Immersion is just a Soundtrack Away
September 20, 2008 § Leave a comment
Have you ever just sat and thought about what you need to make a game? Some things are very obvious – graphical artists are needed to shape the visual side of the experience, and programmers to write the engine (or modify an existing one). You’ll need voice actors to breath life into your characters, and animators to set your lumps of polygons moving across the screen. It might not occur to you at first, but you’ve just missed out one of the most essential parts in engaging the gamer, the soundtrack.
In general soundtacks are decidedly mediocre. Most rely on simply techno beats, harking back to the MIDI soundtracks of the 8-bit generation, and a few might go a step further, with some repetitive power-metal. Once in a while though a developers sits up and refuses to let his game’s soundtrack go unnoticed, and then we get some of the most emotional pieces to grace a gamer’s ears.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have in my possession a copy of every single Metal Gear soundtrack. Approach them from an objective standpoint from the perspective of someone who’s never played a Metal Gear game and it’s very how and where they were supposed to be heard – the repetitive techno beats are at best mundane, and at worst boring, but for the good stuff you need to skip to the music which accompanies major cinematic set pieces.
Continuing with the Metal Gear example, at the end of Guns of the Patriots a very emotional event occurs when someone who was previously thought to have been killed returns from the dead in a sense. The actual dialog and acting in this scene is admittedly quite poor, but the presence of quiet wind and string instruments helps to create a far better mood than the pretentious voice-acting.
The point of bringing this up is that soundtracks are far more important then you think they are. The music played during the most emotional moments in gaming is now irrevocably to you as a gamer, and hearing it again out of context will hopefully trigger some sort of emotional flashback if the music is any good at all.
Try focusing on the audio side once or twice whilst gaming and you might be pleasantly surprised at what you hear. If you do (segway time) then you might be interested in checking out Video Games Live, which is an event in London to celebrate the soundtracks of some of the best games around. Even if it’s not that interesting to you, it’s still an excuse to act like a nerd in an auditorium.