The crowd watches on as two warriors square up to fight in the makeshift ring. The ropes are built out of wooden fences and the mat is comprised of a collection of dirty mattresses stacked in rows. A bell rings, and the two contestants immediately get to work. In one corner is ZeroFoxFK, a photographer who captures the wonders of Appalachia by day. In the other is DarkMothman, a cultist from the mysterious church of the legendary cryptid.
The Appalachian wasteland has seen many peculiar sights since the release of Fallout 76, from murder mystery nights to elaborate death mazes. The latest is the Litter Box, a new fight club bringing together members of the community to compete over prizes such as Fallout-themed swag and in-game currency.
Let The Fur Fly
XRedder is the organizer of the Catfight Nights, which take place at the Litter Box on the southern edge of the Savage Divide. She previously made a name for herself within the Fallout community as the owner of the El Gato pub, one of the many popular fan-built drinking establishments within Fallout 76. But recently she had the idea to expand the El Gato complex, to provide a new event that would try to provide a more intimate PVP experience for players.
“I’ve been working on the website in the last couple days to try to get the new update put in for the new dates,” XRedder tells me Xbox party chat. “The event is going to be once a quarter, and they’re going to change with themes. So, for instance, when we go from this one, which is the inaugural fight session, the next one is going to be higher levels. We’d really like to see people outside just the general community, but at the same time I don’t want to ostracize anyone who wants to do a rematch.”
These events are some of the largest that have been held inside of Fallout 76 yet, and require a significant amount of preparation to pull off successfully. Besides XRedder, who is pulling double-shift as the organizer and the camera person, the behind-the-scenes team also contains guest announcers BeardedIAm and Boss Daddy from the Wastelande Estates Homeowners’ Association, as well as the referee NoUrATowel.
“I think the idea of a fight event is huge,” BeardedIAm says. “People like Nuclear Winter and they like some of the PVP, but sometimes it’s too much and they want to have a chance to play with friends… They’ll be theatrics for sure. I’m trying my best to build that realism of being at an actual boxing match. That old kind of Michael Buffer introducing Tyson and Holyfield and that kind of stuff. I just want people to feel like they’re actually at a big event, basically.”
The First Rule of Fight Club Is… No Pants
The competition has a number of rules in order to ensure that the contest remains fair. Players are separated into three different weight classes based on their levels, and must compete in their underwear in order to remove any potential buffs that they may receive from their armor. They are, however, allowed to wear non-buffed headgear, if they wish to show some flair.
“There are also perk cards that are forbidden,” XRedder tells me, going over the rules of the events. “The way I came up with it was kind of reading through the perk cards and seeing okay, what’s this? What’s that? But then thinking about the mutations, those also give you an advantage. So how do you block all mutations? So I went to test out Rad-X and Rad-X basically blocks everything. You can’t jump. You can’t disappear. It’s great. So that evens the playing field.”
Because of the size and scale of the event, there have been a number of logistical issues. Though several of the players surrounding the event own Fallout 1st subscriptions, XRedder and the others have found the private servers’ eight player cap to be insufficient. This means that the fights have had to take place on public servers, exposing the competition to griefers.
On the first night of the event, for instance, the qualifying matches had to be delayed when a random player came across the event and started firing their weapons at those in attendance. All the organisers could do to get rid of them at the time was to wait it out and have someone from their team try to bait the person away from ringside. This occurred again during the finals, eventually forcing the event to downscale and continue on a private server with a much smaller crowd.
“Unfortunately, Bethesda sought to only give us eight spaces, which is really really limiting,” xRedder laments. “I mean, I think any of us who do community events are really strapped by the eight person private server. Sixteen is kind of like that golden number. I know that the servers are twenty-four, and that’s cool, but if we can just get to sixteen or combine accounts… that’s really the way it should work.”
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Mothmen, Mascots, And Militia
The participants on the first fight program were a mixture of characters and personalities ranging from virtual photographers to cryptid worshippers to cat-headed mascots, and members from the United Enclave Remnants (UER). All of these competitors had their own reasons for competing, as they revealed in pre-match interviews.
“Our point of being here is to show the strength of what the Enclave can do and how powerful we are,” says Blitz, one of the three UER members competing in the event alongside Sharkura and Mourning Zombie. “The best way we thought to do that is entering a boxing tournament.”
“My whole thing is simply to spread love by kicking ass,” explains the cultist DarkMothman. “I’ve also been wanting to test out [my melee build] with actual people, so when the news of this came out, I thought this was the perfect way to show off.”
As well as prizes for contestants, the organizers also give away rewards in the Mixer chat, with audience members potentially winning loot for correctly betting on the winners of each fight ahead of time. The idea is to provide a consistent form of entertainment for the community to be able to tune into and enjoy as spectators.
The first competition took place over two weekends and was divided into a qualifying round and the finals. Six contestants made it to the finals weekend, with the standout fight being a slobberknocker between Sharkura and Crawler2000 in the heavyweight division. This match lasted 13 rounds, with Crawler2000 eventually beating the UER member by eight rounds to five.
The Wasteland Lives
Fallout 76 may have had a difficult year, with a number of issues plaguing the game from bugs to hackers, but events like this show the passion of the community surrounding the game. These players don’t shy away from mentioning the problems that have been impacting the game since launch, but have stuck around because of the people they’ve met and all the fun events that the community are hosting.
“I know, for me personally, this has been an amazing game,” says XRedder. “Yeah, I know once you get to a point the content needs to refresh and you know, they’re working on it. I think the haters need to just hate where they are and stay out of our business. People play what they play, because they enjoy playing it. Period. That’s all I have to say about that.”
“I’ve played Fallout 76 daily,” states Sharkura. “It means so much to me. It is really the people that make the game, because yeah, there are a lot of bugs… but I’ve met some of the most important people in my life here. That’s a big deal.”