National Boy Scout Day: Five Games to Prove That You’re a True Boy Scout
When I heard that the United States’ National Boy Scout Day was fast approaching, I felt the strangest urge to write something — anything — for it. It was some years ago, but I still remember being in the Boy Scouts of America (or BSA), even after I’d cottoned on to the fact that the “Boy” part of that equation didn’t really fit for me. Those experiences hold an odd space inside my head: part of me wants to ignore that time of my life, even decry the at-times overwhelming boy-ness I saw as inherent to the BSA, yet there’s also a fondness in me towards the meetings, the camps, the badges (especially the badges!), and even a handful of the skills and experiences I learned or went through.
However, taking those complicated feelings and turning them into a videogame-focused article seemed just a slight bit daunting. I mean, what was I supposed to do? Dutifully research every appearance of alfalfa in all of gaming as a tribute to the Scout Life magazine’s best mascot? (I miss you every day, Pedro the Mail Burro.) I thought perhaps I could put together a nice little list of survival games, since the BSA puts a lot of emphasis on survival itself, but I’m not actually a fan of the survival genre, I’ll admit. Even so, that’s not everything the Boy Scouts stand for. As much as their focus on boyhood stressed me out, there is a ton to being a Scout that I find to be admirable. Being a true Boy Scout takes more than just staying alive in the woods, and I believe these five games can help you prove you have what it takes, whether you’re a boy or not.
Summer camps definitely exist far beyond the Boy Scouts, but for my part, collecting badges to prove myself and living in tents in the woods for a summer are the first memories that come to mind when I think of the organisation. Double Fine’s 2005 cult classic, Psychonauts, absolutely looks the part with its green grass and brown cabins, but this summer camp is, in fact, a training ground for the titular Psychonauts, special agents that use psychic powers to thwart evil. Still, outside of the various minds that you get to jump into and explore, the camp you get to explore and the badges you can earn all get across that classic Scouting aesthetic in a rather charming way. Beyond that, though (and attempting to spoil as little as I can), Psychonauts is about standing up against the people who abuse their authority and assisting people with exploring and healing their trauma. That sort of kindness and bravery are key to Scouting — and also Psychonauting, it seems.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
If Psychonauts was about bravery and standing up for what’s right, then Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater might seem to contradict that game at every turn. With its story full of twists, betrayals, and double agents, it is hard to find anyone in Snake Eater who is truly worthy of the term Boy Scout. The protagonist himself, Snake, certainly shows off his survival skills by living off of animals in the wild and procuring everything he needs in the field, and the man is nothing if not loyal, another key tenet of the Boy Scouts. Yet one of Snake Eater’s bigger questions is who one should be loyal to and at what point should that loyalty be revoked. In essence, Snake Eater acts less like a model for Boy Scout hopefuls to measure themselves against and more like a cautionary tale that explores some of the messy results of blindly pursuing an ideal without first coming to understand what it means.
Except for the survival stuff. You can model your behaviour on the survival stuff. That’s okay. Go, eat a snake.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
One may question the inclusion of a famously woman-starring franchise like Tomb Raider in an article about Boy Scouts, but the trilogy that began with 2013’s Tomb Raider — and 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider specifically — has a lot going for it. Rise’s Siberian setting makes for a distinctly cold environment to survive in, for one. When thinking about a survival situation, many people default to considering a very green forest and the dangers of procuring food and shelter without themselves becoming food. However, temperature, harsh winds, and visibility can all also be grave dangers by their own merit and surviving in the snow can end badly for the unprepared without them ever seeing another living being. Heck, my old Boy Scout troop only went for one big winter camping trip, and I had to be sent back home on the second day because I was bordering on frostbite by that morning.
For two, Rise and the other titles provide plentiful opportunities for the player, as Lara, to embody the majority of the qualities Boy Scouts are meant to aspire to possess: you can be trustworthy when protecting friends and new allies, thrifty when stocking up on resources, and even reverent when taking in the majestic views and great temples and ruins along the journey. For three, being a woman — or playing as one in a videogame — doesn’t actually keep you from being a true Scout, boy or otherwise, since the traits you are supposed to embody do not necessarily include boyhood. And if you are a man, then playing as Lara doesn’t take that away from you. If you played through the entire game on the hardest difficulty, Extreme Survivor (which is honestly still kicking my butt), then you still accomplished that and can be proud of it, no matter what gender the protagonist is.
Moving away from survival-oriented games, next up is Bethesda Game Studios’ Fallout 4. Personally, I’m more of a Fallout: New Vegas fan, but I felt that Fallout 4 made more sense for this list for two reasons. Firstly, it features Settlements. Building and being a part of communities are core aspects of being a Boy Scout, even if they’re not directly mentioned in the handbook. There is also the whole idea of turning these semi-abandoned locales into actual homes for people, but the community aspect is what’s important here for me. Boy Scouts are meant to be charitable and are supposed to bring people together. The last three titles we’ve discussed have been solo journeys, and Fallout 4 can be one too, but as much as a Scout must be prepared for anything, they also need to remember that they are not alone. They have a whole troop, or in this case, a Settlement, behind them.
Secondly, Fallout 4 has this very cool feature where some of the voice actors will actually call you by your name if it’s common enough. I know that’s not very distinctly Boy Scout-y, but I will still always love Fallout 4 for the fact that it let me hear people call me by my new name for the very first time. That was a powerful experience, and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried. Sometimes, all it takes to prove that you’re a true girl or boy to yourself is to finally hear your name. If you’re not sure you count as a Boy Scout, maybe try giving Fallout 4 your name just to hear it said back to you. If nothing else in this article is useful to you, I hope this helps.
Deep Rock Galactic
Lastly, we come to Ghost Ship Games’ 2020 cooperative mining gem, Deep Rock Galactic. Much like Fallout 4, Deep Rock Galactic offers more of that community goodness that the Boy Scouts are all about, only this time, that community is yourself and three other burly, manly dwarves all mining for valuables, having each others’ backs, and toasting a job well done with a tankard of drink and a night of dancing. I’ll admit, I was a tad worried that I wasn’t going to like this one at first, but the game is just so positive! It brings out the best in people as they work together to collect resources and have some good-natured fun. There’s a certain cheer and friendliness that runs throughout Deep Rock Galactic, contributing to a wonderful experience with friends. Maybe it’s the silliness of what all you and your three friends can get up to with these four dwarves, or maybe it’s the way each of the playable classes have their own unique benefits in the gameplay, thereby keeping anyone from feeling left out. Whatever it is, Deep Rock Galactic is very darn good at putting a smile on your face and your friends’ faces. If that’s not being a good Boy Scout — a good friend, even — then I don’t know what is.
So those are five games to prove your true Boy Scoutedness! I don’t really think that I am one any more, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up on being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, cheerful, thrifty, brave, or reverent. Those are virtues anyone can aspire to, whether they’re a boy or not. I think these games help to show that a little bit, but maybe you have some ideas of your own? Leave a comment if you have any other good ideas or if you have any old Scouting stories of your own to share! Heck, leave a comment below if you, too, sincerely miss Pedro the Mail Burro. I will love you forever if you do.