Jamaica Pond is a radioactive cesspit dotted with floating skeletons. JP’s buses finally have an excuse to run late, because they’re all blown in half. Oh, and the neighborhood’s entire population has turned into zombies.
Fear not, this is not a breaking news report. It’s a description of Jamaica Plain’s cameo role in the major new videogame “Fallout 4,” which is set in a post-nuclear-apocalypse Boston.
Released on Nov. 10, “Fallout 4” has already sold millions of copies. It’s the highly anticipated latest installment of a post-apocalyptic adventure series known for sophisticated storytelling, eye-popping graphics and the ability to roam freely across enormous landscapes based on such real places as Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.
The new game’s “Mad Max”-style Greater Boston includes versions of many landmarks, from Harvard Square to Fenway Park, from Salem’s witch museums to Concord’s Old North Bridge. The main Boston Public Library is less quiet than usual, the State House has slightly more slimy monsters than usual, and T stations hide about the same amount of weird surprises.
In this nuke-blasted Boston—all that’s left of the “Commonwealth”—JP is its own special dot on the map. You’ll even get 24 experience points for discovering it.
Jamaica Pond has the familiar outline, if not water quality. This dystopian Jamaica Plain also has a crumbling elevated highway like a Casey Overpass they never tore down—or an I-95 they went ahead and built on the Southwest Corridor.
Unfortunately, the rest of JP isn’t so recognizable and is basically just a small collection of buildings. The virtual city is scaled down to a manageable size, and the game is set in a slightly different alternative universe, so many local details are sacrificed or changed.
However, JP does get the ultimate videogame high-five—its very own quest. From advertisements posted around town—or possibly from looting mail from the corpse of a Cambridge letter-carrier, if you’re an especially nosy journalist—you can learn of the fabled “Treasures of Jamaica Plain.”
The post-apocalyptic JP apparently seceded from Boston and had its own mayor, who conceived of these mysterious “Treasures” as a tourist attraction. In an unintentional nod to JP as fount of Olympics bid opposition, the mayor devotes an enormous amount of taxpayer dollars to the tourist attraction, which even her own employees criticized as a “boondoggle” on computer records left for posterity.
We won’t spoil the secret of the “treasures,” though they do involve mentions of a “Jamaica Plain Youth League” and a “Hyde Charter School.” (We searched in vain for records about the public meeting on that last one.)
While it’s fun and sometimes funny to see Boston in this carnival mirror, JP’s quest is one of the game’s many small, moving moments.
Beyond physical landmarks, the game authentically evokes many aspects of Boston’s cultural heritage—good and ill—from baseball-as-state-religion, to universities with creepy defense contracts, to citizen-soldiers who fought for freedom against insane odds. (Not to mention the city that so recently stood tall against an all too real bombing.) JP as keeper of its own brand of treasure fits right in.
“Fallout 4” is a game about searching a wasteland to find out who we are and what we’re made of. So it’s pretty cool that, even though it may not look a lot like the neighborhood, its post-apoc JP is still JP.