Music, Music, Everywhere

Music in video games is something that becomes more and more popular every year. With its widespread availability and the ease with which it can be bought, it’s easy to see why this is. There are many different kinds of music that we see regularly in all kinds of games – this can range from atmospheric background music to an emotional instrumental that evokes the best parts of a game or to a full-on song with some great singers. While not all games have memorable, or even good music, the ones that do it right can and often do become beloved by gamers the world over. I know there are tracks from certain games that still make me well up every time I hear them, despite not having played the game in years.

Songs like the one above from Final Fantasy X fall into this category. This song has such an effect on me every time I hear it that about a month ago, after listening to it a couple of times, I actually went to Amazon and found a brand new – still shrink wrapped – copy of the game and bought it, set up my old PS2 and started playing. I’m not done yet but I’d love to finish it before the next-gen consoles arrive. I know I’m not the only one that loves these instrumental pieces either – a friend of mine actually learned this whole song on piano and played it for his final music exam when he finished school.

Traditionally RPG’s, particularly JRPG’s, have been known as the leaders of the pack when it comes to this genre – with composers like Nobuo Uematsu leading the way with awe-inspiring tracks being delivered game after game. This – in my opinion – is because these games tend to be played at a much slower pace and so, have the time to really set the mood. However, in recent years we’ve had other games muscling in on the RPG’s territory. Halo, in particular, springs to mind – with it’s shiver-inducing music set to the backing of chanting monks. The Halo soundtrack has become almost legendary in the gaming world, as well as Marty O’Donnell being recognised now as one of the most respectable and well-renowned composers in the business. Knowing he is still with Bungie, working on Destiny adds that little bit more excitement to the wait for this game for many people, myself included.

In comparison to these songs, we have others like Will The Circle Be Unbroken from the fantastic Bioshock Infinite. These kinds of vocalised songs are becoming more prevalent in games that get players invested in stories like Bioshock and can sometimes be just as emotional as their instrumental counterparts. They can also be used as an opening song like in the Kingdom Hearts games, or as a great way to close off a story at the end of  game. While generally not featured during gameplay as vocals would interfere with the game audio they are still highly memorable and in some cases, deserve a place in the music charts more than many modern pop songs.

Of course, there are always the games that choose not to go the route of original music and instead licence tracks from various artists. In fact, many games often use the association with the artist as a way of promoting the game. For example, Eminem’s new song Survival debuted at the Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer Reveal. Another example is Medal of Honour, where the developers have often used Linkin Park to promote their games. When done right, this approach can add a lot to a game, though generally (warning: opinion incoming) this way is not nearly as memorable as the others. It can however really cement the culture of a game and this is something I really like as it adds to the immersion. An open world like GTA for example that could be set in the 80’s would be expected to have 80’s music on the in-car radio.

But, as with anything else, not everyone is going to like everything. While I may love Final Fantasy-style instrumentals, you may love the GTA-style licenced music. Or you may not even care one little bit and all you want to do is shoot people in the face or kill monsters and not have to worry about the music getting all emotional. But hey, that’s OK, because while we probably won’t always agree on whether a song is good or not there is always going to be a game out there with exactly the kind of thing you or I are looking for – and I think we can all agree that this is a fantastic tune and in some ways describes this article perfectly, particularly the first two lines.

In fact I’m feeling generous, here have some cake.

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