The radio is ubiquitous in the world of Fallout. Accessed via the portable Pip-Boy device wrapped around the player-character’s wrist, the radio transmits a constant stream of music (popular and classical), news, and propaganda. Likewise, it also syndicates radio dramas as one of the popular forms of narrative-based entertainment for the wasteland. Fallout’s emphasis on the radio should strike players as significant. This is a series distinctly influenced by 1950s culture including retrofuturist iconography and atomic age anxieties, where television—and not radio—was the mass media that captured the hearts and minds of Americans in a postwar society. Indeed, Fallout’s predominantly 1950s aesthetic misses the height of the Golden Age of Radio, which spanned from the 1920s to the early 1950s but peaked around the 1930s. The subsequent popularity of the television supplanted the radio, but televisions in Fallout 4 are stuck in a perpetual standby devoid of programming. Only radio towers broadcast on the airwaves, supplying on-the-go entertainment for the Lone Wanderer and the primary mass technology for the wasteland. While portable transistor radios did emerge in American storefronts in 1954, Bethesda’s recent Fallout games play upon nostalgia for radio’s earlier days prior to the introduction of television. Within Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 are period radio dramas, and it’s this inclusion of a bygone narrative form where interesting links between radio and videogames emerge.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.