One of my earliest memories is of hanging out with my babysitter playing SSX 3, a snowboarding game that came out in 2003. I don’t remember what else we played, or what we ate, or even what we did in the game! A distinct memory I had from the game is the song that got stuck in my head that day. “Jerk it Out” by the Caesars is a classic, and I’m thankful I could come across it through this medium. This experience got me further into the rock genre as well as snowboarding. Most importantly, I got further into playing games as a pastime due to the soundtracks that went with them. The thing about playing games with music is that the music stays tied down quite solidly to that occasion. If you remember the big jump you went off, you also remember the music soaring to match the apex of your flight. However, this doesn’t exist as just a memory. I can play the game whenever I want to relive these experiences and hear the music again in the same context as I did before. I think that this is an incredibly powerful feeling… we invest our time and emotions into games and it’s no wonder that we feel nostalgic about them. Music immerses us further into the isolated universes and experiences of a story by putting it in our own hands, eyes, and ears. 

The musical case I’ve examined here is one of incidental music; music that purposefully accompanies the media at hand to enhance the experience. This term is usually reserved for movies or shows, but I think it serves equally as well for games, if not better. The music can interact with your decisions. For example, in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, cymbal crashes and percussive hits accompany sword strikes and parries. When the player discovers a secret, the game rewards the player with a little jingle. Alone, these details are minute, but together they root the experience of the game into the player’s memory. So, I think that video games are effective musical time capsules, and it’s interesting how we can see this play out as the effects rebound into popular culture. The examples I’ve used are all of the music and its impact on the game, but it can also go the other way. 

Recently, music and games have begun to intersect in an entirely new manner, with the game impacting music that is created afterwards. One of my favourite albums, an EDM record by Porter Robinson called Worlds, is based on the experiences that video games have led people on. It uses low-quality instruments called sound fonts to emulate the music of old games that ran on low-tech hardware, nostalgically grounding the sound of the album in the past. Robotic voices and noise machines help to tell a story of looking back for guidance, thinking about our time as kids. I urge you to check the record out, and also to try more ways to access your past. For me, games have been that outlet, and I think they are brilliant.


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.