Music in gaming hasn’t quite cut across the demographic strata as easily as James Horner’s or Michael Giacchino’s work has in film, but it never ceases to amaze me just how far and how varied the work is from game to game. After listening to a little 8-bit love on 8bitcollective and then switching over to Valkyria Chronicles’ soundtrack, it hit me just how far it has come.
While film may have a few pieces to punctuate spots in the narrative where an emotional drive is needed or to match the action in a ballet of ruin, many games tend to have a massive number of tracks required to span the ten, twenty, or thirty plus hours that a player will be spending within its world. Not every game has this kind of required commitment, but those that do…such as the Metal Gear Solid titles, Final Fantasy, or Capcom’s Onimusha series…deliver plenty for the ears to gorge on for good reason.
Although the impression that games are still the purview of children and young adults continues to hold sway among many of those that fail to look past the cover art or holiday seasons, looking at how much money and human effort is spent to produce each $60 USD slice of entertainment and to hear producers speak of budgets in the tens of millions clearly makes the work put into this particular hobby as serious as that of a big budget film with a quality that often goes unnoticed outside of the gaming crowd.
Bring up the soundtrack of a popular film at a party and people may instantly remember it and even mention the name of the artists responsible, such as James Horner. Mention Jeremy Soule or Inon Zur to the same crowd, and you might get a blank stare.
Granted, both crowds don’t have to swim in the same pool, but music-wise, it is almost as if gaming music still lives under the impression that it continues to get something of a short shrift in terms of a wider sense of recognition. That unless you are a gamer, you don’t “get it”. I beg to differ.
I think that if anyone simply likes music in general, they’ll get it as soon as they hear Keiki Kobayashi’s orchestrated theme for the Liberation of Gracemeria (Ace Combat 6), Frank Klepacki’s end techno-remix for Universe at War, James Hannigan’s Soviet March for Red Alert 3, Hitoshi Sakimoto’s work in FFXII, Nobuo Uematsu’s piano piece “From Zanarkand” from FFX, or Inon Zur’s work in Fallout 3 among many, many others.
So the next time that you or a friend sit down with a game that also has as much of a story to tell as there is to play through, take some time and listen to the music that comes out from your speakers. You might like what you hear.