Last week during a conversation I was having with a friend about the video game industry, an interesting topic came up: Why don´t gamers talk so much about soundtracks? Usually, when two people are talking about a video game, there are always the same three main topics of their conversation: the graphics, the storyline and the gameplay.
I understand that any one of these parts can convince a person to buy a video game, and by combining some breath-taking visual effects, a dynamic gameplay and a mind blowing storyline you will have a trifecta. But what about the music score, isn´t it an important part of the video games?
I think it is! You can have a great story to tell, but if you cannot match it with a great soundtrack, the result will not be so great as you expect it to be. And, the explanation is that only through music you can gather all the emotion you need to feel closer to a character and its story or to be engaged in an action scene. Even if you notice it or it exists just at a subconscious level, the music of a video game can make you feel scared, happy, safe or any other feeling it wants to. And,the same principle applies to film industry too.
Can you imagine all those big game franchises like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, Assassin´s Creed or Super Mario without their soundtracks? It wouldn´t be the same great experience, it would be just a beautiful storyline or good mechanics without a touch of magic. It would be like Star Wars without the John William´s orchestra or The Pirates of the Caribbean / The Dark KnightTrilogy without Hans Zimmer´s work…
The music score is the one that sets the mood, scale and emotion of a game or movie, it is the one that makes a video game to be remembered in time after the graphics have become outdated. And, a good example of this I think it is every Final Fantasy´s score done by Nobuo Uematsu, where every track perfectly fits the location or event that it is tied to. The music from this series is so great that it is played in concerts by full orchestras across the world, selling out venues.
The same thing happens with other series like Bioshock, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros or Elder Scrolls which were included on London Philharmonic Orchestra’s ¨Greatest Video Game Music’¨albums and are played in their concerts.
Although not every video game soundtrack is brilliant, for example Resident Evil 5 and Sonic Adventure 2 did not hit the mark. A great soundtrack must fit the event it is tied to: if you are involved in an action scene, the rhythm of the music must be fast; if you are facing a loss of a character, the music must express the sadness you should feel at that moment.
Also the diversity must be present in there, nowadays you cannot have the same four-five songs in a loop from the beginning until the end of the game, and the sound must stop when it is supposed to! For example, if you are at a boss level, where you must defeat it to go further, the music helps you to acknowledge how important is that scene in the game and it also helps you concentrate to get your combinations right. But the score loses its epicness if it continues after the end of the battle.
There is a great number of composers that understood the simple rules of a music score in a video game and got the well-deserved appreciation of the fans. Right now Bioshock theme song came up in my mind remembering me about the fear and disorder that tore Rapture to shreds and Assassin´s Creed 2 ¨Ezio´s family¨ song remembering me about Ezio´s motivation to avenge his family death. And I will stop here before more emotions and memories are rushing back more that it already has.
As a conclusion I will say that in my opinion music is an important piece of a video game and I hope it will remain so in the future because it can do what dialogues sometimes cannot! So the next time you are playing a game, please take the time to listen to its music. You may be surprised to find out how much of an impact it is having over your gaming experience.
I choose to play games because of their storylines and not their graphics. If a game doesn’t have a good story, that makes you connect with the protagonist or other characters, then you won’t remember it after a couple of years.