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How important is music in video games?

Submitted by on Monday, 25 January 201018 Comments

Music can make or break a game. The recent Codemasters game, FUEL, was met with disappointment. Even though the game had a record-breaking number of square miles to explore, the soundtrack was one of the main factors in it’s lacklustre reception.

Compared to games like Ratchet and Clank, Killzone 2 and the Uncharted series though, its no wonder that people have a higher expectation of music in video games today.

While the gameplay types are not comparable, the principle still stands: music needs to complement the current surroundings while not overloading the player with noise.

Uncharted manages to pull this off with relative ease, giving the player a fast-paced and rhythmically heavy track in a car chase, while taking out the music in puzzle-solving sections.

There is a method behind all of this: faster music increases the heart-rate, sending adrenaline around the body and fuelling the sense of tension and excitement, while silence allows the player to concentrate, enabling them to solve puzzles faster. Imagine if the two tracks were swapped around? It wouldn’t feel right, would it?

Of course, a rousing orchestral soundtrack can’t be applied to all genres of games. It wouldn’t fit in MotorStorm for example. Competitive games like racing or fighting games need beat-heavy music – often popular, well-known tracks mixed with some lesser known bands to create a variety of playlists.

Again, this is to ramp up the adrenaline. The wrong music could mean boredom and that means a lack of motivation. If you’re not motivated, what’s to stop you from turning off the game?

Most importantly, good video game music can go unnoticed and still have an affect. Shadow of the Colossus, which was released in 2005, had a wonderful soundtrack which reflected the isolation of being completely alone in a country, with nothing but an unconscious girl, a horse and a disembodied voice for company.

The music successfully highlighted the mood of the immediate surroundings, as well as reflecting what was happening on screen, be it travelling, resting, or even battling a 25 foot high statue.

Music can make or break a game. As time goes on, and games get bigger budgets, things can only get better for music lovers.

What is your favourite music and why? Tell us in the comments…