Podcaster Kenneth Vigue On ‘Chad: A Fallout 76 Story’

Podcaster Kenneth Vigue On ‘Chad: A Fallout 76 Story’

Uncategorized
Fallout 76

Fallout 76

Bethesda Game Studios

A longtime fan of both the Fallout series of video games and old-fashioned radio dramas, Kenneth Vigue saw Fallout 76 as a unique creative opportunity. With its wide-open online sandbox and diverse player base, here was a game that begged to be documented in all its glorious absurdity. Vigue started out writing fanfiction about his in-game character, formatted as journal entries, and in June turned the story into a full-blown audio drama. Today, Chad: A Fallout 76 Story boasts 259,000 listens on YouTube alone, as well as thousands of subscribers across various podcasting platforms. It recently aired a special Christmas Eve-themed episode, and it’s found a lively community of listeners—including many, Vigue says, who started playing the game because they liked the podcast first.

I called up Vigue to find out how the project got started, and to talk about where the show—and Fallout 76 at large—might go next.

Alex Kane: You’ve got a lot of production value—there’s all this music, and up to eighteen voice actors. How do you go about putting something like this together?

Kenneth Vigue: When this first started, I was just writing journal entries. They were stories that were passed around the Fallout 76 Facebook groups and on Reddit. I was picturing my character’s adventure through the wasteland—through the lens of someone who, looking at the vault like school, had this really irritating bully. And, unlike school, where you kind of walk out the doors and you never have to see those people again, this is a very defined landscape, and you can’t really escape that person. And that’s kinda where the journal stories began. By the time I ended up creating the podcast, my concern was that it would get very stale if it was just me doing journal entries all the time. So we brought in a full cast. They record on their end using Audacity or Adobe Audition, send me all of the raw files, and then I assemble it, creating soundscapes with them.

Kane: So it sort of started as fanfiction, and then grew into this full-blown process, with you writing a script. Do you collaborate with anybody on that, or is it still just kind of your story?

Vigue: Yeah, I write them all in regular audio-drama script format. I’m a lifelong fan of vintage radio drama. Growing up, I listened to a lot of old school stuff on records—Lights Out, Orson Welles. And that was a true art form, of being able to create really compelling stories and environments that you could see in your mind’s eye. An art that, because of podcasts, has really come back in a great way.

Kane: How did get into those old-timey radio dramas?

Vigue: Actually, it was because of my grandmother. When I was a kid, every weekend she would bring me to the local public library, and she’d hang out in the periodicals room and hang out in the children’s room. Eventually, I worked up the nerve to kind of wander upstairs in this old Victorian library in Massachusetts. And, on the top floor up there, in these narrow stacks, was a really abandoned room around the early eighties—just floor to ceiling with records that could be checked out. But they were just in a room with no lights on, and kind of forgotten. And I started flipping through them, and the album art was just so compelling, I checked one out. I listened to Lights Out: Murder Castle, which tells the story of the mass murderer H. H. Holmes. And it was such an incredibly powerful story, and was really well acted, and I got kind of sucked into it ever since.

Kane: You mentioned growing up in Massachusetts. Was Fallout 4 an interesting experience for you, then? Being in that apocalyptic version of Boston?

Vigue: It was, yeah. I loved it. I started playing with Fallout 3, and as soon as I played that game, I became really addicted to the franchise. And I’ve played all of them since New Vegas. It’s always great playing a game that recreates things that are familiar to you. In high school, we’d go down to Boston on field trips, and we’d eat in the Faneuil Hall food court. And, you know, now it’s filled with feral ghouls in Fallout 4. So it’s kind of cool touring the city and seeing it in a different universe.

Kane: Then Fallout 76 comes out, and it’s a pretty different game. The story is there, but you have to discover it in fairly different ways, right?

Vigue: I had never played an MMO before, but because I loved Fallout so much, I was gonna give it a go and see what I thought. And it ended up being a really incredible experience in a number of ways. Being forced to talk to and stumble on just random people. Back then, mikes were always on, so you could hear somebody talking in the distance, and kind of wander over and say hello. You know, you’re talking to someone from the UK, and then another minute you’re talking to somebody from New Zealand. It was such a great way to connect with just random people around the world and go on adventures. And I ended up making some really great friends in the game. Of course, it comes with things like potato chips or couples arguing or kids crying in the background—and then they rolled out push-to-talk.

Kane: I remember getting pretty addicted to Destiny back in 2015, and having a similar experience with it being my first big MMO-style game. And I definitely felt the urge to write fan fiction. Is that sort of how this all started? Were you playing it and realizing the story was kind of minimalistic?

