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I shouldn’t know Albert Hibbler. How videogames serve as time portals to music of decades past.

Albert Hibbler

I love music. I think music is a natural commodity of the human spirit. It is impossible to live without music in today’s day and age. I also love videogames. I have often heard people say, “Videogames are stupid… you don’t learn anything… It’s just useless entertainment.” I beg to differ hugely. In addition to participating in an interactive story and having to constantly tackle somewhat complex puzzles and mission objectives, videogames also immerse the player into different atmospheres, many of which expose a variety of cultures from past time periods. This is especially true of the arts, and nowhere can it be heard and felt more than in a game’s musical soundtrack. In my opinion, videogames are creating time portals to past societies, and it is this generation of game studios and gamers that are helping to preserve the arts of our past through videogames- especially the music.

When I say that videogames create time portals to music, I am speaking of the emergence of a whole new generation of music listeners who, without videogames, would have no clue about the styles and artists of decades past. I am seeing young kids discover artists like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, Dean Martin, The Chordettes, The Andrews Sisters, Bo Diddley, Louis Prima, Doris Day, Glenn Miller, and much more, all thanks to videogames. Everybody knows Bing Crosby because of “White Christmas”, but until now, I never met a person under the age of forty who could name another song, let alone sing the lyrics to said song. That was until the other day, however, when I was walking on campus and heard someone singing “Pennies from Heaven.” I quickly turned around and saw that the man singing was a college student my age. I said to him “Hey man, sorry to interrupt, but where did you learn that song from?” and he replied, “From Mafia II, I love that game man… it’s got some great music.” At that point it donned on me. I had heard the 1936 tune from the same game myself. I have to admit; I thought I was the only one who paid close attention to the nostalgia presented in videogames. Turns out I was dead wrong.

To elaborate with my own example, I will refer to an artist from the Mafia II soundtrack by the name of Albert Hibbler. He was a blind man like Ray Charles, and his discography only consists of a few solo albums, but he did a lot of work with Duke Ellington and produced a couple chart topping songs himself during his career. Two of those well-charted songs are in Mafia II: “After The Lights Go Down Low” and “Count Every Star”. I absolutely love these songs, and because of Mafia II, I researched Albert Hibbler and found out that not only did the man make great music; he was a civil rights activist supported by Frank Sinatra and was so loved by the music community that he sang two songs at Louis Armstrong’s funeral. Albert Hibbler was a great singer and an excellent role model for society, but he is nowhere to be found in any textbook nor is he discussed as a topic in pop culture. But because of the influence of videogames like Mafia II, his name and his music will live on for future generations to discover.