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Fallout Lore: Why Vault Boy is Giving You a Thumbs Up (The REAL Reason)

A popular internet rumor has existed for years that Vault Boy's pose hides a sinister meaning, but what do the developers of Fallout have to say?

The true nature of the Fallout Vault Boy's iconic pose has been the discussion of internet rumor and myth for years. Despite numerous reddit threads dedicated to the subject, the real answer has actually already been given by the developers of Fallout.

Vault Boy is a mascot of sorts from the Fallout franchise. He has been around since the very first game, though he didn't get his Vault Boy moniker until Fallout 3. In-game, Vault Boy is often used in Vault-Tec materials to communicate information to players. He is used to represent the player in the Fallout 4 perk tree, for instance, or in a video explaining the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system. The Fallout Shelter mobile game used Vault Boy's general art style to create the other randomly generated Vault Dwellers that players manage in the game.

Related: 10 Open-World RPGs With a Better Story Than Fallout 4

Vault Boy's signature pose is to stand with a hand extended in a thumbs up, with one eye closed. At some point, a rumor began spreading through the internet that Vault Boy wasn't simply giving Fallout players encouragement. Instead, the theory ran that Vault Boy was actually using a method of determining if a person was in the fallout radius of a nuclear explosion. Supposedly, if a person held a thumb in front of their face with one eye closed, and could completely cover the mushroom cloud of a distant nuclear explosion, then they were safe from radiation fallout. It was a theory that gave Vault Boy a much more macabre tone, and felt in keeping with the tension between 1950s-style optimism and post-apocalyptic life that defined the Fallout series.

The Real Reason Fallout's Vault Boy Gives Players a Thumbs Up

This theory of the true nature of Vault Boy's pose has persisted for years, despite the fact that developers have debunked the theory on more than one occasion. Brian Fargo, head of Interplay for the development of Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics, took to Twitter in 2013 to state "The vault boy simply has a positive attitude." In 2015, Trammel Ray Isaac, the artist who created Vault Boy in the first place, repeated what he had apparently already explained "Its got nothing to do with measuring the cloud."

Despite the disappointment that some may have that Vault Boy isn't hiding a secret meaning, his cheerful nature is still fairly sinister on its own. Vault Boy is meant to be a reassuring presence, that everything is okay and that those in Vault-Tec's vaults have nothing to worry about. His thumbs up tells Fallout players "You can do it!" even as they are being disemboweled by a deathclaw.

Next: Will There Be a Fallout 5?

Source: Brian Fargo, Nibel


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About The Author
Caitlin Grieve (198 Articles Published)

Caitlin has been writing about video games and sci-fi/fantasy books since 2018. Her video game adventures began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away as an Imperial pilot in Star Wars: TIE Fighter. When she's not gaming, she's reading, and when she's not reading, she's writing. But she is ALWAYS plotting her next D&D escapades.

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Sours: https://screenrant.com/fallout-vault-boy-thumbs-up-real-reason-radiation/

Vault Boy

Vault Boy

Artwork of the Vault Boy from Fallout: New Vegas promotional material.

DebutFallout (1997)
Smash Bros. appearancesUltimate
Most recent non-Smash appearanceFallout Shelter Online (2020)
Console/platform of originMS-DOS
Microsoft Windows
Place of originUnited States
Created byLeonard Boyarsky

The Vault Boy (Vaultボーイ, Vault Boy) is the mascot of the Fallout franchise.


The Vault Boy is the mascot of the company Vault-Tec from the Fallout franchise by Interplay Productions (later Bethesda Softworks). Vault-Tec designed post-apocalyptic shelters called Vaults to enable humanity to survive in the aftermath of a worldwide nuclear war, though the majority of these Vaults were in reality controlled, often unethical human experiments. The Vault Boy illustrates character statistics and selectable attributes, and from Fallout 3 onward, models wearable equipment. Various trailers and animations starring Vault Boy have also been made over the years to advertise different Fallout games. Vault Boy should not be confused with the Pip-Boy, the wearable computer used by the player to access their inventory.

In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate[edit]

As a costume[edit]

Vault Boy revealed for Super Smash Bros. Ultimateas a Mii Costume.
The Vault Boy Mii costume in Ultimate.

A DLC costume for Mii Gunner based on the Vault Boy was announced on June 22nd, 2020, and was made available for purchase on June 29th, 2020. Like Sans and Cuphead before him, Vault Boy appears as a fully modelled character. His "mask" is just his head instead of a mask with the Mii's head visible. His gun appears to be based off the generic gun he is depicted with on the Energy Weapons bobblehead, a collectible item in the Fallout games. His Vault Suit is labeled '111' on the back, a reference to the Sole Survivor's vault in Fallout 4. Unlike Sans and Cuphead, Vault Boy does not come with a music track, possibly due to most of the music in the Fallout series being licensed music.