Vigue: I think that was part of it. The Fallout games, now, struggle in that—even in Fallout 4—you miss out on a lot of detail and lore and interesting backstories because, if you’re out exploring, it’s kind of hard for you to sit and digest and read something if you know something’s going to run up behind you and just start mauling you. Or if you’re trying to hack a terminal, and a mole rat’s eating at your feet, it’s challenging to have a game where you can really digest and process some of these great stories.

Whoever writes those things, I wish they would get more credit. Because if you read into them or listen to some of the holotapes, there’s some really amazing work. Like the Enola Walker tapes, if you ever get a chance to listen to those, are just a really sad tale of a woman living in a cranberry bog. Her family dies, and then as you find the tapes and keep on listening, she slowly becomes transformed into a Scorched. And it’s just such a sad tale. It’s done really well by the voice actor.

Kane: Fallout 4 had the whole Silver Shroud audio-drama quest line.

Vigue: We have our own parody of that that’ll be coming shortly.

Kane: Did you feel like that was a void in Fallout 76 that you wanted to fill?

Vigue: In a way. Really, I just wanted to tell fun and relatable stories. One of the things that people love most about our podcast is that we took everything from the gaming experience and turned it into story threads, including glitches. So the fact that you can kind of materialize things out of the ether, and five hundred pounds’ worth of stuff can just fit in a paper bag. That death has no consequences. All of these game mechanics we tried to view through the lens of characters experiencing them and wondering what the hell is going on. There’s a very big arc this season that explains why death has no consequences here. And none of the people who emerged from 76 die; they always perpetually come back.

There’s a really cool story that I’m looking forward to telling that gets deep into some of the Fallout lore. We’ve got someone who’s voicing Doctor Stanislaus Braun, who’s been kind of pulling the strings in the background in a very unique way. We’ve also got someone else who’s going to be doing the voice of Robert House. And some cool flashback scenes that are going to be related to what’s been going on in Appalachia.

Kane: Wastelanders promises to change the game in some interesting ways. Do you think that’ll affect your creative direction on the podcast?

Vigue: It will, but in a good way. Everything that we’ve been doing on season one, essentially, is going to be the game in year one. And the end of this season, episodes nineteen and twenty, are going to be a large-scale battle that’ll result in the kind of Nuclear Winter fire that will clear the slate before Wastelanders. In which case, in season two, we can start telling stories involving raiders, and settlers coming back, and telling stories set around the kinds of experiences players are gonna be having once Wastelanders arrives. Whatever that looks like.

Kane: It kind of gives you an outlet for your thoughts on the state of the game, right? I might write a news article or a feature or something to try and process my ideas about Fallout 76, but you can do that in a fictionalized context, using characters to give voice to some of those discussions.

Vigue: We make some loving pokes at the game. Like the nonsense way in which bots assign values to things. There’s a scene where Simon has been spending the better part of weeks trying to collect enough material to be able to buy essential goods. So he brings all of this stuff to a vendor, and the robot just says, “Yeah, five caps for all of this stuff.” And Simon’s baffled because the value that he’s been looking at doesn’t match what the bot offers. He ends up selling all of this stuff, and then the bot immediately turns around and sells it for eight times that.

Kane: Those damn Whitespring droids. So how did you go about finding these actors? Were they all players?

Vigue: Only one person was an actual actor. When I first started looking, I posted casting calls in the Fallout Facebook groups, and on the Fallout 76 subreddit. And people quickly responded. Almost everybody who came to the table had either done acting of some kind previously, or they’re someone who’s always wanted to get into voice acting and never had before. We have everyone from, you know, medical doctors to artists—just a whole wide range of different people from different backgrounds all over the world.

Kane: Voice acting’s one of those things where you need a reel to present, in order to show that you’ve got chops and get work. So this is a chance for them to get that, right?

Vigue: And that’s worked. Two of the people that got into this ’cause they always wanted to do voice acting are now getting actual VO work, where they’re doing radio gigs and they’re voicing commercials, which I think is just fantastic.

Kane: What are you looking forward to, in terms of Wastelanders and the future of the game?

Vigue: I’m really excited to see what that is going to be. From the teaser of the storyline, it looks really interesting. They’re teasing a “treasure of Appalachia,” and what’s hidden in that vault is going to be kind of cool. It’s going to be fun to see how the entire world space changes. It’s kind of a reset—to have people coming back after we’ve kind of cleaned it up and have these new characters and threats. And I’m really interested in finding some new stories.

I am most looking forward to continuing to meet up with people in game. We’ve been doing our own events that are themed around the holidays, where we’ll get together with podcast fans in-game. We had a friendly PvP turkey hunt, where we all dressed up in Pilgrim outfits and had a fight at the fort for some prizes. We’re going to be doing a New Year’s Eve event inside the Whitespring with tuxedos and dresses, where it’s the same kind of friendly PvP thing. Except we’re using fancy canes.

