Why video game music is more important than you might think

March 26, 2013

On the second day of PAX East, I attended a panel titled "Behind the Music of Blockbuster Video Games." It was a panel that I was extremely interested in because I have always loved and appreciated video game music, as well as the composers who write the music that we all know and love. They picked some amazing composers for the panel, including Greg Edmonson (Uncharted 1-3), Jason Graves (Tomb Raider/Dead Space 1-3), Jack Wall (Mass Effect 1 & 2, Black Ops 2), Kevin Riepl (Gears of War series, Aliens: Colonial Marines), and Inon Zur (Prince of Persia, Fallout 3, Dragon Age series). You can watch the panel here.

The panel really opened my eyes to how much time and effort goes into composing music for video games. The panelists also reminded all 800 of us that video game music is responsible for making us feel a certain way about a game. Think about it--if not for the brilliant music composed by Nobuo Uematsu, would Final Fantasy mean as much to so many people as it does? Sure, the games are great, but the music is what gives us that strong emotion connection to a game or games.

When I hear the pieces of music from the Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception soundtrack, I tear up and sometimes get chills. Uncharted 3 is one of my favorite games of all time, and this is, in part, because of the music. The whole package though, meaning the gameplay, the story, the acting, the music, etc., is what makes it work. Without any of those elements, it wouldn't be what it is: a masterpiece.

As Jack Wall mentioned during the panel, you can't listen to the Super Mario Bros. theme and not smile. Imagine what that game would be like without the music. It wouldn't be nearly as memorable to so many people.

The next time you're playing a game, take the time to listen to the music. Sometimes it kind of falls to the background, and you don't realize how much of an impact it is having on the way you feel about the game. Music is magical; it can make you happy, sad, can do what dialogue sometimes cannot.