In his reveal trailer, the opening features Mario performing his thumbs-up taunt. This is a reference to a thumbs-up being Vault Boy's signature pose. Later, Vault Boy fights Dark Samus, referencing various mutant enemies seen in the Fallout series; he is later been KO'd by a grenade, a running gag of how in every S.P.E.C.I.A.L trailer, Vault Boy was killed in the end. Finally, Vault Boy stands besides Duck Hunt. This is a reference to Dogmeat, a recurring dog companion throughout the Fallout series.


  • Vault Boy is the first time Bethesda has been represented in Super Smash Bros.
  • Following Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda on September 21, 2020, Vault Boy is now retroactively the first Microsoft Mii Costume, and Fallout the second Microsoft franchise to be represented in Smash.
  • Unlike other regions, the logo for Fallout, the series Vault Boy hails from, is absent in the American version of his Mii Costume reveal trailer, being replaced with a wordmark featuring the character's name. This is also the case with Altaïr, Travis Touchdown, Dragonborn, Dante, and the Doom Slayer. There has not been an explanation for this, though it is worth noting all 5 characters come from series that consist of M-rated games.
    • Despite this, Fallout is mentioned by name in the North American version via the “News” section, also the case with Altaïr, Travis, Dragonborn and Dante.
  • The introduction to Vault Boy's Mii Costume references the "SPECIAL" rule-set (which is spelled out in-game as "S.P.E.C.I.A.L.") from the Fallout series by abbreviating "Smash" similarly.

External links[edit]

Sours: https://www.ssbwiki.com/Vault_Boy
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Vault Boy

Mascot of the Fallout series

For other uses, see Fallout Boy.

Vault Boy
Fallout4 "Vault Boy" in Yodobashi Umeda October 4, 2015.JPG

A statue of Vault Boy displayed at a retail store in Japan.

First appearanceFallout (1997)
Created byLeonard Boyarsky
Designed byGeorge Almond
Tramell Ray Isaac
AliasPip-Boy, Vault-Man

Vault Boy is the mascot of the Fallout media franchise. Created by staff at Interplay Entertainment, the original owners of the Falloutintellectual property (IP), Vault Boy was introduced in 1997's Fallout as an advertising character representing Vault-Tec, a fictional megacorporation that built a series of specialized fallout shelters throughout the United States to serve as a front for unethical experiments performed on unsuspecting participants prior to the nuclear holocaust that sets up the world state of the Fallout universe. Within the video game series, Vault Boy serves as a generic representation of the player character's statistical information within user interface (UI) menus, and is a recurring element in Vault-Tec products found throughout the fictional Fallout universe. His likeness also appears as a customizable skin for the Mii Gunner character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Vault Boy's design was developed by Leonard Boyarsky, who drew inspiration from 1950s films as well as the visual aesthetic of the economics-themed board game Monopoly. Vault Boy is a ubiquitous feature in promotional material and merchandising for the Falloutbrand, and is regarded by critics to be one of the most recognizable elements of the franchise and the embodiment of its sardonic, retrofuturistic themes.

Concept and design[edit]

Vault Boy was unnamed in 1997's Fallout, although the game's instruction manual refers to the character as Vault-Man.[1] He was created by Leonard Boyarsky, who originally thought of him as the "skill guy" when he developed the character's first piece of concept art. Vault Boy was partly based on Rich Uncle Pennybags' aesthetic from the Monopoly board game, and Boyarsky came up with the idea and design for the Vault Boy “cards”, which is intended to evoke the feel of Monopoly cards by showing the character engaged in a variety of activities in humorous ways. Vault Boy was drawn for Fallout by George Almond for the first few cards and by Tramell Ray Isaac who finalized the look of the character.[2] The character is inspired by films made during the 1950s, in particular the cartoon character Bert the Turtle from the 1952 civil defenseanimatedlive-actionsocial guidance filmDuck and Cover,[3] and parodies the dualities of cheery optimism and sub-surface paranoia from that era.[4][5][6]