“>

Fallout 76

Fallout 76

Bethesda Game Studios

A longtime fan of both the Fallout series of video games and old-fashioned radio dramas, Kenneth Vigue saw Fallout 76 as a unique creative opportunity. With its wide-open online sandbox and diverse player base, here was a game that begged to be documented in all its glorious absurdity. Vigue started out writing fanfiction about his in-game character, formatted as journal entries, and in June turned the story into a full-blown audio drama. Today, Chad: A Fallout 76 Story boasts 259,000 listens on YouTube alone, as well as thousands of subscribers across various podcasting platforms. It recently aired a special Christmas Eve-themed episode, and it’s found a lively community of listeners—including many, Vigue says, who started playing the game because they liked the podcast first.

I called up Vigue to find out how the project got started, and to talk about where the show—and Fallout 76 at large—might go next.

Alex Kane: You’ve got a lot of production value—there’s all this music, and up to eighteen voice actors. How do you go about putting something like this together?

Kenneth Vigue: When this first started, I was just writing journal entries. They were stories that were passed around the Fallout 76 Facebook groups and on Reddit. I was picturing my character’s adventure through the wasteland—through the lens of someone who, looking at the vault like school, had this really irritating bully. And, unlike school, where you kind of walk out the doors and you never have to see those people again, this is a very defined landscape, and you can’t really escape that person. And that’s kinda where the journal stories began. By the time I ended up creating the podcast, my concern was that it would get very stale if it was just me doing journal entries all the time. So we brought in a full cast. They record on their end using Audacity or Adobe Audition, send me all of the raw files, and then I assemble it, creating soundscapes with them.

Kane: So it sort of started as fanfiction, and then grew into this full-blown process, with you writing a script. Do you collaborate with anybody on that, or is it still just kind of your story?

Vigue: Yeah, I write them all in regular audio-drama script format. I’m a lifelong fan of vintage radio drama. Growing up, I listened to a lot of old school stuff on records—Lights Out, Orson Welles. And that was a true art form, of being able to create really compelling stories and environments that you could see in your mind’s eye. An art that, because of podcasts, has really come back in a great way.

Kane: How did get into those old-timey radio dramas?

Vigue: Actually, it was because of my grandmother. When I was a kid, every weekend she would bring me to the local public library, and she’d hang out in the periodicals room and hang out in the children’s room. Eventually, I worked up the nerve to kind of wander upstairs in this old Victorian library in Massachusetts. And, on the top floor up there, in these narrow stacks, was a really abandoned room around the early eighties—just floor to ceiling with records that could be checked out. But they were just in a room with no lights on, and kind of forgotten. And I started flipping through them, and the album art was just so compelling, I checked one out. I listened to Lights Out: Murder Castle, which tells the story of the mass murderer H. H. Holmes. And it was such an incredibly powerful story, and was really well acted, and I got kind of sucked into it ever since.

Kane: You mentioned growing up in Massachusetts. Was Fallout 4 an interesting experience for you, then? Being in that apocalyptic version of Boston?

Vigue: It was, yeah. I loved it. I started playing with Fallout 3, and as soon as I played that game, I became really addicted to the franchise. And I’ve played all of them since New Vegas. It’s always great playing a game that recreates things that are familiar to you. In high school, we’d go down to Boston on field trips, and we’d eat in the Faneuil Hall food court. And, you know, now it’s filled with feral ghouls in Fallout 4. So it’s kind of cool touring the city and seeing it in a different universe.

Kane: Then Fallout 76 comes out, and it’s a pretty different game. The story is there, but you have to discover it in fairly different ways, right?

Vigue: I had never played an MMO before, but because I loved Fallout so much, I was gonna give it a go and see what I thought. And it ended up being a really incredible experience in a number of ways. Being forced to talk to and stumble on just random people. Back then, mikes were always on, so you could hear somebody talking in the distance, and kind of wander over and say hello. You know, you’re talking to someone from the UK, and then another minute you’re talking to somebody from New Zealand. It was such a great way to connect with just random people around the world and go on adventures. And I ended up making some really great friends in the game. Of course, it comes with things like potato chips or couples arguing or kids crying in the background—and then they rolled out push-to-talk.

Kane: I remember getting pretty addicted to Destiny back in 2015, and having a similar experience with it being my first big MMO-style game. And I definitely felt the urge to write fan fiction. Is that sort of how this all started? Were you playing it and realizing the story was kind of minimalistic?

