Through much deliberation on my part, I have garnered enough courage to venture into the topic of music in gaming. No, not the blips and bloops common to titles that were surely part of your childhood – though some of those have a substantial degree of merit in the grand scheme of things – but, rather, the enigmatic scores that have slowly but surely made their way into the titles we enjoy today. From Mass Effect to Fallout, games are utilizing their claim to our senses in ways that we could not have imagined.
For instance, let’s take a ride to the sci-fi epic Mass Effect which has experienced a great deal of criticism in the weeks previous concerning a piece of downloadable content to which fans have given the mantra, ‘a silly excuse for releasing a questionably bad ending in the first place’. In this title, players are grabbed right from the get-go with the dramatic bass elements that add suspense and a sense of captivation to the overall experience. Taking cues from some of the most popular films in history (cough… cough… Terminator!), Bioware’s venture into the third-person-shooter realm proved to be an awe-inspiring experience wrought with a score that wraps the delicious package together quite nicely.
It is without hesitation that I proudly state my own level of enthusiasm upon first being engulfed in one of the title’s story-driven cutscenes. I stared at the screen wistfully in anticipation of the next portion of the narrative longing for what Shepard would do next and, to my astonishment, the prompt that appeared midway through the conversation that allowed me to choose his next set of words startled me quite a bit at first – this instance being one of my first encounters with Bioware’s style of gameplay – but undoubtedly led to my being enveloped within the world that the developer had so tactfully composed. The characters, scenarios and environments that players were encouraged to travel to and interact with all contributed to an experience that greatly encouraged me to favor the series quite highly. However, the latter only scratches the surface of the enigmatic shooter which Bioware has made.
The tacit undertones of the series are filled with quiet murmurs almost as though the universe itself were whispering sweet somethings within the players ear. Furthermore, an element common to titles such as this that is often overlooked is the developer’s commitment to appealing to players’ senses. It is quite mportant in the grand scheme of things to take a page from movies in the latter respect and develop a sense of immersion whose level cannot be rivalled. Developers have latched onto this idea with a firm vicegrip and have consequently brought a number of titles to players the world over that emphasize this level of envelopment.
For one, the Fallout series makes an incredible use of sound through its utilization of song styles common to the 1930′s and 1940′s. A clear effort was made to allow players to truly feel as though they were in a post-apocalyptic, augmented reality whose irradiated underbelly served as a launching pad for solid gameplay and the tactical use of role playing elements that further encouraged the level of immersion common to titles of the genre. Bethesda outdid themselves, as they usually do, to commit 110% to the era in which the game takes place. It is without a doubt a title that made me truly consider an alternate reality where its fictional tidings were true. A direct result of Fallout having portrayed its story with a distinct level of realism.
Conclusively, when considering whether music in games is tasteful or tasteless, it can be exceedingly difficult to consider all angles of the same coin. Specifically, whether or not to consider the score present in titles such as Super Mario to be substandard to the works mentioned above. The truth of the matter is that titles such as Nintendo’s gem, Super Mario, have music that has transcended generations. For many, it carries with it an incredible degree of nostalgia as it can be attributed by a score of gamers to be their first venture into the gaming world. Of course, the latter is a conjecture that I myself cannot attest to, mainly due to my age, but for the generation of gamers that grew up playing Sony’s Playstation, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and a myriad of other heroes had soundtracks that made us smile with joy at the mere mention of them. The topic of music in games is without a doubt a subjective one, however, the impact that these sounds have had in our lives cannot be ignored.
The composers responsible for some of the most important titles of our time – whether it be Martin O’Donnel or Nobuo Uematsu (just to name a few) – have contributed to some of the most influential titles of our time.