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Music has an odd way of affecting human emotions. We use it to help pump us up for workouts and competitions, we use it as therapy when we are having bad days, and we use it to distract ourselves while walking or driving to work or school. Even early filmmakers making silent films hired pianists to play music during their films to help the viewer enjoy the experience.
Take a listen to some of these artfully crafted moments from video games and ask yourself, what would that game or that moment in the game be like without the music? Would you have felt differently about the moment? Would you have cared at all?
*There is one spoiler right in the beginning regarding MW3 as well as the Metal Gear series, just be warned if you haven't played through its campaign yet*
Moments of Sadness or HelplessnessIn some games, the designers do their best to invoke feelings of sadness or helplessness to immerse us further in the game. Here are a few examples:When my favorite “glycerin-based” character was lost, I was sad. Not because his awful haircut, but mostly because of the music playing at the same time:I Stand Alone
For a dramatic look at the difference music makes, watch the scene play out to completely different music:Same Moment, Different TrackHow about the moment a father and son finally reconcile after years of literally fighting one another:Father and SonOr when it is you against a world full of evil creatures and you have zero ammunition:Resident Evil 2What would you think of Dead Space without this song where the writers changed a classic to sound hollow and empty:Twinkle-TwinkleBeing the HeroMusic can make you feel like you are unstoppable, like in the most recent nord inspired theme from Skyrim where the theme really makes you feel like you ARE the Dragonborn:SkyrimTry this updated version of a classic video game theme:ZeldaPerhaps the theme of the most awesome treasure hunter since Indiana Jones:Uncharted
[PageBreak]A Sense of UrgencyThe great video games of our time use music during boss fights and even at point during the level to give the gamer a greater sense of urgency, even if the game itself does not require the player to run through that particular potion of the level. Here’s a couple of examples of this:Metal GearThis one has great buildup to it, so give it a second:Mass Effect 2Another great game right here:Shadow of the Colossus
Accomplishment/EndingLittle makes me feel better at the end of a game other than a great ending than a great piece of music culminating my accomplishments throughout the story and even recapping an entire series in some cases. Take a listen to these:Mass EffectShadow of the Colossus had a great end song:Shadow of the Colossus EndAnd my personal favorite:Guns of the PatriotsThe Pain…Oh The PainI don’t want to talk too much about hat a bad song can do. For me, an awful song can destroy a game forever. I think this about sums it up:Face Palm
More and more, video game soundtracks are getting a fair shake and we even see some games release their soundtracks to iTunes and on CD. The London Philharmonic put out an awesome album of video game songs that is definitely worth listening to. And, the concert tour, Video Games Live (www.videogameslive.com) has an excellent tour (sadly, they cancelled the show I had tickets to a couple of years ago due to a lack of ticket sales, which made me quite frustrated). Even with this recognition, I know I occasionally take the music in my games for granted.
Next time you play a game, take a second and pay attention to the music and how it makes you feel, you might be surprised. To add to it, mute your TV for a bit and see what it is like without the soundtrack, it really changes the experience, and be glad most games these days don't include music or scenes like this Saved by the Bell inspired moment:This WinsObviously, I can’t touch on every awesome or awful game songs, what are some of your favorites?