It Took A Year To Find Out What The Red Button In Wasteland 2 Actually Does

It Took A Year To Find Out What The Red Button In Wasteland 2 Actually Does

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?

It Took A Year To Find Out What The Red Button In Wasteland 2 Actually Does

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.

It Took A Year To Find Out What The Red Button In Wasteland 2 Actually Does
It Took A Year To Find Out What The Red Button In Wasteland 2 Actually Does

Even the game's various walkthroughs aren't sure what to make of it.

"Computer -- Suspicious computer, with big dagerous [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.


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.


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."

It Took A Year To Find Out What The Red Button In Wasteland 2 Actually Does

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 arsehole."

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.

Clever girl.

If you've never played Wasteland 2, it's getting a director's cut version for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One next week.

Image credit: Shutterstock


    But that's not the whole story, WHAT IS THE IMPENDING DOOM?

    Don't peak my interest and then leave me without answers

      It's 'pique my interest'

      Sorry, this is the internet and that means i have to correct your grammar. Them's the rules.

        Apologies in advance for this...

        Your first sentence is missing a full stop. The possessive "I" is upper case, and "those are the rules." (Yes, your phrasing is a common cliche, but it's also a cliche with bad grammar.)

        OTOH, the OP used his comma incorrectly (it should probably have been a semicolon) and also omitted his final full stop, so you're even.

        Pedantism FTW!

        Grammar Flames: once you start, they never stop.

        Last edited 09/10/15 3:02 pm

          The 'them's' bit was done ironically, for the record. The missing full stop and the lower-case 'i' were totally my fault; I was eating lunch at the time and wasn't giving my Grammar Nazi duties the attention they so rightly deserve.

          As a retort, shouldn't you have placed the full stop outside your first bracket? It seems odd to me to have that closing bracket sitting outside the full stop there. In fact, the use of brackets altogether seems unnecessary there, since the point doesn't need to be separated from the rest of the sentence.

          Cry 'Grammar!', and let slip the dogs of war.

            The sentence is inside the parentheses; ergo so is the full stop. Parentheses are normally used to indicate an aside, which is the case here.

            I was quite aware that "Them's the rules" was intended ironically, which was a large part of the reason why I apologised in advance. :-) IMO any grammar flame should be accompanied by an apology.

            Usually I don't go out of my way to nitpick grammar flames; in my experience 90% of spelling and grammar flames themselves contain at least one spelling or grammar error, and I am not myself immune from this effect.

            For spelling flames, I normally goe owt ov mie whey two scru upp reely badli, as an ironic indication that none of us are perfect. But normally I avoid both. That lower-case "i" was too tempting a target, though...

            Followup on the full-stop inside parentheses thing:

            I looked this up and the rule is that is the part within the parentheses forms the entirety of the sentence, the full stop is placed inside the sentence. If part of the sentence is outside of the parentheses then the full stop is placed outside of it. So this sentence is correct (because part of the sentence is not inside of the parentheses). (This sentence is also correct, because all of the sentence is inside of the parentheses.)

            My grammar is not infallible, as I was educated during a period when teaching grammar was unfashionable; as such I picked it up more or less by osmosis via a LOT of reading. In this case my gut call seems to have been right.

            However, your criticism for my use of parentheses at all is probably on target. I do tend to over-use them. However, that's not a grammatical error as such, simply an odd choice of style.

            I must admit, as anyone who looks at my postings in Kotaku would probably observe, brevity is not exactly my style; I have a bad habit of explaining and over-explaining.

          Shouldn't that be "pedantry"? :P

            Probably. Your question mark belongs inside the quotes. :-P I admit that particular rule isn't one I'm fond of.

            This is one reason why spelling/grammar flames are such a bad idea; all I can say is I didn't start this one. :-) (Echoes of Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire.")

    So hang on a tick. You press the first button and an entirely new point of interest appears on your global map. And this went unnoticed for an entire year??? Wasteland 2 players must be pretty unobservant.

      Whilst I haven't played the game, that's exactly what I thought when I read it!

      Literally what I thought.

      "It marks a new location on the map? How could this take a year?"

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