A Game that Led Young Ones to 50s Music
by Stacey Thompson
Many young adults and youths of today barely have a clue, much less a healthy appreciation for the American musical culture from the thirties up until the sixties. A few iconic personalities and their works are still recognizable to the present generations. Luminaries such as Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra are still present in the mindspace. Artists like The Ink Spots, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Jimmy Durante, Billie Holiday, and many others are more or less considered obscure by modern “Justin-Bieber fandom” standards.
One can’t put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the present youngins. It is expected that people of a given time period revel it’s popular culture, albeit including a decade or three from the recent past. It’s just not “cool” to jam to Danny Kaye and the Andrews Sisters singing Civilization when it’s 2012.
Now, you would probably expect this tirade to come out from an old and bitter codger who predated your parents, the kind that loves to rant about how times long past were so much better than how things are right now. Actually, I’m a woman in my mid-twenties, and I just happen to think the music that was birthed in those aforementioned decades is awesome.
These tunes don’t exactly play in the mainstream airwaves, so why did I acquire an interest in music that’s about as old as my nana? The catalyst was actually a PC video game series that was released back in 1997.
Fallout and Fallout II are tactical role playing games set in various parts of a fictional post-nuclear apocalyptic wasteland that was once the United States of America. It does haveMad Max feel to it, but what makes it characteristically Fallout is theretro-futuristic (basically, what people from the past envisioned a future civilization would be like) culture characterised by the remnants and ruins scattered about (print/radio/TV ads and programs, buildings, technological gadgets, memes, etc.), and of course, the music.
The first two titles didn’t have the luxury of having tons of multimedia content in it (constraints imposed by game budgets and the processing power of personal computers at that time), but they managed to give the players a satisfying role playing experience coupled with tons of tactical combat, mostly funny cultural references, and some dark humor and gore (the nuclear wasteland is a cruel, inhospitable place). These two games effectively created the cult following, anticipation and apprehension was high when a new game development studio, Bethesda Software Works, took over the franchise and released the next two titles.
Fallout III Fallout: New Vegas take the 30s-to-60s cultural influences to an even greater degree as the game was built on a more immersive first-person, 3D world. While the first two Fallout games had the old music embedded into their introductions, the next two games had more of it within the game itself. There were various radio stations that played all manner of entertaining ads, skits, and musical pieces. These were accessible via the Pip-Boy, a retro-futuristic take on the PDA.
It may or may have not been the game developers’ purpose, but the little tidbits of old culture found in all of the Fallout games have sparked interest in the younger gaming generations, granting them the realization that there is actually some truth in the musings (in some cases ravings) of those who have lived long enough to have been there.
Personally, I’m glad I discovered 30s to 60s music. The substance and emotional gravity in some of these old musical masterpieces ring true even half a century later, despite lacking the flashy music videos and auditory crispness. I also found that it makes a great topic when someone of my age tries to strike up a conversation with someone in their sixties, or older.
Interested in Fallout? Here’s a thorough video summary I found on YouTube:
About The Author: Stacey Thompson is a little over a quarter-century-old. She is a professional writer, marketer, entrepreneur, eclectic digital and tabletop gamer, appreciator of mature music and culture, and a lover of weird little animals. Currently, she is working with the Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.