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Thread: The Place of Music in Video Games

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    The Place of Music in Video Games

    I was thinking about writing a C-Blog on the place of music in games (and I still might), but I thought it would serve better as a forum discussion.

    I'll start with the broadest of broad questions:
    What place does music have in video games?

    Games can have some incredible soundtracks, most of which go ignored by the general public. However, when a game like Grand Theft Auto has a ton of licensed music, it gets plenty of attention. Why do you think this is?

    Then there is the issue of music's place within the actual game.
    How much of an effect does the music of a game have on your experience with it?
    Would Brutal Legend have been as enjoyable if it had been composed entirely of original instrumental tracks?
    Personally, I know I can't enjoy playing 99% of games unless I have the music turned on; I generally refuse to even listen to anything other than the game's original soundtrack, unless it is particularly bad.

    Finally, there are rhythm games. While very rarely containing original music, these games attract fans of music from across the gaming sphere.
    What is your opinion on rhythm games? Is the genre being beaten like a dead horse, with the advent of games like Band Hero and DJ Hero, or is there still room for expansion?

    Feel free to add your own questions and debate civilly.
    DISCUSSION IS....GO!

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    As wishy-washy as the answer sounds, it really does depend on the game.

    Other than the occasional sound effect, or "DOMINATION"/"REVENGE" clip, TF2 has no real soundtrack, and I really couldn't imagine it any other way. It would get in the way of the experience; I wouldn't be able to hear the enemy engineer trying to build a sentry and dispenser inside of my base, for example.

    Then there are games like Shatter, Lumines, and Tetris which heavily rely on soundtracks; that really wouldn't be nearly as memorable without it.

    I'm typicially not fond of music games that try to replicate playing an instrument, but things like EBA, Gitaroo man, and Rhythm Heaven generally captivate me for hours. I'm not exactly why there is a difference in my perception of the two, perhaps it is really because the "instrument replication" genre is being beaten like a dead horse, with very little innovation on gameplay aspects. I think other "rhythm" games are really more akin to puzzlers with good soundtracks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by that1dude24 View Post
    Other than the occasional sound effect, or "DOMINATION"/"REVENGE" clip, TF2 has no real soundtrack, and I really couldn't imagine it any other way. It would get in the way of the experience; I wouldn't be able to hear the enemy engineer trying to build a sentry and dispenser inside of my base, for example.
    With games like this, I always put my own music on in the background, because I just can't play a game without music, even if it should add to the game like you've said.

    Quote Originally Posted by that1dude24 View Post
    I'm typicially not fond of music games that try to replicate playing an instrument, but things like EBA, Gitaroo man, and Rhythm Heaven generally captivate me for hours. I'm not exactly why there is a difference in my perception of the two, perhaps it really because the "instrument replication" genre is being beaten like a dead horse, with very little innovation on gameplay aspects. I think other "rhythm" games are really more akin to puzzlers with good soundtracks.
    This, however, I completely agree with.
    There's just something more fun about playing a rhythm game with a controller that you can't get from pretending to be a rock star with plastic instruments.

    Then again, I know people who hold the exact opposite opinion on that.
    Also, Rhythm Tengoku/Heaven is fucking awesome.

  4. #4
    Jeff Goldblum
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    I never have my Itunes on or anything. Music or the lack thereof really stands like a sore thumb when playing a game mainly an FPS. However a platformer or puzzle game isn't of importance and I don't care about the soundtrack unlesd it's really good or sets you in a good mood.

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    [Level 4: Cyborg] JesterHead's Avatar
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    Music in video-games for me usually sets the mood and complements the gameplay. I usually don't hear much music in video-games that make me go "OMG, I need to get this on my Ipod", but I enjoy it in the context of the game.

    One of the best uses of music in a video-game I've seen was Persona 3's music. Say what you will about cheesy J-pop, it never failed to make me bob my head to the beat. Also, the sudden change in music in the last part of the game just made it much more... meaningful for some reason, like you know that the end is near.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JesterHead View Post
    One of the best uses of music in a video-game I've seen was Persona 3's music. Say what you will about cheesy J-pop, it never failed to make me bob my head to the beat. Also, the sudden change in music in the last part of the game just made it much more... meaningful for some reason, like you know that the end is near.
    Indeed. P3's soundtrack set the mood for the game so perfectly. P4's soundtrack is different, but for the same purpose; I think it ends up setting the mood just as well.

