I was playing the game as though I was in a hurry to review it, and I know better than that. There's a damn good reason I have never wanted to be a reviewer. Fallout 3 isn't about the endgame payoff. It's not even about its primary story. Its about wandering across a derelict grocery store overlooking the Potomac, and fighting a group of squatting raiders just to do it.
Frankly, my wife would not be surprised to discover I had ruined my enjoyment of the journey by narrowly focusing on an artificial destination. On long car trips, I am _that_ dad - focused on the horizon and never stopping at the largest ball of paper-mache in Western Kentucky. I will grow impatient with a drive through while my wife looks longingly out the window at a local roadside diner.
Fallout 3 can not be appropriately consumed in this way. It demands to be savored. It insists that you spend dozens of hours exploring its world and that you adapt to its epic ways. It is an inflexible beast, fat and stubborn. It took me a year, but now I get it.
I still contend that at its core it makes for a pretty poor Fallout game. I can't elevate my biases away from this truth. If anything I'd describe it as the best Oblivion mod anyone could ever hope for, which isn't necessarily the meanest thing on the block I might offer. But even as I concede that it deserves the accolades it has received, I realize that playing it a second time through has taught me more about how I approach games than I might have otherwise expected.
Sean Sands is a writer and co-founder of the website Gamerswithjobs.com. He is also a little slow on the uptake from time to time, and probably should give that whole Grand Theft Auto thing another try someday.