Brian Menze was responsible for all Vault Boy images drawn for 1998's Fallout 2 and 2010's Fallout: New Vegas, and he followed Isaac's art style for the character. On the other hand, the developers of the 2001 spin-off title Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, Micro Forté, confused Vault Boy with another in-universe element called the Pip-Boy.[7] As "Pipboy", the character's iteration in Tactics as well as the traditional series of caricatures representing skills and perks were drawn by Ed Orman. Micro Forté's choice of name for the character was retained by ex-Interplay writer Chris Avellone when he developed and self-published the Fallout Bible in 2002.[8] Commenting on the confusion, Boyarsky clarified in a 2004 interview that "Vault Boy" was always intended to be the character's name, while the Pip Boy is supposed to be "the little guy on your Pip Boy interface" which is based on the Bob's Big Boy mascot.[9]Bethesda Softworks, the developers of the franchise beginning with Fallout 3, established the use of the name "Vault Boy" for the mascot character following their acquisition of the franchise in the mid-2000s.[6] Natalia Smirnova drew the character for Fallout 3.[10]

As the mascot of Fallout, Vault Boy is frequently used to convey the series' "often goony, occasionally nasty sense of humor".[11] Orman's favorite illustration of the character from Tactics was for the special damage effect of "immobile", where he still wears a "happy, devil-may-care grin" even though his body is horribly mutilated.[7] During the development of Fallout 2, Menze was asked to come up with a perk illustration for the “Childkiller” reputation that would be bestowed on the player character should he or she happen to kill a child character, accidentally or otherwise. Menze finalized an image of a perky Vault Boy kicking a pregnant woman in the stomach, and reasoned that his approach was the least offensive way to present an illustration of a literal child killer. Both Menze and the designer who requested it later realized that it was inappropriate and agreed not to use it, which became the only Vault Boy image to ever be cut from Fallout 2.[12][13]



The corporate logo of Vault-Tec.

Vault Boy is the mascot character of the Vault-Tec Corporation, also referred to as Vault-Tec Industries, appearing in their adverts, manuals, products and training films. Although Vault-Tec's slogan, “revolutionising safety for an uncertain future”, suggests a company with people's best interests in mind, it is consistently portrayed as an unscrupulous corporation.[14][6] Within series lore, Vault-Tec was contracted by the U.S. government for a nationwide project in 2054 to build fallout shelters known as "Vaults" for the American public in anticipation of possible nuclear war with its enemies. Each Vault is self-sufficient and theoretically capable of sustaining their inhabitants indefinitely; however, the Vault project was never intended as a viable method of repopulating the United States in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Instead, most Vaults were secret, unethical social experiments, designed to determine the effects of different environmental and psychological conditions on their inhabitants. Within this context, Vault Boy is cynically deployed as misdirection to reassure unsuspecting individuals who may be repeatedly manipulated and endangered by the Vault experiments.[6][15]


Vault Boy is presented as a young male Caucasian cartoon character, dressed in a blue and yellow jumpsuit, with blond hair styled in a distinctive swirl. His default expression is a wide beaming smile, but has been shown to make other facial expressions as well. His signature pose is to stand with a hand extended in a thumbs up, sometimes with one eye closed. The character's in-game function is to communicate information to players: for example, he is used to represent the player in Fallout 4's perk tree menu, or in a video explaining the SPECIAL character statistics system. Vault Boy also appears in illustrations for achievements and trophies for the video games developed following Bethesda's acquisition of the Fallout IP.

Vault Boy is sometimes presented as a female equivalent, Vault Girl, who is also blonde and wears similar attire.[16] In 2015's Fallout Shelter, Vault Boy's distinct art style is employed for the randomly generated Vault Dwellers which players manage in the game.[6] A Mii Fighter costume based on Vault Boy was added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate via downloadable content on June 22, 2020.[17]

Cultural impact[edit]

A van featuring Vault Boy and the Vault-Tec logo.

Critics noted that Vault Boy have achieved a level of cultural impact and viral recognition outside of the character's original context, which is far beyond what former Interplay staff such as Tim Cain and Feargus Urquhart had anticipated during the franchise's early years.[4][18] This is in spite of the fact that the character is neither playable nor a character in the Fallout universe.[19][20] Jeremy Peel from PCGamesN claimed that Vault Boy, as a mascot for the series' "sardonic, faux-1950s imagery", has become "as recognisable as Mickey Mouse".[4]Time Magazine named Vault Boy the third most influential video game character of all time, lauding his "gloriously absurd and irreverent spectrum of dispositions and postures, from hyperbolic simpering to grisly dismemberments", which made him an icon of surreal humour in a similar manner as characters from the Monty Python series.[21] Cameron Koch from Tech Times called Vault Boy's pose one of the most enduring or iconic images in video games.[22]

A popular fan theory about Vault Boy was that the character's signature pose is a discreet method to determine whether an individual is within the fallout radius of a nuclear explosion and thus safe from radiation or otherwise.[22][6] Former Interplay staff, such as Brian Fargo and Tramell Ray Isaac, insisted that the character is not hiding a secret meaning and is simply giving a show of encouragement, though it may not necessarily be sincere in nature.[6]