    As if anyone needed it, here's proof of P3's perfectly fitting music:

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    I think most games that I've played the atmosphere is set just right thanks to the game's music. Games like Final Fantasy and Zelda are perfect examples of video games where the moment I play them the mood is set well by the music. The Zelda games have always had music involved in their stories. You always have to play some kind of instrument or learn a song to make people happy or to move the water around you by wind.

    Whenever I play any game it has to have some kind of music playing. It's the same thing with me and movies. Katamari games wouldn't be so much fun if it didn't have it's awesome soundtracks.

    Rhythm Heaven is pretty much the only rhyhme game besides Gitaroo Man that you actually need to listen to the rhyhm of the song to pass each level.

    Nowadays the music I listen to comes from video games. Whenever I listen to music from my childhood I always feel relaxed and calm, but also brings back those memories of me playing Zelda or any other video games from the past.

    Been listening to this a lot. Makes good study music. :

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    I was really into Guitar Hero 1 and 2, mostly because it introduced me to all this music I had NEVER have heard. Those games greatly impacted my musical tastes today, and I now listen to more varied stuff than just Dr. Dre and UGK.

    No disrespect to Dr. Dre and UGK. Thug Lyfe.

    I can pretty much listen to anything now when it comes to video game soundtracks, whether it's early 2000s style Weezer or Green Day, 90s metal operas, whatever you would classify Noby Noby Boy's soundtrack as, something completely orchestrated, or a mash up of different musical styles, I now listen to it all.

    I think I spent more time listening to the radio in GTA: Vice City than I did actually playing the game. God Bless Wave 103.


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    Quote Originally Posted by MellowBunny View Post
    Rhythm Heaven is pretty much the only rhyhme game besides Gitaroo Man that you actually need to listen to the rhyhm of the song to pass each level.
    This reminds me how uniquely awesome Rhythm Tengoku is.
    The GBA version, after a minimal amount of memorization, is possible to play without looking at the screen, and simply listening to the sounds of the game.

    It's harder to do this in the DS sequel, but it is still possible in a few of the minigames.
    I'd like to see more games take this approach, as there's nothing more relaxing to me than closing my eyes and flowing with the music.

  10. #10
    [Level 6: Robot] Caostotale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MellowBunny View Post
    I think most games that I've played the atmosphere is set just right thanks to the game's music. Games like Final Fantasy and Zelda are perfect examples of video games where the moment I play them the mood is set well by the music. The Zelda games have always had music involved in their stories.
    I would say that music is one of the number one culprits behind me being incurably drawn to JRPGs, as well as to the SNES library in general. As a gamer, I'm generally rather impatient when it comes to gameplay and winning/losing, so a game that requires lots of grinding and repetitive activity will need to have good music (as well as good visual art) to keep me interested. A great example of this from my gaming past would be my experience playing Secret of Mana on the SNES. This game was a frustrating nightmare to play with a crap story and loads of leveling-up, backtracking, irritating controls, etc.... If not for Hiroki Kikuta's amazing and fascinating soundtrack, I might have given up on the game a lot sooner.

    The music in a game is every bit as crucial as the rest of a game's art direction in drawing my interest. Coming from a thick background of SNES and PS1 RPGs and action-adventure games, I'm usually skeptical and disinterested when newer games gloat on about "realistic" orchestral scores or include music from popular genres that have nothing to do with the stylistically-ubiquitous-sounding gaming music I grew up with. As an example, I fucking hated that nu-metal song in Final Fantasy X (the rest of the soundtrack was so damned good!) and almost cringed when the last battle in Wild ARMS 4 included J-pop vocals. More than once, I've had guitar students bring me that craptastic "Price of Freedom" song from FF7: Crisis Core, which to my ears sounds like the composer is trying to strike a chord with Nickelback's and Green Day's dumbshit fanbases. Putting that alongside any of the stylistically-diverse themes from Uematsu's original soundtrack from FFVII makes the newer game seem baldly contrived, and ruins my first impression. It's like the audio analogue to the plotline in Advent Children.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Caostotale View Post
    More than once, I've had guitar students bring me that craptastic "Price of Freedom" song from FF7: Crisis Core, which to my ears sounds like the composer is trying to strike a chord with Nickelback's and Green Day's dumbshit fanbases.
    Your taste in music: I hate it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantomile View Post
    Indeed. P3's soundtrack set the mood for the game so perfectly. P4's soundtrack is different, but for the same purpose; I think it ends up setting the mood just as well.

