Posted April 28, 2017 by Mike Mineo in Features

How Video Game Music Influences Quality

Even the more ‘mature’ gamers will be well aware of how iconic music and soundtracks can be to a video game session. Let’s face it – the Tetris soundtrack is one of the best known on Earth! And we can take that through to contemporary games which often feature tracks by some of the world’s best known artists. Rather than once seen as an overt rival; fact of the matter is that gaming culture and music have become so intertwined nowadays that it’s difficult to draw a clear distinction.

Take a look at some of the games over the last decade that have massively raised the profile of certain artists. Obviously the GTA series is renowned for it’s soundtrack, as too are the likes of Fallout 3/NV, Last of Us, Call of Duty series, FIFA – the list is literally endless. But what is it that makes music quality such an important factor in determining a game’s overall quality? The answers lie deeper than one may think.

Let’s Start With Slots

Before approaching the classic and contemporary blockbuster games with their impeccable audio, take a moment and look at slots first. This facet of online gaming serves as an amazing reminded of how in-game audio has advanced in recent years.

Whereas not that long ago slots games were the distant cousin of mainstream video games and apps, now they’re very close to reaching true parity. Much of this is based upon international influences lending themselves towards attracting a specific market. For example the games hosted by the gry automaty communities. For example their games have proven so popular that even infrequent players recognize the soundtrack and musical effects right away. Slots sites such as the market leading Dobra Mine feature games with enchanting music that makes their game selection instantly recognizable. So, just as Tetris proved decades ago, an iconic soundtrack makes an incredible difference to the marketing and popularity of any video or slots game.

Why This Isn’t A Recent Trend

While the differences in available tech have become astonishing even over just the last few years, soundtrack and in-game music has always been crucial. In some cases these have been in relation to movie tie-ins. But the likes of the independent the mid-late 1990’s Star Wars games, Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder, Monkey Islands being a key role in demonstrating how audio effects game-play.

Each of these games and many others played upon building atmosphere. Given how comparatively limited the available tech was at the time, games still played upon using audio to immerse gamers into their environment. Going a few years later, think of the Command & Conquer series, early Medal of Honor releases and other action driven games that delivered live narrative to unfolding events. Factor in more relaxed games such as the incredibly popular Sims series, and it’s plain to see how important voice and character acting was to emergent new generation games at the time.

Let’s Look More Recently

Numerous games have emulated the live-play/role-play approach in more recent years, with plenty of games even using music and tone to explicitly explain a character’s situation or plight. Max Payne has always been a classic point of referral, but it’d be unfair not include other audio based games such as L.A Noire in the same bracket. Investigating a crime scene akin to a 40’s black and white movie classic, interrogating suspects under the hot lights – all depended upon musical score.

Over the last couple of years music has become ever more important, with many internationally renowned artists happy to accept gratuities to offer their classics and new releases to games. Music/gaming tie-in are big business – and in some cases games such as The Last Of Us win numerous awards for their own in-house musical scores.

Of course it works in both ways. Say for example The Rolling Stones (50 years, going strong) want exposure to a younger gaming market – why not include a few Vietnam era classics within a suitable video game? It’s a trend that is only going to become more common as music and gaming art become ever closer intertwined; and as long as developers don’t compromise upon game play it’ll always be a welcome addition.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].