Game Music For The Masses – Or Should We Keep It?

Game Music For The Masses – Or Should We Keep It?

Apr 10, 2012

Does it matter if soundtracks are well known? (And do we want them to be?)

I’m currently trying to tidy the house as a distraction. I’m also trying to quit smoking, it’s not working.

One of my ‘house tidying routines’ is playing my Happiness playlist very, very loud. It motivates me, kind of. (I actually want to go an get my Smithing skill on Skyrim to 100 to make some Dragonscale armour – but I know this will require 20 Benson & Hedges…it’s a vicious circle…)

Contained within said playlist of favourite songs, it strikes me just how many come from happy memories of various games. And it’s a random collection, some pedigree and some dirty mongrels… Halo, Elder Scrolls…I’ve somehow got Mario in their too. I was also struck this Easter weekend with the entry of two songs from games into the Classic FM Hall of Fame, with themes from Skyrim at #238 and Final Fantasy VII at #16. Both beautiful tracks, and no doubt helped greatly by the Facebook group Get Video Games Music into the Classic FM Hall of Fame

Despite some of the snobby remarks made by Classic FM presenters (and yes, I do listen to Classic FM on my way to work in the morning) I felt a strange sense of achievement (Achievement Unlocked – Get In Game Music 2 the Masses) and then…. regret.

These are my tracks, they play when I want them to, either in game or on my Happiness playlist. They create and conjure memories, some of jaw-dropping boss-beating joy or the-frustration-that-causes-you-to-throw-the-controller-at-the-wall. Game theme music reserves a special place in my heart, only to be heard in secret or used by very clever advertising suits to get me overly excited at the release of a teaser trailer. Mmmmmm…teasers.

I enjoy hearing tracks that were famous before they were artistically placed within a game sequence. (Slight Gears Of War 3 spoiler ahead) Dom’s exit to ‘Mad World’ had me in tears, not only because I loved Dom (my daughter is called Maria), but because that song always reminds me of the death of my own mother. Dom’s exit had me crying for 45 minutes. (SPOILER OVER!) I also really enjoyed the first sequence on the much understated Prey, Don’t Fear The Reaper’ It was one of those great examples of where the music matched the action – you know the moment when you are walking down the street with headphones in…and something bizarre happens that fits the song being played into your eardrums? Yep, like that.
I also have a secret love for finding new songs that are usually the reserve of lost albums I don’t own, such as Bloc Party’s The Prayer as heard in PGR4 and a requirement for the Tonight Make Me Unstoppable Achievement – If I play this song in my car I am suddenly driving a Ferrari F50 GT, not my Perodua Kenari (which incidentally can only reach 70mph, down hill. On a dry, sunny day. With no other passengers.)

Music does that. It’s personal. So although I’m happy that two, well-deserved tracks have been heard by an audience that thinks a PS3 is Tibetan Prayer Wheel 3rd Generation used in Theravada Monk Chants, I do feel a little…exposed. The Classic FM Hall of Fame fame has opened up my Happiness playlist for criticism to the masses. I don’t want to hear that Dragonborn by Jeremy Soule lacks the xyz of choral orchestrations. Playing games brings out my emotions. The music helps that. Game soundtracks work because they start up the moment you are facing a difficult boss, trying to beat your previous record, staring out across a beautifully constructed landscape, saving the innocent or just after that perfectly executed head shot. The music complements the action. As soon as the music goes off in its own direction it, perhaps, could lose its purpose. I don’t want to be around the day the music died.

How about you?