With Fallout 4 on shelves and thousands of special editions out in the wild, it's a safe bet at least one person is playing through the entire game with a plastic Pip-Boy on their arm. But how does the Pip-Boy stack up in the real world? Is it actually useful for your everyday wasteland explorer? Because I am a committed idiot, I decided to find out, wearing the Pip-Boy for a whole week. Here's how I got on.
The Pip-Boy 3000 Mark IV has been on my arm for about 10 minutes and the weight of the task I have set myself for this week is just starting to sink in.
For the next seven days, I will be wearing the special edition Pip-Boy on my left arm. I am only permitted to take it off only to sleep, shower and, because my arms aren't detachable, when I'm either putting on or taking off a jumper. That's it. The Pip-Boy is far larger than I remember it being, but I'm actually excited. There's something about overcoming obstacles I've (needlessly) created for myself that really tickles me. I keep holding my arm up and giggling.
I'm going out to see my friend in about ten minutes. I've just realised I don't have a jacket that will fit over this thing and it is raining pretty heavily out there. Given there's an iPhone crammed into the Pip-Boy, I'm also nervous about walking to the tube. I get my fiancée to take a picture and she asks me, earnestly, why I do this to myself.
I leave the house and I am genuinely a little bit afraid. The velcro strap inside the Pip-Boy won't grip my forearm with a jumper on, so the whole thing immediately slips down to rest painfully on my thumb. I'm too nervous to stop and adjust it in the street, so I grit my teeth and keep walking.
The walk to the tube isn't actually too bad - I look around a lot to see if people are watching and nobody seems to give it more than a passing glance. Taking the tube is a different story. One guy, sat two seats down from me, leans forward to gawp at the shiny olive plastic encircling my forearm. I make eye contact to try and get him to stop, but he carries on regardless.
After about fifteen minutes I start to relax a little; I tell myself I'm just another eccentric on the Underground. My hope is that the Pip-Boy looks like some form of medical device. It suddenly occurs to me it might actually look like a bomb instead. I spend the rest of the journey sweating, but taking off my jumper is too complicated and noisy to attempt now.
I make it to my friend's house, where we spend a few hours playing board games. I'm still optimistic, but I feel incredibly clumsy with a Pip-Boy on. Eating a sandwich requires me to stick my elbow in the air to accommodate the plastic.
At about 9pm, I realise I can't cross my arms.
I get up and strap myself into the Pip-Boy at around 10am; my fingers and forearm immediately start complaining. I'm making dinner tonight, which means going food shopping. The fear of leaving the house and interacting with people gnaws away at me for most of the afternoon.
When I eventually drag myself down the road to Tesco, I find myself doing the shopping at thrice my normal pace in an attempt to deny anyone the chance to stare at my hugely misshapen forearm. The plan falls apart when I have to start queueing at the checkout. Behind me, I hear someone whisper 'what is that?'
I make it home and set about making a cottage pie. The actual mechanics of chopping, stirring and mashing aren't too difficult, but my arm is constantly bouncing off the cupboards and surfaces. It sounds like I'm auditioning to drum in a jazz band, not making dinner.
After we've eaten, I realise I need to do the washing up. I stare into the sink with absolutely no idea how I'm supposed to do this with a Pip-Boy on. Eventually I slink off and hope my other half does the dishes instead. She does. I feel guilty and useless and smug all at once.
I'm up shortly before eight to start work and the thought of donning the Pip-Boy fills me with a mild dread. My arm hurts quite a lot and my plastic companion isn't looking too spritely, either - I've managed to tear the foam on the inside and some of the coating has rubbed off.
Taking off my jumper is such a faff I've just stopped bothering and spend most of the day uncomfortably warm. I'm still clunking off the furniture constantly, only now it's really starting to grate. Wearing a Pip-Boy on the weekend is one thing, but I'm fast learning it's rather different while actually trying to get stuff done.
Work ends and I have an incredible urge to go out and buy a bottle of wine. I'm quite tired and don't think I can face another trip to the shops in a Pip-Boy right now. Out of desperation, I try to force my arm into the sleeve of a hoody. It won't go. I allow myself a moment of self pity by the front door, my elephant-leg-arm still crammed redundantly into a sleeve.
For the first time in my life, I find myself wishing I owned a poncho.
My arm hurts less today, but my enthusiasm for whimsical experiments is really starting to wane. Fallout 4 arrives in the post mid-afternoon. I try to hide my arm behind the door, but have to reach out with it to accept the package. The postman frowns when he sees the Pip-Boy. Maybe he thinks I'm under house arrest?
I spend the evening playing Fallout. I have a brief moment of solidarity with my character when she dons her Pip-Boy for the first time. I actually find myself having a little sulk at how well she adjusts to wearing one.
The postman knocks on my door at about midday. When I open the door, he is already looking down to see if I'm still wearing the Pip-Boy. I am. He hands me my post, frowning.
This evening, I am going to have dinner with some friends. It's a half-hour walk to their flat. I only met them a few months ago and I'm not sure I've adequately prepared them for the fact I'm going to be wearing a piece of plastic the size of a baby on my arm. This should be interesting.
I meet up with my friend Jon, who is also coming for dinner, and we start the walk together. He's so impressed I haven't been mugged that I immediately get nervous about being in public all over again.
Dinner is lovely. Thankfully my friends know what a Pip-Boy is, which makes the explanation a bit easier, but they are trying very hard to ignore it. I swear I see a look of pity creep over their faces once or twice. I want to tell them how sorry I am for bringing this mess into their house.
I get the tube home out of laziness and run into an old friend from university. We speak for a minute or two, during which I probably seem really standoffish because of the way I'm contorting my body, desperate to hide my arm. I really, really hope it works.
After last night's minor existential crisis, I feel a genuine pang of distress as I put the plastic millstone back around my forearm. I need to go to the shops again around lunchtime and it's not even an embarrassing thrill any more. I'm just a bit sad.
In the evening, I go to karate. This is the first time I've gone back to the dojo in about two years. I suspect this is because it requires me to take the Pip-Boy off so nobody has to worry about taking a plastic cuff to the face. I spend two glorious hours leaping about a sports hall in cotton pyjamas, free of my plasticky troubles.
Today I am working from the Eurogamer office in Brighton, which involves leaving the house at 6am. I don't know if anyone stares at me on the tube or the train; I shove my head in a book and don't stop reading until I reach my desk. Tom Phillips asks me what it's like to go to the toilet with a Pip-Boy on. I do not answer him.
At lunch, we decide to go out for burgers. We sit at a glass-topped table, making it impossible to hide the pip-boy from the waitress when she comes to take our order. I'm embarrassed. Aoife, sat opposite me, is embarrassed on my behalf. The chef in the kitchen is probably feeling embarrassed, even if he or she can't pinpoint why.
I am defeated. Mercifully the end of the day arrives, but I do not feel the sense of relief I expected as I return the Pip-Boy to its protective case. I just feel tired. Still, the nightmare is over and my forearm is mine again, which is something.
In conclusion, I would not recommend the Pip-Boy 3000 Mark IV as a viable alternative to a smart watch.