The 1950′s: A Playground for Game Developers


The 1950′s were a time of simultaneous peace and unrest. In the U.S., the soldiers were returning from World War II and reintegrating themselves into society. The white picket fence became the symbol of the perfect life and Leave it to Beaver was hot on television. So, why is this particular time period so interesting for game developers?

Two of the best games of the past decade have dealt with the look and feel of 1950′s society. Fallout 3 and BioShock both hone in on this seemingly “utopian” society. This specific backdrop is what gives these games their charm.

The 1950's are prevelant i everything you do in Fallout.

The society in the Fallout games have grown off of the 1950′s theme.

Part of Fallout 3′s charm is the 1950′s facade the game focuses on. It is such an intriguing experience to encounter a story in which this 1950′s society has actually continued to grow and expand into the future (in this case, 2077). This retro-futurism injects the post-apocalyptic scenario with a certain charm.

BioShock also capitalizes on the use of retro-futurism. They take the idea of a utopian society and take it to the extreme. In the original BioShock, the player is introduced to the under-sea city of Rapture, which serves as society’s “perfect city”. However, nothing is as it seems in this hellish realm full of misconceptions and monsters. I do not find it to be a coincidence that both of these games are top-sellers and share a similar background.

Bioshock contains many machines designed to look like they came right out of the 1950's.

This machine from BioShock is designed to have a 1950′s feel.

I believe people are intrigued with this idea of the 1950′s because of its cheery and happy demeanor. In the 1950′s, so many things were being covered up. The Cold War had recently sprung up, yet no one was talking about it. If people did talk about it, they did it with a disturbing sense of calm. Along with this cheerfulness, envisioning this happy, bright future failing flares up the imagination. We all want to see societies fall, though we don’t want that to happen in real life. These games give us those opportunities to explore these societies that have failed and how they can be restored

The 1950′s continue to be an intriguing time for entertainment to tap into. It will be used well into the future.