Music is utilised for a range of purposes in entertainment, most typically in TV and film, to convey a particular mood or feeling. An effective musical score can communicate excitement, tension, triumph, and defeat. In short, it plays a key role in storytelling.
Original soundtracks are composed for the biggest Hollywood films, while existing tracks are often cherry-picked by directors, writers, and producers to slot into a particular scene. While lesser-known songs featured in hit films and TV programmes can become major hits overnight.
One form of entertainment where music is equally important, but perhaps less acknowledged, is gaming. The use of music in gaming has evolved significantly as advancements in technology have broadened the demographics of gamers.The early days
The early days of gaming were rather primitive, with the very first titles featuring little to no sound at all. Digital ‘blips’ and ‘bloops’ where all players had to help paint an aural picture of the action unfolding, although many say this added to the suspense regardless.
In that era, games simply weren’t able to process anything that resembled music, and what you heard very much resembled what you saw. The action was blocky, awkward and the sounds were often pretty basic and shrill.
It’s fair to say that players didn’t buy the games for the music and, in reality, many will likely have been reaching for the mute button and providing their own soundtrack in the background. Renowned composers
Music in gaming truly came into its own with the launch of the 8-bit consoles. The Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System were capable of delivering more advanced graphics, faster and more complex gameplay, and real, melodic soundtracks.
Games like Sonic the Hedgehog
and Super Mario became iconic for the music of each level, with composers drafted in to curate the perfect soundtrack. The music was such a hit that many games included ‘test modes’ which players activated just to listen to the music.
The 16-bit generation of consoles, including the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis saw this evolution continue, with the music becoming a key feature of the gaming titles. Games like Mortal Kombat showcased the possibilities of human voice sampling which developers were using to deliver atmospheric audio experiences.Real-life soundscapes
Music’s true milestone moment in gaming came with the launch of the next generation of consoles which were, at this stage, marketed as genuine multimedia entertainment devices. Technology giant Sony, known for its audio equipment, entered the console market with the PlayStation which doubled up as a CD player.
The PlayStation was capable of delivering CD-quality audio in its games, too, while the Sega Saturn also boasted this functionality. Nintendo’s latest console, the Nintendo 64, stuck with cartridges, but it too could deliver high-quality audio.
In the years since, music and soundtracks have become an expected feature of gaming, with major recording artists contributing to soundtracks on games such as FIFA football and Tony Hawk's
skateboarding game franchise. Interestingly, soundtracks can also be used as a way of adding realism to the game. For example, the radio stations available to players while driving a car on Grand Theft Auto mimics the real experience of cruising around in your car with the radio blasting.
The increased realism in games was embraced by players and became a necessary element of gaming across the board, from console games to online casino gaming. For example, in online casino gaming, where theme and aesthetics play key roles in the development of games, music is a big part of the package.
Many of the casino games offered by the providers listed on the Bonus.ca website, for example, rely heavily on real-life soundscapes to set the scene. This is mainly the case for titles based on historical eras, international culture, and mythology, as discussed in this Bonus.ca: casinos online article
. Real-life soundscapes feature in titles like Book of Dead and Safari Riches, utilising audio effects and soundtracks to build atmosphere. Arguably, the emphasis on the effects of soundtracks regardless of genre highlights that the feature is perhaps not so much an expectation, but a standard of modern all gaming.
It’s clear that since the late 1990s, music has been recognised as a major part of the gaming experience. The genre has quickly caught up to TV and film, with what you hear now just as important as what you see.