Magic and Music: Gaming Music Part Two

This is Lord Kronos, maestro of all things musical. I know you have been wondering what happened to the rest of my last communique. It appears that the Gore Magala from the recently released Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate got hungry and ate half of my last post.  Thankfully I have obtained said game and have at least repelled it for now.  Don’t worry – soon I will wear it’s hide for armor!

Continuing where I left off – as I thought about my own experiences as a gamer, I began to wonder at music’s role in video games.  I came up with three different areas in which music can help create a positive experience for the player: setting a particular mood, creating a specific environment, and reinforcing the plot of the game itself.

Setting A Mood
I don't think Homer wrote about Kratos...
Homer may not have written about the Ghost of Sparta, but I’m pretty sure he had an influence on the game.

Think of any horror game you have played.  Now think about the music you hear in those games.  Usually you will hear low, legato lines and dissonant harmonies.  Generally these are in a minor key or modal.  Put together, these musical tools help make the mood of the game more frightening or creepy (I also think the horror genre of games uses silence well to create this effect also, but we’ll discuss that at a later date). Setting a mood is perhaps the most noticeable of the three areas I came up with.  It’s the same in films – the music helps set the tone for the scene that is playing out.

Another example of this is God of War.  The music, in contrast to those of the horror genre, is loud and boisterous – very reminiscent of the epic poetry it is supposed to mimic.  The music helps create that feeling of epic adventure.  If there was a soundtrack to Homer’s The Odyssey, I would guarantee you that you would hear similar sounds of blaring trumpets in their higher registers.  The beginning scene of the first game is also a good example of this concept of setting a mood.  I’d recommend listening to the opening piece of the first game and thinking about how the soft choir in the background helps solidify the emotional torment that Kratos is going through at that moment.

Creating A Specific Environment
80s hairstyle not included.
80’s hairstyle not included.

Imagine you are in Miami in the 1980s (we can dream, right?). You are driving down the road and flipping through radio stations.  What will you hear – Twisted Sister, Flock of Seagulls, maybe some Cuban music? Now go play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The game takes place in Vice City – based off of Miami – in the 1980s.  As you are driving and flipping through stations, what do you hear? Perhaps some Tears for Fears, Toto or Corey Hart.  You might even hear some Cuban music.  By choosing a particular set of music, the game becomes reminiscent of the setting it portrays.  As you go around doing your various missions, it becomes easier to feel like you are actually in the setting that you are gaming in.  Grand Theft Auto utilizes this system quite well and also allows the player to customize their character by choosing the musical style that suits the avatar.

Another set of games that creates an environment is the Mario Party games.  The music is upbeat and jovial.  It is much what you would expect the music to be like at well…a party.  As you are playing the various challenges, you are listening to a lively soundtrack to accompany your play.  All in all, the music of Mario Party makes it just more fun.

Reinforcing the Plot of the Game (Spoilers for Final Fantasy X to follow – you have been warned)
I am the walrus.
I am the walrus.

Rock Band. Enough said.  Music games have become big since their introduction.  For one – they are great party games, but also – who doesn’t want to be in a Rock Band. In these games – music is the entire point. You become a successful band and move on.  Other examples include games such as Dance, Dance Revolution. In these games, music plays an integral role in the plot.

Let’s move away from the obvious ones though.  I want to talk about one of my favorite games – Final Fantasy X.  In this game, the Summoner, Yuna, and her party are on a pilgrimage to find the final aeon and defeat the beast known as Sin.  As they progress, they realize that Sin actually likes a particular song called The Hymn of the Fayth. Noticing that the song calms the beast, they instruct all in the land of Spira to sing the song at the same time.  In this way they can distract Sin and catch it by surprise.  Its really a neat concept that music can play such a pivotal role in the plot of a game.  It also bespeaks the power of music in general.

In conclusion, I feel music is an asset to the gaming world.  I think that it makes games more enjoyable for the player and overall, is just fun to listen to.  I find myself listening to game music when I’m just sitting around – in fact – I’m listening to The Hymn of the Fayth right now – but I’m a nerd for plainchant!  Until next time my friends, happy gaming and keep the volume up!

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