The importance of being heard. Soundtracks that tell the story as much as the game itself…

Why sound and music is so important in games.

We often visit games and remember various components that stick with us for various reasons, for example: the way they made us feel, the mechanics, a certain scene. But sometimes, a very important part of a games makeup is what we hear.

When we think about soundtracks for games, we often just think about music that you wouldn’t tend to listen to outside of the game world. Why bother? It makes sense hearing stuff whilst playing, but why would I want to sit and listen to a 3-4 hour-long compilation of music that doesn’t fit with the environment I’m in now?

The answer? Because the music in a game can be the thing that defines the moment even more so, with sound being a very strong stimuli for memory jogging. Think, when you hear music from, say, Star Wars, you know it. Music from Mario games? Pretty noticeable yeah? There is something about music in games that can create the atmosphere and surrounding we don’t see.

It can also be the ingredient that defines a game for us, by adding something extra to the story or adventure we are on.

I am going to have a brief look at 3 games that I think do this with their soundtrack. So, without any further delay, first up is ‘Everybody’s Gone To Rapture’ by The Chinese Room.

Some wonderful pieces of music in this game that really delve into the themes of loneliness and exploration. The main reason I think this soundtrack adds more to the game is the simplistic songs (some with just female vocals, others with woodwind and violin) that make the reflection you experience in this game more so. While exploring and searching for answers you are accompanied by a soundtrack that reveals a world during the apocalypse, with little to offer. There is an almost solemn, yet hopeful tone that drives the game’s story and beautiful scenery.

Give it a listen and play the game, I’m sure you will find it interesting.

Second on my list is… ‘Bioshock’ by 2K games! I love this game so much and it has a similar effect to the ‘Fallout’ series (Bethesda). Both games use diegetic sound (sound created in the game universe, example, turn on the radio and hear a song) in a beautiful way that allows you to hear some real songs (from our own past, sounded out in their time), played naturally in the environment we, as the player, are faced with.

Both games do use non-diegetic sound (atmospheric music that isn’t heard in the game universe, developers add-on top of the game, to create mood/tone) and create memorable scenes in stunning locations that will forever stay with me. But the beautiful thing about the diegetic music used in both, is that these are A) songs we are likely to have heard before (and will likely listen to again after playing, but with a different memory/picture in our mind), B) They frame a time period that is out of place and creates an atmosphere of their own, mostly unease.

I love that when we listen to these soundtracks in particular, there is a certain connection we can make with the words being sung and the words our character may speak and the place we are. The game creates a new context for the music to exist in.

Diegetic (found on radios, playing through records on gramophones etc)

Non diegetic (mostly.)

 

2K even made an entire story in the 3rd installment of the series, completely about the sound and why the music is somewhat displaced (I won’t spoil it for you). It adds to the story by placing music in an environment that fits with and when these events should take place, yet gives them new meaning in the city of Rapture and Columbia.

So would you kindly play these games and see what I mean?

Third and final, ‘The Last Of Us’ – Naughty Dog. I mean, need I say more?

‘The Last Of Us’ Soundtrack tells a story of love and loss, whilst accompanying a phenomenal game with intriguing characters, jaw-dropping scenery and a story that made me cry whilst playing (I really don’t cry often).

The music still triggers strong memories of playing this and wanting nothing else but for everything to be ok for Joel and Ellie in the apocalypse, and with the release of a new game having been announced (with a song that is a  personal  favorite of mine>update, the song wasn’t what I thought and is infact a psalm…) I had to write a little something about it.

 

The developers of ‘The Last Of Us’ say that the main theme of this game was love. There are sections of music in here that will trigger strong memories of moments that would seem desolate and even more terrifying if it wasn’t there. The music clearly has an essence of care within it and a show of love about it, which match with scenes from the game that filled me with so much emotion.

But the second game in this series has been confirmed to be about hate. Please look at the trailer I am attaching to finish (spoiler alert, obviously don’t if you haven’t play the first game) and you will see exactly what they mean.

Please play this game if you haven’t, it’s well worth the time and effort!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this little exploration of some music in games,

James

 

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