    As if anyone needed it, here's proof of P3's perfectly fitting music:
    Oh yesss, thank you. Been too long since I've heard that.

    A game's soundtrack is actually a very large part of my enjoyment of a game. I can play a mediocre title, but if it has a great soundtrack my experience with said game will skyrocket, for some reason.

    The best answer I think is that the music has to fit the game in question. Persona 3, Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, Grand Theft Auto, and Metroid Prime all have very different genres of soundtracks and implementation of music; but each uses its audio in a way that perfectly flows with the game's style.

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    im usually listening to podcasts while i game. but there are games or sequences in games where i need the music. a good example is the thousand years of dreams sequences in Lost Odyssey, those have such an impact on me with the music, but without it i always want to skip over them.

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    [Level 1: Fresh Meat] Adraken's Avatar
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    I personaly think that music is the most important aspect of a game. The one thing that most people will remember about a game is the music. Just look at Portal for example, do you think that it would have been as memerable as it is without Still Alive? At the London Expo last year they set up a TV that had Still Alive on it just to see what would happen. Thats it, just Still Alive over and over again. And every time I went past it there was always people there singing along.
    And video game music has become very popular by itself. There are for just the musiclike VGL and The BlackMages.

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    [Level 4: Cyborg] DixieNormus's Avatar
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    It'll always have a place. I mean, how many videogames do you know have no music? It sets the tone, the mood and the pace, much like it does in movies. Nothing underlines an epic engagement more than a well, for lack of a better word, epic musical score to accompany it.

    Halo did quite a good job with this (although admittedly I've only played the first one and listened to the OSTs of the others off Youtube) as do many RPGs. Homeworld 2 as well had a good score, which resonated well with the large-scale fleet battles integral in the game.

    Suffice to say, the many of the events in a particular game, as varied as they are in setting, scale and effect, feel that way largely because of the music.

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    Licensed music is important in games, it just depends on what game uses it.

    Grand Theft Auto's radio is a great implementation of a soundtrack, because, if I decide to put on some hard rock, it's kind of awesome to know some of the songs that play while I drive around a realistic city. It feels like a real world, parallel to ours. GTAIV did an even better job of integrating music; if you liked a song you heard, you could look up the title and artist--even buy the mp3 if you wanted.
    Brutal Legend has to have licensed music. While the original pieces are subtle and well-done, the whole point of Brutal Legend was that you're fighting in a world inspired by metal; the world of metal. The music that you hear is actual metal that you've been raised on. And if you haven't heard it, then you can look it up later and start getting into the band's work. Brutal Legend is something of a metal initiation for those who aren't fans.

    Sure, there's a helluva lot of great original music in video games, but licensed music can still have an important place. I wouldn't mind a game based on hip-hop; possibly the video game equivalent of Samurai Champloo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebz View Post
    Grand Theft Auto's radio is a great implementation of a soundtrack, because, if I decide to put on some hard rock, it's kind of awesome to know some of the songs that play while I drive around a realistic city. It feels like a real world, parallel to ours.
    This made me think that licensed music really does make me feel more of a connection to the game; like it is actually a real world out there, rather than something entirely made-up.
    Anyone else feel this way?

    Another game that really did this for me, even though the soundtrack was entirely original, was The World Ends With You.
    The game's whole soundtrack is the music that the main character is listening to through the giant headphones that he never takes off; for me, at least, this made me feel a pretty cool connection to that character.


    Quote Originally Posted by Trebz View Post
    I wouldn't mind a game based on hip-hop; possibly the video game equivalent of Samurai Champloo.
    And this would be awesome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebz View Post
    Licensed music is important in games, it just depends on what game uses it.

    Grand Theft Auto's radio is a great implementation of a soundtrack, because, if I decide to put on some hard rock, it's kind of awesome to know some of the songs that play while I drive around a realistic city. It feels like a real world, parallel to ours. GTAIV did an even better job of integrating music; if you liked a song you heard, you could look up the title and artist--even buy the mp3 if you wanted.
    Brutal Legend has to have licensed music. While the original pieces are subtle and well-done, the whole point of Brutal Legend was that you're fighting in a world inspired by metal; the world of metal. The music that you hear is actual metal that you've been raised on. And if you haven't heard it, then you can look it up later and start getting into the band's work. Brutal Legend is something of a metal initiation for those who aren't fans.

    Sure, there's a helluva lot of great original music in video games, but licensed music can still have an important place. I wouldn't mind a game based on hip-hop; possibly the video game equivalent of Samurai Champloo.

