Even though it’s all around us it can sometimes be too easy to overlook just how many ways that music is used to enhance our experiences and even affect our behaviour. Of course, the most obvious example comes from the worlds of film and television. A well-written score can either overtly or subliminally do everything from tell us how to feel to preface an impending event.
More subtly, it’s a well-known technique for all kinds of shops to play soft music in the background to make us more receptive to the idea of going ahead and making that purchase.
Another field in which music plays a crucial, if sometimes underestimated, role is that of video games. Just as these have developed from the simple games like Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog with basic storylines and synthesized sound effects into far more cinematic formats, so has the music they employ. Many have scores written especially for them, and just as many use well-known songs to drive the action along.
No-one needs to be told quite what big business video gaming is these days. And, with the snowballing popularity of eGames with the potential of winning huge prize money for the very best of the best, the music behind the games could even be edge that the top players need to take them to the top level.Keep on playing
Of course, there are also some instances in which music has been very effectively deployed for other kinds of reasons too. A great example of this is in the ever more popular world of online bingo. In the old days when traditional bingo halls were all the rage the main reason many people went to them was for the social experience, to meet up with friends, have a drink or two and, hopefully, win a little cash too.
But now bingo halls are closing down, and more and more people are heading online for their fun. Although most of the sites do have chat rooms the sociability just isn’t there in the same way. So, the sites’ operators have had to come up with a way to keep players engaged – and the solution has been to introduce music to the bingo games
. In keeping with the spirit of the sites it tends to be light, bright and memorable in a way that only serves to enhance the playing experience.
It also tends to be the sort of music that’s pleasant to listen to and which increases concentration too, something that it shares with other video games music.Funky, but not too funky
So, what is this kind of music? Well research has shown
that this tends to have quite a high level of syncopation and rhythm, but not too much because this tends to confuse the brain rather than focus it on the activity in hand.
What’s more, music can go far beyond just being a concentration aid for a game to become an integral part of its appeal. At its most basic level, this can mean that some games have been developed primarily around the music that it features, even rewarding players for reaching specific goals with a blast of their favourite band. A prime example of this is the cult favourite Victor Vran: Overkill Edition
which featured a whole raft of Motorhead songs and on which the late great Lemmy was even a collaborator.
Another more mainstream game that has become almost as well for its musical soundtrack as for its sometimes-controversial content is the Grand Theft Auto series from the very appropriately name Rockstar Games. In this it not only has a raunchy and high-octane soundtrack, you can also choose from a range of different radio stations playing different genres of music as you cruise the mean streets in your souped-up vehicle of choice.
In the gangster game Saints Row 2 it takes the concept even further. Not only do you have a choice of radio stations to choose from, you can also create your own mix tape of the songs featured across the whole game to create a uniquely curated selection according to personal taste.Atmospheric experiences
EA Games’ Dead Space, a game that is a homage to the Alien series of films, uses its soundtrack to an even more overtly cinematic effect. As you journey through space on your mineral mining mission and come into contact with aliens hell bent upon your destruction the music is mighty, orchestral and fully in keeping with the look and feel of the game.
Sports games is a more surprising genre in which music has started to feature prominently. Games like FIFA generally concentrate on having a playlist of pre-defined songs from popular and less well-known artists that you can choose to listen to. But, following the introduction of the narrative element of The Journey in FIFA 17 in which a player progresses through his footballing career gradually playing for bigger and better clubs, this called for an original soundtrack. The result is a piece of music that follows the moods of the story that is unfolding.Or just choose your own
Of course, serious gamers may like to ignore totally the music that developers have spent so long considering for the game and simply slip on their own headphones for their personal choice of sounds. In fact, the familiar and songs that have a particular meaning or resonance for the individual can probably be of even more use to them when it comes to driving them on and helping them to focus. As to what kind of music that might be, it could be anything from a stirring Beethoven symphony to some hard-core grime, garage or hip hop.
But whatever it is, one thing’s for sure. Listening to music, as long as it’s the right kind for the particular player, is always going to enhance concentration and competitiveness. This all suggests that the partnership between music and video games is definitely here to stay.