The Impact of Music in Games

Written by Alex Maidment (nSanity Beach)

Video games are a lot like films when it comes to setting the scene and keeping the player or viewer immersed in the story – they rely on character development, lighting, scenery, emotion, relationships, narrative etc. 

One element of gaming (and films) that we don’t always notice though is the music. If you’re playing any sort of campaign or RPG type game, there is a good chance that the music is always in the background and for the most part, you don’t really take any notice of it. There’s nothing wrong with that, if anything, the more the music blends into the moment and the storyline you’re playing, the better job it’s doing. 

Having said this, a recent playthrough of Halo: Combat Evolved, and possibly surprisingly, Minecraft, reminded me just how much of a part of the game that music plays. 

Take Halo as an example – there is such a mix of level types and as you battle your way through the game, the music perfectly complements the task at hand and really sets the scene for what’s currently happening but also what’s coming up. In a game like Halo, the music actually gives clues to what’s around the corner as when approaching a large enemy battle, the music picks up bringing a new depth to what’s going on. 

Further still, as you approach the heroic end to a level and actually, the game, a familiar, encouraging music track makes you feel good about your upcoming accomplishment and pushes you forward to greatness within the game. 

Now take a totally different type of game; Minecraft. The music is actually a lot more noticeable in Minecraft, likely because the gameplay is slower and you lead the game as you want to. Despite not following a traditional campaign narrative, Minecraft still manages to create an epic atmosphere with its quirky choice of music.

The easiest way to understand just how much impact a music track has on a game you like is to set the music levels to a minimum and then keep playing with all other levels at their normal level. You’ll soon realise just how quiet the game can get and along with it a loss of drama, victory and general interest to the storyline. 

This whole piece might be pointing out the obvious but for those that like to indulge in games that immerse them in a storyline, it really is worth listening out for the tunes and tracks behind the visuals to get a feel for how music really changes the game. A few games I can think of that really use music to elevate the game include: Halo (campaigns), The Elder Scrolls games, Ori and the Blind Forest and of course Minecraft.

A lot goes into creating a game, just don’t forget the impact of the music!

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