  19. #19
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    I wrote a few blogs on video games that had awesome soundtracks. Zone of the Enders was awesome, Ikaruga's was incredible (if you weren't too busy dieing to notice).

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    Hard to pick just one, but here are some that are really memorable:



    I was 6 years old when I finally beat this game and it had taken me longer than I can remember to get to Bowser. This was really my first video game and after having beaten everything I could find to completion, I went ahead and entered the last stage with Bowser. It was July 4th and I was the only kid I knew who was indoors, playing a video game. As I beat Bowser and the fireworks started going up in-game, fireworks were also going on right outside my window.

    All of a sudden, it was like the world was celebrating the fact that I had just defeated Bowser. I was so excited and I remember humming along with the Ending melody. It was probably the most fun I've ever had with a game as a kid and it wasn't until Orcarina of Time that I was able to get that same feeling again.



    Prior to ever knowing about Zelda, I wanted a Nintendo 64 for Christmas (much like the Nintendo 64 kid), but mostly because it had the new Mario game. I was so apeshit for Mario 64 that I totally disregarded all other games at the time. So when we actually went to Wal-Mart to get the game, Zelda 64 was being demoed. The kid who was playing was doing the fishing thing. The game looked amazing and as soon as I got a chance, I hopped on, leaving the fishing area and immediately exploring Lake Hylia and Hyrule field.

    I forgot about Mario 64 and knew I had to have the game. Once I started playing I was hooked. It took 1 month to beat the first 3 dungeons. Being a kid, and not having ever played a Zelda before, I expected the game to be over. So I rejoiced when I gathered all 3 Spirit Stones because I had beaten such an incredible game and was about to finish off Ganondwarf, rescue Hyrule and sit back to watch the credits roll.

    Little did I know that the game was only just beginning. I pulled the fabled sword from the stone, and watched in awe as the scene unfolded in front of me. Not only had I grown up, but now another quest was beset upon me. I had time traveled. I've always been interested in things like time travel and fate, so this game had just blown me away. I had a little kid joygasm when the music played and I got to just take in everything that happened. One of my reasons why Ocarina of Time will never be beat in terms of epicness.

    One last song:



    Never having played a Final Fantasy game before and only hearing about it from magazines (I was hardcore into EGM for a couple of months), I knew nothing of Final Fantasy, but I needed a good game to go with my Playstation. Having heard you could easily spend many hours playing this game and how fantastic it was, I tried it out. Now, this was also my first RPG and anyone who's never played an RPG before should NEVER play FFVIII as their first RPG. I had no idea what I was doing, but the intro alone let me know this game would be one of the most rewarding experiences I would have with a video game.

    Growing up, there was never a game I couldn't beat and get good at. FFVIII was a different beast. I loved the music. That was the first thing I discerned from the game. The music is absolutely amazing. I couldn't get passed it. I'd never heard anything like it before. Secondly, the graphics were like something I'd only seen in movies and TV. This made Ocarina of Time look like shit as far as graphics go. So I was engaged the entire time I played, loved every minute of it, did every side quest I could find and go towards the end of Disc 3.

    Anyone who has beaten the game will tell you that they defeated Seifer at the end of Disc 3 with Odin. I, however, never got Odin, so I fought him for 20 minutes before I won/survived, just casting Aura on myself and abusing Limit Breaks. I can't tell you how I did it either, because my entire strategy at the time consisted of "Summon GF...did I win? Sweet./No? Summon GF...did I win?" So once I got past that epic battle, I went to fight Adel.

    Adel is the only reason FFVIII was unbeatable for me. I just couldn't kill her without killing Rinoa. My GFs did way too much damage and I never had to use anything else the whole game. I didn't understand anything about junctioning magic, so I decided I needed to go back and train. Well, unfortunately, you're trapped in the Lunatic Pandora and every enemy you defeat only nets you 1 EXP point. I was stuck, and for the first time, defeated. This is why FFVIII stands out to me more than any other FF title. It was the first game that ever beat me. The second time I went into it was years later, when I was wiser and understood the junctioning system. I wrecked that game in every way possible, dominating from beginning to end, knowing that my only real fight would be against Adel. I trained for hours, convincing myself that I had to be at least level 60 before I fought her.

    Not only did I succeed in beating her, but I did it in 7 turns. The rest of the game was just as awesome and I loved remembering why I thought the game was so great in the first place, reliving my youth through a video game.

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