Vigue: I think that was part of it. The Fallout games, now, struggle in that—even in Fallout 4—you miss out on a lot of detail and lore and interesting backstories because, if you’re out exploring, it’s kind of hard for you to sit and digest and read something if you know something’s going to run up behind you and just start mauling you. Or if you’re trying to hack a terminal, and a mole rat’s eating at your feet, it’s challenging to have a game where you can really digest and process some of these great stories.

Whoever writes those things, I wish they would get more credit. Because if you read into them or listen to some of the holotapes, there’s some really amazing work. Like the Enola Walker tapes, if you ever get a chance to listen to those, are just a really sad tale of a woman living in a cranberry bog. Her family dies, and then as you find the tapes and keep on listening, she slowly becomes transformed into a Scorched. And it’s just such a sad tale. It’s done really well by the voice actor.

Kane: Fallout 4 had the whole Silver Shroud audio-drama quest line.

Vigue: We have our own parody of that that’ll be coming shortly.

Kane: Did you feel like that was a void in Fallout 76 that you wanted to fill?

Vigue: In a way. Really, I just wanted to tell fun and relatable stories. One of the things that people love most about our podcast is that we took everything from the gaming experience and turned it into story threads, including glitches. So the fact that you can kind of materialize things out of the ether, and five hundred pounds’ worth of stuff can just fit in a paper bag. That death has no consequences. All of these game mechanics we tried to view through the lens of characters experiencing them and wondering what the hell is going on. There’s a very big arc this season that explains why death has no consequences here. And none of the people who emerged from 76 die; they always perpetually come back.

There’s a really cool story that I’m looking forward to telling that gets deep into some of the Fallout lore. We’ve got someone who’s voicing Doctor Stanislaus Braun, who’s been kind of pulling the strings in the background in a very unique way. We’ve also got someone else who’s going to be doing the voice of Robert House. And some cool flashback scenes that are going to be related to what’s been going on in Appalachia.

Kane: Wastelanders promises to change the game in some interesting ways. Do you think that’ll affect your creative direction on the podcast?

Vigue: It will, but in a good way. Everything that we’ve been doing on season one, essentially, is going to be the game in year one. And the end of this season, episodes nineteen and twenty, are going to be a large-scale battle that’ll result in the kind of Nuclear Winter fire that will clear the slate before Wastelanders. In which case, in season two, we can start telling stories involving raiders, and settlers coming back, and telling stories set around the kinds of experiences players are gonna be having once Wastelanders arrives. Whatever that looks like.

Kane: It kind of gives you an outlet for your thoughts on the state of the game, right? I might write a news article or a feature or something to try and process my ideas about Fallout 76, but you can do that in a fictionalized context, using characters to give voice to some of those discussions.

Vigue: We make some loving pokes at the game. Like the nonsense way in which bots assign values to things. There’s a scene where Simon has been spending the better part of weeks trying to collect enough material to be able to buy essential goods. So he brings all of this stuff to a vendor, and the robot just says, “Yeah, five caps for all of this stuff.” And Simon’s baffled because the value that he’s been looking at doesn’t match what the bot offers. He ends up selling all of this stuff, and then the bot immediately turns around and sells it for eight times that.

Kane: Those damn Whitespring droids. So how did you go about finding these actors? Were they all players?

Vigue: Only one person was an actual actor. When I first started looking, I posted casting calls in the Fallout Facebook groups, and on the Fallout 76 subreddit. And people quickly responded. Almost everybody who came to the table had either done acting of some kind previously, or they’re someone who’s always wanted to get into voice acting and never had before. We have everyone from, you know, medical doctors to artists—just a whole wide range of different people from different backgrounds all over the world.

Kane: Voice acting’s one of those things where you need a reel to present, in order to show that you’ve got chops and get work. So this is a chance for them to get that, right?

Vigue: And that’s worked. Two of the people that got into this ’cause they always wanted to do voice acting are now getting actual VO work, where they’re doing radio gigs and they’re voicing commercials, which I think is just fantastic.

Kane: What are you looking forward to, in terms of Wastelanders and the future of the game?

Vigue: I’m really excited to see what that is going to be. From the teaser of the storyline, it looks really interesting. They’re teasing a “treasure of Appalachia,” and what’s hidden in that vault is going to be kind of cool. It’s going to be fun to see how the entire world space changes. It’s kind of a reset—to have people coming back after we’ve kind of cleaned it up and have these new characters and threats. And I’m really interested in finding some new stories.

I am most looking forward to continuing to meet up with people in game. We’ve been doing our own events that are themed around the holidays, where we’ll get together with podcast fans in-game. We had a friendly PvP turkey hunt, where we all dressed up in Pilgrim outfits and had a fight at the fort for some prizes. We’re going to be doing a New Year’s Eve event inside the Whitespring with tuxedos and dresses, where it’s the same kind of friendly PvP thing. Except we’re using fancy canes.

Read More