Video games and music have always been intrinsically linked, from minimalist bleeps that signified a successful shot in Pong, to the insanely catchy tunes that accompanied the shape-twisting antics needed to beat Tetris.
Once the video game industry started to become more mainstream, the soundtracks from games such as Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter became as much a part of the game as the characters and the iconic sound effects.
One of the main reasons that music has become such a huge part of video gaming is because of its ability to trigger emotions.
As with films and TV shows, the background elements all contribute to the way we experience the action and influence how we feel about what we’re seeing on our screens.
This has become more and more relevant as video games have become more immersive – better graphics, more intuitive controls, and even virtual reality have taken gaming to the next level of player engagement.
The music that accompanies that is all part of the experience and developers know that it is a vital element when setting a scene to ensure that the player can really see themselves in the character representing them.
Music in video games
Some games are designed to give players the freedom to build their own worlds and use their creativity to tailor their experience to suit whatever appeals to them most.
For example, the best-selling game of all time, Minecraft, is specifically designed as a ‘sandbox’ in which players are encouraged to explore the limits of their own creativity rather than to achieve a specific goal.
Although it has a range of sound effects, the sheer variety of experiences available in Minecraft means that a single soundtrack could be more of a distraction than contributing to the overall gameplay.
In some modes, some individual tracks are triggered by specific actions, and players can activate in-game jukeboxes to choose tracks to listen to as they play.
Otherwise, players can choose the music they want to listen to and, in the true spirit of the game, players have created their own soundtracks to listen to when performing various tasks and made them available to other players.
From rhythmic beats to help stay motivated when mining to triumphant tunes to celebrate a big achievement, players have made Minecraft their own with the music they choose to listen to while playing.
Music to create an atmosphere
Certain genres of games lend themselves to specific types of music, and the popular sector of horror games has pioneered the use of eerie and haunting music to create an atmosphere that transports the player into the game.
While visual designers create virtual worlds that are thoroughly terrifying, composers add to the experience with music that draws players in and brings an additional element of terror to the gameplay.
With the benefits of modern technology at their fingertips, they have libraries packed with sinister sounds and a range of spooky sound effects at their disposal.
Using the very latest in recording technology, game composers can create utterly terrifying music that enhances the hyper-realistic graphics and intricately designed backgrounds.
Similarly, action games such as first-person shooters combine the fast-paced action on- screen with frenetic music that reflects the urgency of the action taking place in the game.
For many games, thrashing heavy metal is the soundtrack of choice as it creates a sense of urgency that gives players the motivation to carry on running around and tackling whatever foes they may encounter.
Music to inspire success
In some games, players can choose from a pre-defined list of tracks to play along to. This is often the case with sports-based games where there is no real plot or storyline to narrate through the music, so players can just choose a song they like.
FIFA has included a new soundtrack for every season released, including mainstream artists such as:
- Wyclef Jean
- Paul Oakenfold
- Bloc Party
- The Script
While some of these artists have been included because of their popularity, others have had their profile significantly raised by being included in globally recognized games.
Casino gaming is another genre where the music contributes to the atmosphere more than the actual gameplay, and gamers often choose tracks that recreate the sensation of playing in a land-based casino.
This can help them enter into the spirit of the game and add to the entertainment factor of playing this kind of game.
Even within the casino gaming genre, there are certain types of music that lend themselves to different types of games. Poker and blackjack, where players are using their analytical skills, lend themselves more to sophisticated tracks such as those found on Bond movie soundtracks.
Players that opt for slots, however, might find that upbeat pop music helps them to keep their focus as they play. Some themed games have their own soundtracks that contribute to the way the game is actually played and reflect the theme that makes the game so appealing.
These games are often popular because players can have all their senses stimulated at once in a game that has visual, audio, and thematic appeal.
The popularity of music in games not only works to help players achieve their best scores, but it also helps create a sense of familiarity that makes playing that particular game more pleasurable.