Blog / The Archmage's Ruminations

Looking for a Reason to Care About Video Games?


Blogmaster Helen Cothrel, hc261409@ohio.edu

I love video games. As much as I’m sure you would love to hear me list all of my favorite games in excruciating detail and rant about them for hours, what I really want to talk about today is what I think is one of the most overlooked contributions of video games to society: music.

About a month ago, I encountered a deal where I could get the album “The Greatest Video Game Music” for $1.99 on Amazon. I was interested, but the kicker for me was when I saw the recording artist: The London Philharmonic Orchestra! Suppressing a squeal of delight, I bought the album and was instantly in love.

Just absorb the beauty of this cover art for a few seconds.

“The Greatest Video Game Music” — as well as the newer “The Greatest Video Game Music 2” — are brilliant albums regardless of whether or not you’re into video games. The music translates marvelously into pieces for orchestra, because the scores for video games feature some of the most dynamic, exciting, and fun music. Video games are centered around creating a compelling audio/visual experience, and one of the most important contributors to the “feel” of a game is the music. Similar to film scores, it spends most of the time in the background setting the mood of scenes from walking through a village to epic boss battles.

However, to me, there is a vital difference between the scores of video games and films. A film score is a soundtrack for characters you are observing on a screen, but a video game score is a soundtrack for characters you are playing as or interacting with. In this way, video game music is a soundtrack for you. And that makes it all the more exciting.

Since the advent of video games, everything from the much-loved Super Mario Bros. theme to the vibrant The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim soundtrack has brought music into the lives of nerds across the world. I think video game music could use a bit more appreciation, from gamers and muggles non-gamers alike. I would like to think that music can be a bridge between the two demographics.

I’ll leave you with just a couple recommendations of stuff to check out. One is Lindsey Stirling, a violinist who has arranged or written and played everything from violin dubstep to an amazing rendition of the Skyrim main theme with singer Peter Hollens. She’s extremely talented and nerdy.

Also, be sure to check out the London Philharmonic’s “The Greatest Video Game Music” and “The Greatest Video Game Music 2.” Between the two albums, they cover a wide variety of pieces including the Tetris theme, the iconic “Still Alive” from Portal and the theme to Fallout 3.

Two of my absolute favorites are “Far Horizons” from the Skyrim soundtrack and “The Ocean on his Shoulders” from Bioshock. They both give me goose bumps from time to time, and they are very telling of the games they represent.

As one who has been a video gamer for a while, this music speaks to me on a personal level. When a gamer hears the themes of his or her favorite games, it can be a reminder of some of the most amazing moments he or she has ever played or seen. I won’t go into more detail to avoid spoiling plot pieces, but know that I have created a special place in my heart for this music. Maybe you should consider doing the same.

Thoughts? Questions? Or, is there something you’d like to see me write about? Leave a comment!

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