Anybody who plays video games in 2017 knows how a good soundtrack can really get the adrenaline going. Recent hits like Doom have been noteworthy for their visceral music as much as their gameplay, and whether it’s a first-person shooter or even a quick casino game, it’s essential for developers to think about how a soundtrack can augment the on-screen action.
Early attempts at video game music were fairly brutal. Looped soundtracks of monophonic melodies often made the gamer reach for the volume control. But pioneering works by acclaimed video gaming composers like Nobuo Uematsu, who’s recently had a tribute concert for his work on the Final Fantasy series, have paved the way for more forward-thinking works.
But as gaming technology progressed, bigger budget titles like Call of Duty and Mass Effect started relying on freelance composers to provide the audio soundtracks. And when MTV even started to include a ‘Best Video Game Soundtrack’ category amongst their awards, it was clear just how important this aspect of gaming had become.
This is because video gaming started to overtake traditional media forms like music and movies for entertainment. However as gaming started to become even bigger than expected through the rise of smartphone gaming, it was clear that not even MTV could keep up and the awards were discontinued.
It wasn’t long before the sonic technology had improved to the level where music stars started to have their works featured in big budget gaming titles. Video games as far-reaching as Burnout to FIFA all benefited from featuring works by fashionable music stars, and this relationship has helped many titles gain an extra level of authenticity.
One of the best examples of this was the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game that featured a great in-game selection of radio stations that the player could browse through as they drove around committing drive-bys on the city streets. But even some of the simple mobile games like Monument Valley have benefited as a result of some soothing smartphone soundtracks, whilst the casino games at sites like Betsafe show how easily the ‘ambient’ soundtracks can be adapted to the different themes of their slots, giving an extra sense of atmosphere that subtly push the gaming action along.
As video games have long since overtaken music in terms of revenues, it’s been interesting to see how many music stars have diversified their output through curating the soundtracks of games. With post-rock bands like 65daysofstatic producing soundtracks for No Man’s Sky and Trent Reznor acting a music consultant for the Batman: Arkham Knight trailer, it shows just how important soundtracks are to modern gaming.