Video games today are a full-on entertainment experience. While they may have started out as being a way to simply pass the time, modern video games are the foundation of a multi-billion-dollar global industry that supports an entire ecosystem of designers and developers, organizations, players, and businesses.
As any gaming fan will tell you, the gaming experience is an amalgamation of different components. Firstly, games need to have engaging gameplay, storylines, and characters. Then, of course, it’s all about the visuals and interactive elements of the game. And last but not least, sound – or more specifically music – transforms the games into something to experience, rather than simply play.
Why Music is Important in Video Games
The right musical score and soundtrack can make or break a game, even if the game itself isn’t all that ground-breaking.
Tetris, for example, is a relatively simple game that has become something of a global phenomenon, even in this hyper-digital age. One of the keys to its success is undoubtedly that catchy soundtrack.
All manner of research has been conducted into how and why music can impact the brain, which video game designers and publishing houses are well versed in. The soundtrack accompanying a game fosters a sense of immersion in players, essentially grounding them in the gameplay and making them feel involved. Even the most fantastical of video games feel more “realistic” with a supportive, enhancing soundtrack.
How Video Game Music Impacts Players
As well as immersing players in games, video game soundtracks are also designed to impact players in specific ways.
Music is a powerful motivational tool, so video game music is designed to keep players interested in the game, setting the tone and mode of each level within the game and encouraging a sense of achievement. All of this combines to motivate gamers to keep playing and reach the next level.
Different verticals within the game industry will also make use of music in different ways.
In the field of iGaming, for example, soundtracks and audio effects are very important to create a specific gaming atmosphere. Since these games typically take place in a virtual casino, certain sounds such as slot machine jackpots and spinning wheels are interspersed in gameplay to establish a sense of realism. Music is also used to modernize and update centuries-old games like roulette, along with cutting edge graphics and attractive bonuses.
Meanwhile, games developers within the horror genre have quickly taken to incorporating atmospheric soundtracks that establish a sense of dread and eeriness. Dead Space, one of the best examples of modern horror video games, is well-known for its terrifying sound design.
Creating Gaming Phenomenons
So far, we’ve taken a look at why the right soundtrack is important to a game and the ways in which music can foster immersion and engagement amongst players. However, can music be used to reboot a game and make it more popular with the current generation of gamers?
Based on the 21st-century success of the Doom franchise, that’s a definite yes.
A classic PC and console game from the mid-1990s, Doom is one of the longest-running gaming franchises but it lost its way at the turn of the millennium. Then, in 2016, Aussie composer Mick Gordon was hired to compose a soundtrack for the game’s reboot.
Doom would become a massive success within the gaming community, much of which can be attributed to the award-winning soundtrack that Gordon composed. He cleverly layered in motifs from the original Doom game within “chaotic heavy metal” for the most violent sequences in the game, then contrasted them with serene soundscapes for solo explorations.
It’s not just original music that can turn a gaming franchise into a global phenomenon. When Grand Theft Auto came along and began incorporating popular music into the accompanying soundtrack, the franchise set a new template for sound design within games and secured its legacy as one of the most popular video gaming franchises of all time.
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