Back Ground Nuisance

I’m a pretty selective person, when it comes to gaming. Certain criteria need to be matched, in order to hold my interest for more than several minutes. The top three elements are: Efficiency of control, dynamics of gameplay, and music. Failure in any one of these catagories will normally turn me off to a game, completely, with little to no interest in playing it again.

Video game development is a young process, compared to the history of entertainment media, yet shares several cornerstones. Music being one of the most important.

Even with previous limitations of sound output within the hardware, designers were able to produce memorable scores that are honored to this very day. Dedicated musicians (most importantly, FANS) spend countless hours crafting tributes to the music of the past, with creative variations, utilizing a vast array of physical instruments, electronic instruments, sound emulators, production software, and most importantly : PASSION.

So…with today’s advances in technology (that actually is making music prouction much cheaper and efficient than before), and with a new wave of musicians that have experience, not only with technical music production, but the compositional makeup of video game music, HOW IS THERE ANY EXCUSE IN PRODUCING VIDEO GAMES WITH POOR MUSIC?!

It baffles me completely. It’s like watching your favorite football team perform exceptionally well in one game, then engage the next match as if the entire team was now staffed with guidence counselors. The only logic that could possibly be applied to poor music development is money, and I think I just explained that money doesn’t have to be the issue. It is a disgrace to the form, and to the pioneers that made sacrifices to shape it into the successful entertainment medium it is today.

Music serves many roles in video games, and they serve to increase your involvement within the game’s progression. I will now share my personal views on what music effects in gaming: (NOTE: I am not a musician. Forgive me if some of the terminology is incorrect, or if my explanations are not completely fluid)

When you begin a game, you sometimes are presented with an overview of the adventure you seek to engage (whether it’s saving a significant other, your kingdom, the world, or a three sided room from filling past the roof). A overture accompanies the dialouge and visual elements of the presentation, helping set the tone and pace for what is to come.

Final Fantasy Tactics Intro

Once the beginning overview is complete, you arive to the title of the game. It is here that the “true theme” of the score is typically present; often recurring at certain points of the score, usually at different pitches or tempos. A game displays a visual logo or specific design of text, which attempts to economize the theme or experience of the game. This “true theme” is the audial logo of the game.

Chrono Trigger: Main Theme

As you progress, songs will assist in enriching the atmosphere of the mood. High tempo movements with blaring brass instrumentals empower the player to join the charge against enemy forces. Sharp electronic waves clash together as you attempt to fend of a legion of robotic enemies in a dystopian future. An upbeat crescendo makes you aware that you were victorious in your task. A shady precession of bass, followed by violin plucks cloaks you as you attempt to elude capture. A solemn requiem is played when you fall in battle … Or this happens.

Then when you finally complete your objective … when you have conquered the challenges set before you … you are greeted with a medley, sometimes incorporating the “true theme”, recounting the steps you took through your memorable journey as it comes to a close.

Castlevania SOTN: I Am The Wind

No…no….NO, no no. Something like this:

Legend of Mana: Ending Theme

To me, music is just as important as any other element of design with video games. If programming is the skeleton, design is the muscle, and art is the flesh, then music is the soul. Don’t lose faith in the soul, my friends.

© 2012-2013 Brett Wooley. All rights reserved. This article can be shared, as long as credit to the author is given. You cannot re-publish this article as your own.

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5 thoughts on “Back Ground Nuisance

    • Pretty wide variety (a common answer, I know). So 5 off the top of my head are: Suikoden 2, Lagrange Point, No More Heroes 2, TMNT 3 : Manhattan Project, and Legend of Mana.

      • Suikoden 2 and Legend of Mana are good; I haven’t played the other games you list, but will have to check out their soundtracks on YouTube or other sites. Thanks for the reply!

  1. I like your comment: “…music is the soul.” I always believed this, and many times will download a game’s soundtrack just for pleasure listening. Good post!

    • Thanks for the feedback, Hecubus. Much appreciated.

      Video game music is supposed to be structured to drive on it’s own. It’s not like regular “radio” music where the lyrics drive the song. So it has to have the energy to complete the objective it was created for, with only the instrumentals. It’s that dynamic that draws me to it.

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