Immortalizing Music in Video Games

Elly Zulaikha
May 14, 2020
3 minutes

Ever tried playing a video game without sounds or music? Chances are, you’ll feel mostly indifferent but slightly empty. It’s because we’re all grown accustomed to hearing music and sounds clashing harmoniously in our ears while we take full control of the game. So we’re here to bring you on a short ride to how music and gaming grew throughout the decades, and why it’s an important part of video games.

The chemistry between music and gaming

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Just like how profound music can be in movies, the same goes for video games. The history of music in video games has come a long way actually and it's no surprise in the early dawn of video games invention, no sounds were accompanying our gameplay. Fast forward till today, the presence of music can literally transform and elevate a user's experience with the game.

Imagine playing a video game and all you can see is a bunch of characters just moving around and interacting with each other, without music whatsoever. It's virtually impossible to be playing a video game without music or sound to alert us of something (of course, with board games being an exception) right? So that's how we're certain that music has become an indispensable part of video games.

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Certainly, music and sound are more than simple "guides" in video games.

How it started

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Looking back to history, games were nothing more than a silent and an awkward-looking tennis-type game born in an oscilloscope (created by engineer William Higinbotham of Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958). Until Koji Kondo, Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack master envisioned a new future of music in gaming. As video games shifted from being lined up in rows in arcades to home consoles, the need to make music fittingly good for a private and immersive gameplay experience spurred Kondo's vision even further; and thus video games becoming an all-sensory experience. 

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For the next three decades (the 70s, 80s and 90s), video games have celebrated a wonderful time seeing each game successfully becoming a warm nostalgia for an entire generation of gamers. For example, Pac-Man's ditty opening when it debuted in 1980 instantly became recognizable, and then there's Donkey Kong Ditty in which the entire music in the game was created on a small electronic keyboard by Shigeru Miyamoto. Additionally, one game worth mentioning is none other than the famous Final Fantasy series, created by composer Nobuo Uematsu, who reportedly gained many fans' hearts through his groundbreaking and feet-sweeping, cinematic musical scores in the game. 

Can't imagine those popular video games without its iconic music, right?

An art and a business

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Video games developers often face challenges when it comes to creating not just some good games, but how to make it memorable and enjoyable for the majority of gamers out there. This is because when gamers associate a famous video game out of a particular gaming scene or moment, a large part of it was thanks to how music has actually helped seared that memory in gamers. Due to this, music in video games was given a unique space to truly experiment and stir emotions in players, albeit a little different than how music is used in movies and song-making. 

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It's also proven that some iconic games have become a staple in many gamers' earliest gaming days. For example, just mentioning Super Mario to anyone is enough to elicit a familiar response from there where they go, "Oh, I know that music. It's from Super Mario". So what follows in the future, as seen from the early days of Super Mario, is a lot of people have been able to enjoy the game due to the simplicity of the game and how the music creates a light and fun atmosphere for regular people.

That's how trademarks' in video games took off because of music.

Alive because of music

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The use of music in video games, at its core, is to help gamers immerse themselves in a virtual world with intriguing storylines and interesting gameplays, and often a temporary relief for gamers from the reality. As evident in how music influences us greatly in movies and songs themselves, music in video games shows it does help gamers connect effectively with the game. The accompanying music and sounds serve many purposes, whether it is big or small. For instance, if players reach an ending, melancholic music starts its cue and often players will instinctively pick that signal without even realizing it. On the other hand, if there's some sort of dangerous path waiting to unfold in the game, then distressing music starts playing in the background. 

Additionally, music in video games can evoke a powerful emotion too. To help supplement great storytelling and visual narratives without drowning players with too many things going on at once, music serves to give players a break in between the gameplays. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the many great examples in this, where one moment the game starts playing a beautiful violin melody while players or "characters" take in a scenic backdrop, and then next thing you know, heavy beats and drums suddenly fill your ear as you draw to a near-battle moment. 

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If you do realize such emotions while playing games, believe us, even video games can bring you on a rollercoaster ride. All because of music.