Country Music in Video Games

Before I took this class, most of the country music I had encountered had been at rodeos or the radio.   These mediums traditionally play a specific type of country music, so I never really considered myself a fan based off of what I heard. This changed, however, once I was introduced to Hank Williams’ music. His music was simple, somewhat folk-sounding, and placed a lot of importance on story telling. His music was completely refreshing for me and I was instantly hooked on country music. Ironically, I was introduced to Hank Williams through a video game, something that did not even exist during Hank Williams’ time.

TheLastOfUsThe aforementioned game was my brother’s (seriously) copy of The Last of Us, a 2013 game about the zombie apocalypse. It is a beautiful, cinematic game that follows two characters, a hardened survivor and a little girl, as they struggle to survive the end of society. It definitely picked up on the zombie trend of the last couple years and appeals to a younger gamer audience. In fact, The Last of Us has sold over 7 million copies since its release a year ago.

I have included a video of one of the scenes that features Hank Williams. In this scene, protagonists Ellie and Joel playfully banter during one of their few peaceful moments. After a few moments they pop a Hank Williams tape into the cassette player and Hank Williams’ song “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” begins to play. Joel comments that the tape is a “good one” and Ellie hopelessly remarks that it is better than nothing. Joel (the older survivor) appreciates the tape, while Ellie says that it is better than nothing.

Note:  this video has some colorful language and themes, only watch if you can handle such material.

To me, this was a very telling moment for both characters, as well as Hank Williams’ music. His music is instantly recognizable to the older survivor, while sounding obnoxious and revolting to the younger girl. I believe the same goes for real life, as mature audiences will appreciate the timelessness of old country music while younger audiences will instantly dismiss the music as sounding hillbilly. In a heart-warming change of taste, however, Ellie declares that “this isn’t that bad”.

I feel like Ellie and Joel’s exchange has some relevance to country music. Younger audiences (like Ellie) usually haven’t been exposed to very much country music, at least not classics like Hank Williams. After listening to the tape for just a few moments, she has already developed a taste for country music. I feel like this is true for most people: they say that they don’t like country music, but once you show them the “right” artist or song, their taste dramatically changes. The Last of Us did this to me by simply including Hank Williams’ music in the game. Although I didn’t know of him beforehand, I liked his music once I heard it and it opened me up to more country music.

In a world dominated by technology, there are nearly an infinite number artists and songs available to listen to. Many younger audiences tend to gravitate towards music that they are familiar with, such as hip-hop or pop or even electronic. The Last of Us managed to alter my own musical preferences simply by showing me some old Hank Williams songs and letting me know of their existence. It is sort of like a gifted basketball player who has never picked up a basketball; the second he does, it will just feel right to him. Similarly, when I first heard Hank Williams I knew that I had to learn more about this type of music. In a world dominated by technology, I can at least appreciate that some forms of modern media still pay homage to old country music legends.


Filed under Honky Tonk, Movies and TV, Reflection

7 Responses to Country Music in Video Games

  1. William Glass

    I find this scene ironically fascinating compared to real life. Many people our age do not appreciate artists such as Hank Williams simply because they have not been fully exposed to this type of music. Before I came to college my mom made me a CD of older country music that I rarely listened to. After taking this class the CD she made has intrigued me and I have found myself even listening to some of the songs while studying. I wish more people would appreciate the music Hank, Willie, and many other artists made in that era. Their story-telling is undoubtedly the best and it is quickly overlooked nowadays. Great job in finding this clip, I think it accurately depicts of what it is like in real life nowadays.

  2. Carilu

    Brent, let me begin my saying that The Last of Us is such an awesome game! I am really not into video games and I don’t mind watching my friends playing them neither but when one of my closest friends got it, I loved watching him play it! The graphics on the game are amazing! There were times when I forgot that he was playing a video game and it was not an actual movie. It wasn’t until I read your post that noticed that they had played a Hank Williams song. I think it is really cool how they are now incorporating country music in video games! This just makes me like this video game even more!

  3. Brent: This is a fascinating and thoughtful post. I should admit first of all that my experience with video games is pretty much limited to NES, Sega, and The Oregon Trail on floppy disc, and that I was shocked by the graphics and the plot indicated in this video. Anyway, country music. Hank Williams is known for the “high lonesome sound,” and it’s true that a lot of country musicians grew up in desolate areas of the south during hard times. For these reasons I think classic country — Hank Williams, the Carter Family, etc. — is a natural choice for a film or game about the zombie apocalypse.

  4. Minsu Kim

    Wow, that looks like a really fun game. The graphics in the clip looks amazing and they look like real people, almost. I wonder who thought of putting a Hank Williams song in that clip, but it depicts perfectly how the younger audience don’t appreciate the old country music songs. I had no idea who Hank Williams was before I took this class, and I have a few of his song a listen throughout the semester and I honestly can’t say I liked all of them, but some of them were pretty nice. I would listen to them when I study or in the morning while I get ready. I wish my friends and even younger music listeners would give the older songs a listen and I agree that we should all appreciate them more!

  5. Mark Anderson

    Hank Williams is the man. I feel the same way that you did about him. I used to not know any of his music, but now I find myself listening to more and more and becoming even more of a fan. I agree, he is a very simple artist and it shows in his music, which is what I believe makes it so catchy and likable. Many people these days still have never heard of any of Hank’s music before, just because they are never exposed to it, and are too busy listening to rap and rave music. I have never heard of this video game before, but zombie apocalypse games are pretty sweet so I think I am going to check it out. Great post overall.

  6. Michael Casarez

    Brent, i appreciate the perspective of another “The Last of Us” fan. Throughout the game there are references to to being country and country music as the sound track itself also sounds like it could be from an old dreary western. Joel himself is from Texas and has a pretty thick southern accent and i found myself all the while drawn to the country aspects of this game. When i heard the music of this scene i immediately thought to myself “wow they did include some country music” needless to say i was content. I loved this game because of the small things like that. So again, thank you sharing. I appreciated your post and you pointed out that country music isnt just for old people.

  7. Elizabeth Stack

    This was really interesting. I have played about one video game in my life, so I had never heard of this game, but just by the other responses it seems like it has quite the following. Just based off of the clip you posted, it’s pretty different from what I traditionally think about video games. I love that they chose to include a Hank Williams song in a game about the end of society. That seems so fitting, and his voice in the background really adds to the mood of the scene. I’m also impressed that, that one small exposure led you to look further into Hank, and then turned you into a fan. I think it’s hard for younger listener’s to get past the sound of his voice, which is nothing like what’s on the radio today, but once you do the lyrics are powerful and stand the test of time.

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