Since Wasteland 2’s came out in September 2014, there’s been a mystery no one can solve. It involves a computer with a red button. When players press it, the ground shakes. No one knows what happens after that. Were the developers trolling everyone or was there more to the story? There is, and I have answers.
I’m a sucker for secrets in games that developers have allowed to remain hidden for a long time, such as this Serious Sam puzzle that was solved 14 years later.
Here’s what’s going on:
When you enter the Hollywood Sewers section, there’s a cracked wall to the left of the entrance. If you break the wall, there’s a strange-looking machine with a red button. It looks so...tempting and inviting. Who wouldn’t want to touch it?
When you press it, the screen shakes...and that’s it. Or so it seems?
This button has spawned endless threads of confusion on Steam, the official message board, reddit, and countless other places on the Internet. Everyone’s stumped about what this damn button does (or doesn’t) do in Wasteland 2.
“Computer – Suspicious computer, with big dangerous [sic] looking red button... After pushing him ground will shake, but nothing more happens.
At the end of the hall you will see a large computer that gives this message when you examine it: “you see a very old computer with a big ominous red button. What could possibly go wrong?” Pushing the large red button apparently does nothing. . . or does it? The screen will shake and someone in the party will comment that “that can’t be good”. What did you just do? [Note: no one on the forums seems to know what the button is for. The author of this Guide never saw any consequence from pushing the button].
More than a year after release, players have either given up or accepted the button is not a mystery to be solved.
The Kotaku reader who emailed me about this recently asked Wasteland 2 designer director Brian Fargo about the button, but he wouldn’t budge.
@BrianFargo What DOES the big red button in Hollywood Sewers do? Anything? Second playthrough, pressed it again, still can't find anything.
— C (@phimuskapsi) October 7, 2015
It's a secret! https://t.co/uyacMtLY4S
— Brian Fargo (@BrianFargo) October 7, 2015
Though Fargo was claiming state secrets, I wasn’t willing to give up that easily. After Techland fessed up to what’s actually powering the city featured in Dying Light, I put my big boy journalism pants on and demanded Wasteland 2 developer inXile Entertainment tell me what’s going on with this inscrutable red button.
As I sent the email, I felt like Jack Bauer from 24.
“TELL ME WHAT THE RED BUTTON IS!”
My hard work of casually writing an email paid off; Wasteland 2 project lead Chris Keenan was willing to talk. Fortunately, I didn’t have to yell at him.
“It’s very funny that he [the Kotaku reader] keyed in on the red button,” said Keenan. “We have a bunch of deliberate non-sequiturs like that all over the game. Some have rewards (like following the turtle in Rail Nomads for 25 minutes), others are there for flavour and richness, or our amusement. The Provost (also in Nomads) is our illuminati Latin speaking companion that is probably one of the biggest creepers in video games.”
When the player presses the red button and the screen shakes, nothing in the game indicates anything’s different. But the world has changed, and that becomes clear if you head back to the game’s world map.
On the southeast side, there’s suddenly a new point of interest, a new map called Irvine. The only way this map appears is if you’ve pressed that button.
Once inside Irvine, you’re quickly greeted by a character named Aaron Chwatt.
“Don’t shoot grumpy Aaron,” said Keenan, “which you’ll probably want to, as he’s a bit of an asshole.”
There’s a building to the right, which hides yet another machine with a red button. Once this button is pressed, the screen will, once again, shake. If you head outside, Aaron will claim “you’ve now doomed everyone” and run away.
And lo, the red button’s mystery was solved!
There’s more, though. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Aaron Chwatt:
Red Buttons was born Aaron Chwatt on February 5, 1919, in New York City, to Jewish immigrants Sophie (née Baker) and Michael Chwatt. At sixteen years old, Chwatt got a job as an entertaining bellhop at Ryan’s Tavern in City Island, Bronx. The combination of his red hair and the large, shiny buttons on the bellhop uniforms inspired orchestra leader Charles “Dinty” Moore to call him “Red Buttons,” the name under which he would later perform.
If you’ve never played Wasteland 2, it’s getting a director’s cut version for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One next week.
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