Video games have used music to entice people to play them for as long as they’ve been around. Whether it’s the 8btit chip tunes on the NES or the orchestral themes that we get today, some themes have become iconic and some are just plain awesome. However, how do these effect how people play games? Does music effect the way people play games at all? Does it affect mood at all?
Let’s use some examples here as would be prudent. The first example is Metal Gear Rising: Revengance. As well as making up an entirely new word, Platinum also made a kick-arse score with wailing guitars and fantastically confusing vocals. It really captures the theme of the hacking and slashing action of the game. The score has certain moments that are scripted into the game (like a chorus kicking off as you suplex a metal gear). It feels awesome and feels right for the theme of the game. You are not just slicing things and listening to people shout about being killed. No, there is a big metal sound track to it. One that sounds amazing. One that suits the game. One that makes you want to charge head long into a room full of enemies and slice them to bits with an electrically charged sword. It makes you feel like a complete and utter bad-arse.
However, there are games with good sound tracks and bad gameplay. Take Halo 4 for example. The sound track was so good. A large orchestral theme that boomed in the background sometimes making players frightened and other pieces making them feel like they are the saviour of the entire human race. It was made to make the game feel amazing. And yet the game was a bit bland. It was the same FPS that people have seen a million times before. They even took things out that made Halo popular, such as dual-wielding. I don’t feel like that saviour of the human race when I have only one pistol in my hand. It all seems a little bland. It really brings the sound track down, which is a shame as the sound track is excellent.
It works both ways. There are also great games that have unremarkable soundtracks, such as Borderlands 2. I’ve been playing through it recently and I don’t remember a single piece of music from it. I’ve completed it twice in about a month with different friends and yet for the life of me I don’t remember a single piece. To be honest, it would be better if you could import your own music. RPGs should have some focus on music. Skyrim has a great soundtrack. I can recall most of the OST. But not Borderlands 2, which is basically the same genre (first person RPG).
The way music is used in games is interesting. When it’s done right, it’s great. I will defend the Revegance sound track to the death because there is not a bad piece of music on there. If used correctly the game can be even better (or at least a little better if it’s god awful). However, if used wrong, then it’s kind of forgettable. The gameplay is only part of the experience. If a movie was silent, then it would be boring and it’s the same with most games. Of course, there are FPS games like Star Wars Battlefront, in which it doesn’t matter if the soundtrack is there (but it uses the original Star Wars John Williams score, so it’s good anyway). But some games need the sound track to be a little better.
One final thing I didn’t mention is when a game uses licenced music. Many open world games use a “radio” system with a lot of different licensed music. I don’t feel this does much for a game either way. Although, I would say that the Saints Row games do use it to their advantage, as they allow the player to create their own play list from the songs on the game.
As I said, there are some iconic themes. Mario and Zelda, for instance, will always remain in gamers’ heads. This is a good hook for games as it will make them want to play them more. Thanks for reading.