Video Game Music: Cultural Inspiration Or Infuriating?

How music plays a role in video games.

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When you think of video games, it can be tempting to instantly make a rash judgment call. After all, playing video games by its very modern nature holds back the promotion of more traditional aspects of culture, such as art, reading good fiction, and listening to classical music, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not. Although there will always be some individuals who hold these beliefs, a recent fascinating article in The Times in the UK suggested that video games have helped to inspire an interest in classical music for those who are avid players – a trend that has helped to make the under-25 demographic one of the biggest sub-sections of society when it comes to listening regularly to classical music, with 63% of youngsters saying they listen to orchestral music.

Inspiring or infuriating?

Music can resonate for a range of reasons, whether a few hooks remind you of that trip to the cinema to see that classic movie with your other half, or those choruses you find yourself humming without meaning to when you’re popping to the shops. With video game music, though, the experience is more immersive as it can have a subconscious effect on the way gamers behave.

Indeed, while psychologists are already aware that music can change your mood, it is possible that the impact it has the potential to have on a gamer can be far more dramatic. Let’s look at an example. The tempo and beat of a background track that plays during a game of Grand Theft Auto, a classic video game from Rockstar Games, can have a serious impact upon how players react to certain events and the manner in which they control their virtual car during the game in high-pressure situations. If the music playing in the background gets on top of the player and leaves them feeling frustrated, there is a strong chance they will find themselves replaying the same ‘left’ a multitude of times.

In contrast to this, if a gamer can get him or herself in a happy place where the music is working with them, the tempo and beat should help to keep timings as they should be, and actions on track, whether that music happens to be the latest rap track from Eminem or a classical piece from Wagner.

What this shows is that the music playing in the background can have a variable impact; gamers aren’t guaranteed to get a lift from the music they listen to, and while it can be inspiring, it can also be infuriating. This can especially be the case if the same piece is being played time after time and a gamer is constantly losing.

A tool used by game designers?

We have seen that in recent years, companies like Spotify and Apple Music have been used by gamers as a way to help them ignore the sort of in-game music that might impact upon their gaming. This has seen gamers ignoring the pre-chosen background music from a game by using pre-selected tracks that they know won’t get their heart rates racing, perhaps helping them to stay relaxed.

It must be said that choosing your own music like this hasn’t always been successful, and with companies now realizing that gaming isn’t just the domain of older males and that nowadays articles like this are far more relevant as gamers come from all different backgrounds, the soundtrack of music to games is certainly not redundant. The use of a good song, such as the orchestral use of John William’s Imperial March, will always enhance the right kind of game. This is emphasized in titles like Star Wars Battlefront 2, where EA and Disney may have had little to do with the creation of the original Star Wars theme, but know that gamers will certainly want to hear it, or something close to it, during their in-game experience.

Perhaps more than just wanting to make sure gamers have the right sounding music to listen to, the importance of video game music lies in elements of gaming being enhanced by certain musical aspects. Betway Casino has explained how using the key of C in slot games is crucial for users to feel relaxed and enjoy the experience. This was actually based on a happiness study from Finland and as a result of this, online slot game developers like NetEnt, Microgaming and others have to make sure the games they have in their portfolio aren’t just visually stunning, but also incorporate the optimum elements of sound as well.

The future of music in games

This desire to engage gamers in music is all the more relevant nowadays as eSports continues to grow in popularity (with revenues expected to hit $1.65 billion by 2021), meaning that music doesn’t just impact upon gamers, but impacts upon those observing the practice of gaming as well, in an audience capacity.

Whichever way you look at it, the video games industry simply cannot afford to stand still in the battle to make music not just an annoyance to individual gamers to help make games more challenging, but also easy listening for fans watching gaming experiences unfold. If this balance can be achieved, there is little doubt that eSports will continue to increase in popularity and that video game music, especially classical tunes, will continue to drive an interest in different types of music, simply because they are known and loved from the world of gaming.

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