Writing for the 2017 publication 100 Greatest Video Game Characters, Rowan Derrick described Vault Boy as both a symbol of an idyllic world before nuclear war and a constant reminder of that world's failures; a concept that encompasses the promise of a pseudo-1950s nuclear powered paradise even though it directly contradicts the in-universe post-apocalyptic wasteland; and an illustration of the tension between humanity's penchant for harming each other and an ambivalence towards a technologically advanced civil society.[19] Matthew Byrd from Den of Geek drew comparisons between Vault Boy and Miss Minutes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, citing them as notables examples of "the Smiling Faces of Bureaucracy, Corruption, and Propaganda", where storytellers co opt retrofuturistic designs to serve as a form of social commentary.[15] Vivian Asimos noted the popular use of Vault Boy's signature pose in sarcastic circumstances to be a notable example of video game content forming the backbone of numerous internet memes due to its participatory nature.[23]


  1. ^Taylor, Christopher (October 10, 1997). Vault Dweller's Survival Guide(PDF). Interplay Productions.
  2. ^"Tim Cain interview on the Duck and Cover".
  3. ^Knoblauch, William (2014). Michael Blouin; Morgan Shipley; Jack Taylor (eds.). The Silence of Fallout: Nuclear Criticism in a Post-Cold War World. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 132. ISBN .
  4. ^ abcPeel, Jeremy (May 12, 2020). "How on Earth did Fallout ever get made?". PCGamesN. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  5. ^Barton, Matt (July 4, 2010). Fallout with Tim Cain Pt. 2. Retrieved April 19, 2021 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ abcdefgGrieve, Cailtin (October 15, 2020). "Fallout Lore: Why Vault Boy is Giving You a Thumbs Up (The REAL Reason)". Screen Rant. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  7. ^ abBlevins, Tal (February 26, 2001). "Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel Interview". IGN. p. 2. Archived from the original on August 31, 2011. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  8. ^Chris Avellone. "The Fallout Bible (complete) by Chris Avellone 2016-01-29". No Mutants Allowed. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  9. ^"Fallout Developers Profile - Leonard Boyarsky". No Mutants Allowed. Archived from the original on July 13, 2004. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  10. ^Smirnova, Natalia (2008). The Art of Fallout 3. Bethesda Softworks. ASIN B002DHX79E.
  11. ^McLaughlin, Rus; Kaiser, Rowan (July 21, 2010). "IGN Presents the History of Fallout". IGN. p. 2. Archived from the original on March 23, 2016. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  12. ^Tom Goldman (February 28, 2010). "Rejected Fallout 2 Childkiller Vault Boy Image Surfaces". The Escapist. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  13. ^Owen Good (February 27, 2010). "Fallout 2's Rejected 'Childkiller' Icon is, Uh, Whoa ..."Kotaku. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  14. ^Sampson, Jessi (March 31, 2021). "Fallout 5 needs to expand on Vault-Tec's evil roots". PCGamesN. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  15. ^ abByrd, Matthew (June 30, 2021). "How Loki and Fallout Use Retrofuturism to Unnerve Us". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on July 1, 2021. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  16. ^Hall, Charlie (February 18, 2021). "The Fallout tabletop games are available in a massive new Humble Bundle". Polygon. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  17. ^Marshall, Cass (June 22, 2020). "Fallout's Vault Boy joins Super Smash Bros. as a Mii Fighter". Polygon. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  18. ^Fewster, Derek (2021). Anna Höglund; Cecilia Trenter (eds.). The Enduring Fantastic: Essays on Imagination and Western Culture. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 219. ISBN .
  19. ^ abJaime Banks; Robert Mejia; Aubrie Adams, eds. (June 23, 2017). 100 Greatest Video Game Characters. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. pp. 194–196. ISBN .
  20. ^Roberts, Dale (2016). World of Workcraft: Rediscovering Motivation and Engagement in the Digital Workplace. Routledge. Chapter 13: The Purposeful Play Design Process. ISBN .
  21. ^Lisa Eadicicco; Alex Fitzpatrick; Matt Peckham (June 30, 2017). "The 15 Most Influential Video Game Characters of All Time". Time Magazine. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  22. ^ abKoch, Cameron (November 3, 2015). "Maybe Vault Boy From 'Fallout' Isn't Giving Us The Thumbs Up After All". Tech Times. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  23. ^Asimos, Vivian (2021). Digital Mythology and the Internet's Monster: The Slender Man. Bloomsbury Publishing. Playing the Slender Man. ISBN .
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vault_Boy
Vault Boy Facts You Didn't Know

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Vault Boy Facts You Didn't Know

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