Ever since Fallout 76 first released in beta, controversy has never been far away. From self-deleting game files to nylon bags and accessible dev rooms, the game quickly became the internet’s punching bag, with every new week bringing another well-placed jab or two. Yet in spite of all that has happened, the game has become home to a number of communities and creators who are making the most of what the Appalachian wasteland has to offer. Counted among these is the Wasteland Estates Homeowners’ Association, a group of players who are putting on game shows and encouraging others to get creative with the C.A.M.P building mechanics.
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Laying the Foundations
Jim Turner, who goes by the name Boss Daddy online, is a 42-year old Fallout fan and comedian living in Northern California. Along with his best friend of twenty years, Brian ‘Mak’ McKay, 52, and his wife and co-host, Boss Mommy, they’ve created a community for Fallout 76 fans online. Here, players can get together to take part in events, read poetry, and have their homes graded by the HOA’s panel of judges.
“Mak and I gobbled up the original content really fast,” says Turner. “We hit it hard when the game came out. We were playing every night together. We were like, ‘Hey, are you jumping on? Are you jumping on?’ We blew through it. But Appalachia is intoxicating. It’s like Bethesda built this incredible sandbox, but only put just enough cat turds in it to play with for a while.”
Having completed all of the story quests and poured hours into kitting out their own perfect camps, the two wanted a new experience to throw themselves into. So, Turner suggested reviewing other people’s camps, similar to how the Happy Home Academy operates in the Animal Crossing games. The pitch was simple: they would visit a bunch of camps and reward the owners of the best with 1000 bottle caps, the game’s currency. Posting an ad for their new enterprise to Reddit in January, they received hundreds of responses. So many, in fact, that they had to rethink their approach.
Finding an Outlet
“That got expensive real fast,” says Turner. “So we said, ‘We got to find a way to make people still want us to look at their camps without the caps.’ By that point, we had three or four hundred followers on Twitter and people said, ‘We don’t want the caps. We just want the HOA to come look at our camps.’ And so, it kind of snowballed into that [instead].”
To begin with, the quality of the camps wasn’t great. Most of them simply comprised of a metal staircase going up to a floating square platform. However, this has improved over time, with the HOA encouraging players to flex their creative muscles. Now players are submitting everything from builds of docked spaceships to castles and opulent mansions for review. The HOA have even started their own Camp of the Year awards called the CAMPys, judged based on a set of regulations the community voted on together.
“The floating thing is still the main thing,’ says McKay, talking about these regulations. ‘That’s pretty much an instant disqualification if we run into those. The other things are we don’t like tree bushes sticking through the floors or the walls. We don’t like things like wires running all over the place. We don’t want the inside of your camp to look like a server closet, you know what I mean. Wires and shit going everywhere. Even if you can walk through the wire and they don’t actually impede your movement, it just drives me nuts. It looks horrible.”
The HOA isn’t just a homeowner’s association, however. It also doubles as a production studio, HOA TV, that hosts ridiculous community events and camp evaluations live on Twitch. For Turner, the decision to put on these types of shows was a personal one, stemming from his need for a creative outlet after quitting touring as a comedian to support his family full-time.
“My daughter was diagnosed autistic and required daily and home therapy,” says Turner. “I had to give up working the road. Because, even working the road, my wife was out-earning me dramatically. So, for a long time, I felt like didn’t have a voice anymore. So, after a few long weeks, maybe a month or so of the HOA going pretty well, I told Mak ‘What do you think would happen if I built a stage?’ And he goes, ‘What are you thinking you crazy bastard?’”
The HOA now broadcasts from two stages: The Palace of Mediocre Arts on PlayStation 4 and the HOA CAMPitheater on Xbox One. They host a range of events, including the deliciously dark Trivia or Death, where a firing squad is ready to punish anyone who gets a question wrong in game, and Wasteland’s Got Talent, a competition where players can sing and express themselves to an enthusiastic audience.
They are even in the planning stages for another event that they’ve dubbed The Great Cap Race, where teams of two are thrust into the wasteland with nothing but their wits and tasked with raising the largest number of caps in under an hour.
These kinds of events have all been a tremendous success so far. So much so that the HOA have taken over numerous servers and had to turn some people away for lack of available spots. On occasion, they have even crashed the game’s servers. The most notable of these incidents was The Nukashine Brawl, where a group of players get together to fight while drunk on in-game liquor.
“[It] has been pretty much overwhelmingly positive, I think,” comments McKay, reacting to their growing popularity. “I don’t think we’ve had anyone come beef us. We’ve had a few people come to our events, just like randos who stagger in and go, ‘What the fuck’s going on man?’ Then you hear the bong water bubbling, you know.”
Building a Community
“What started out as just a fun gag for my buddy and I to look at other people’s camps has turned into a community,” adds Turner. “People post all the time and they tag us: ‘Does anybody have this item?’ ‘Can anybody help me with this?’ They use the HOA, because we realized early on that it wasn’t what we thought it was going to be. In the beginning, we thought it was going to be a gag and that would be the end of it. That’s not what it turned into.”
While Fallout 76 may have received a disappointing reception at launch, it’s exciting to see communities like the HOA thrive regardless. The HOA is a constant source of ideas and creativity, giving Fallout 76 players a place to show off their builds and take part in hilarious game shows. More than that, though, for Turner, it’s become an outlet and a way to keep in touch with his best friend.
“The best part of the HOA for me is I get to interact daily with my best friend of twenty years,” says Turner, in closing. “Life takes away those opportunities sometimes with kids and marriages and mortgages. I love Mak. He’s my best friend in the world and the fact that we’ve come up with something that allows us to interact every day together has been the absolute highlight of all of this.”