Why playing Fallout 4 shook up this newish dad

CNET's Anthony Domanico is a big fan of the Fallout video game series, but with the newly released Fallout 4, he's playing a bit differently this time around.

Anthony Domanico
CNET freelancer Anthony Domanico is passionate about all kinds of gadgets and apps. When not making words for the Internet, he can be found watching Star Wars or "Doctor Who" for like the zillionth time. His other car is a Tardis.
Anthony Domanico
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This beautiful church has definitely seen better days, but there's something oddly stunning about it.

Screenshot by Anthony Domanico/CNET

Minor spoiler alert: This story briefly discusses an event that happens in the first half-hour of the game. Read at your own discretion.

Bethesda's post-apocalyptic Fallout video games are among my favorites of all time. I still remember engrossing myself for hundreds of hours in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, released in 2008 and 2010, respectively, as I completed the main quest and side quests pretty much in order.

Now, after the first couple of hours playing the open-world role-playing game Fallout 4 -- which was released Tuesday and played by a massive number of people on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PCs -- I've deviated from the straight-and-narrow path laid out in front of me, and I'm not really doing too many of the side quests.

So, what's changed?

Kids, man. Those dang kids. I have a 2-year-old boy who means the world to me, and another baby on the way. So, kid stories really hit home now, and Fallout 4's storyline punches that emotional trigger hard.

Fallout 4 takes players on a massive journey through New England locations after the US is devastated by nuclear war. After just barely making it to safety in Vault 111 as a nuclear blast levels the main character's hometown of Sanctuary Hills, you watch your wife get shot and killed, and your infant child stolen from her not-quite-dead-yet arms by an unknown assailant. Yeah, you have to watch that happen, trapped in a cryogenic chamber unable to escape.

Touring the beautiful, desolate world of Fallout 4 (pictures)

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Very early on in the story, you learn from a woman in the Minutemen faction -- the first faction or group your character encounters in the game -- that she feels your son is alive, and that a man in Diamond City can help you find him.

After completing a few repetitive "please save us from these deadly Raiders" quests for various towns to recruit the residents into the Minutemen, I basically ignored Minutemen Leader Preston Garvey's request to save a third city, instead setting my sights on the city of Boston and Diamond City, a protected city formed in the ruins of Boston's Fenway Park.

Because come hell or high water, I'm getting that kid back, main quest be damned!

OK, so getting your kid back is probably part of the main quest, but for me, doing the Minutemen's dirty work plays second fiddle to being the best dad in the wasteland, even if not having that many allies in The Commonwealth -- the name for the post-apocalyptic New England -- comes back to bite me when I try to complete the main quest.

I'll probably get back to building up the Minutemen once I realize that my character is definitely not leveled up enough to tackle some of the more deeper missions needed to get my kid back but, for now, I'm on a mission to get that cute little baby of mine back and try to find a way for the two of us to survive the hostile wasteland.

Be sure to read my CNET colleague Jeff Bakalar's review of Fallout 4 , as well as Nic Healey's Wasteland Survival Guide.