturally. Amazing!