Fallout co-creator settles over two decades of fan debate about who nuked who with a single off-hand comment

An image of the nuke detonation at the beginning of Fallout 4.
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Tim Cain is a storied man. Fallout co-creator, Arcanum maker, owner and proprietor of the best channel on YouTube, Cain's accolades stretch beyond counting, and there are more game design secrets locked up in his head than we'll probably ever know. But hey, we can know some of them, and thanks to Cain's recent appearance on gaming documentary channel TKs-Mantis (via GamesRadar), we know one about Fallout specifically: Who was it that dropped the first bomb?

Chatting off the cuff about the moral ambiguity of Fallout's foundational conflict, Cain happened to mention that "The reason [the United States] got nuked is bio-weapons were illegal, and somehow China found out we were doing FEV." The FEV, if you're not up on your Fallout lore, is the Forced Evolutionary Virus, a pre-war supersoldier serum that was used to make the Super Mutants of Fallout 1. 

But the important thing is Cain referring to it as "the reason [the US] got nuked." Ever since Fallout 1, the question of whether America or China shot first has been a source of fan debate. Turns out it was China. So that's that. 26 years of argument settled because Tim Cain went on a podcast.

Mantis immediately picked up on it. "Earth-shattering, what you just said," chuckled the host, informing a surprised Cain that "people actually debate over who shot first, like a Greedo, Solo thing."

"Oh they do?" asked a sheepish Cain, "Well then I don't know. Who knows? It was probably some rogue nation." A flawless recovery, really.

To be fair, Fallout's lore is entirely in Bethesda's hands these days, and that studio has gone on to do all sorts of weird stuff—from aliens to replicants—during its stewardship of the series. It could well be that the backstory Cain and co settled on back in the '90s is no longer official canon at Bethesda. 

But, well, it probably is: it's been generally accepted among Fallout fans that China is the most likely nation to have shot first in Fallout's eschatological origin story, based on evidence you can uncover across the entire series, Bethesda's games included. Cain's off-the-cuff admittance of that fact is only going to solidify that theory as canon going forward.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.