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Eris Falling

Relevance of video game soundtracks (poll)

Are soundtracks relevant in video games?  

62 members have voted

  1. 1. Are soundtracks relevant in video games?

    • Yes
      56
    • No
      1
    • Depends (please elaborate if you can)
      5


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Hi, got a poll for people here. Unfortunately this is for a school project I'm working on, so no impse option this time because I do need actual answers :P

Probably going to end up with a pretty unanimous response here, but do you people think soundtracks are relevant to video games? Are they a benefit to the experience or do they just get in the way? Does it depend on the type of game being played?

Anyway, all (proper) responses much appreciated :)

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"Relevant" seems like a strange choice of words, so I'm not sure I fully understand the question, but I'm going to go with "yes". Plenty of games were undoubtedly more enjoyable and memorable to me thanks to their music than they would have been without it, or have music that's enjoyable to listen to even outside the game.

OTOH, I wouldn't consider them to be vital to the experience of a good game. Plenty of games were also good despite lacking music.

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Depends.

As a designer, I feel like a musical score should always compliment the game and not the other way around. For this reason I've always shared the unpopular opinion that classic Doom's soundtrack is very hit or miss. Some tracks compliment the surreal and almost spooky tone, while the tracks that so obviously mimic rock songs more than not fall flat.

Quake 1's soundtrack is fantastic, on the other hand. Whatever was going on inside Trent Reznor's head while he was writing those tracks just fit perfectly with the otherwordly atmosphere in the game.

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I think they have a huge effect in terms of setting atmosphere and tone. Doom episode 1 is a good example where the music really helps to set a haunting, suspenseful atmosphere where you're wondering what's around the next corner. Some games do it better than others though.

Modern games seem to have generally moved more towards music that isn't continuous but instead only plays for certain parts of the game to set a particular mood - think about how the Half Life series uses music sparingly for example. The best analogy with more traditional media is probably how incidental music helps set tone for TV and film, so this is more consistent with that usage. As games have become more plot/story-driven it probably makes sense to use music in a more targeted way to set atmosphere.

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They're not necessary, but they're often responsible for making a game an unforgettable experience. LucasArts 90's games were a string of gems in huge part thanks to the best music department ever assembled. Outlaws was perhaps the most awesome game soundtrack ever with a pretty good game attached to it, heh.

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Try playing Chrono Trigger with the TV/computer speakers muted and see how enjoyable the game is.

Then again, most of the classic arcade or Atari games prior to 1985 didn't have any music either, except the basic fanfare.

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I say it depends. Sometimes a soundtrack is absolutely relevant, like in Zelda: Majoras Mask. Ikana Canyon would not have been creepy at all if it weren't for the music. The music in that area made mundane aspects of the area creepy. But then with other games...like Doom...the soundtrack isn't necessary. I personally like it, but if you mute the music, the general feel of the game isn't gone like it would be in my previous example.

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Absolutely. Try playing Half Life 2 or Dark Souls with the music turned off. Sure, the gameplay, sound, and graphics are still there, but it's now such a depressing and somewhat boring game.

Even something like changing the music for a single doom map can change the whole atmosphere, and even the way a player might approach the map.

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I like playing spooky games like Quake 1 or Doom 3 without music. The ambient noise and the quality of the SFX make up very well for the lack of music. Compare this with Doom 2, which is just too quiet, and the SFX too repetitive/unfitting with what you see (mechanical door sounds, repetitive demon snores...)

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I'm likely not the only person who has been known to give a free pass to pretty shitty games because they had amazing soundtracks which made the experience as a whole almost worthwhile.

Obviously, I voted soundtracks as relevant in the poll.

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Of course it matters! Listening to just demons dying and weapons firing is boring, I can do that IRL. What I can't do IRL is blast demon ass with heavy metal rockin' my speakers.
It also kinda helps to set the right mood. If the music is suspenseful like E1M3, you'll play carefully. If it's joyous like E1M9, you'll play more run 'n' gun. Kinda like ballet. Well, maybe not really but you got my point.
Besides, MDK 2 wouldn't be the same without that title track.

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I think they're quite important, they set the tone for the game/map/area and add another layer of stimulation which personally helps keep me interested. The only games where I don't mind silence would be things like Tetris, but even then I prefer the soundtrack as it helps keep me focused. That's just me though, I'm sure some people prefer to not have music playing over certain games they enjoy.

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Video game soundtracks are definitely relevant to the overall experience. It helps give the game's setting the right atmosphere. The best example I can think of is the sound track of Deus Ex. The techno style music really gives a feeling of being in a futuristic/Blade Runner type of world. Would it Deus Ex feel the same if it were set to Rap music? Probably not.

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Sick Bow said:

Absolutely. Try playing Half Life 2 or Dark Souls with the music turned off.


These are all odd examples though, because these are games that were designed from the ground up to incorporate music into their design. The use of music is definitely important, but I think some people tend to overlook how important it is when NOT to use it. Not having the game rely on musical cues can serve to heighten tension when necessary, and it can also prevent the game from feeling too energized for its own good. I personally think that a game such as Nightmare Creatures does this pretty well, while still keeping the focus on action.

If anything, a game suddenly becoming dull and boring with the music turned off sounds more like a blow against the game's design. Wouldn't you agree that a really masterful game should be fun regardless? If a scene is truly well put together, it will speak for itself with or without the tunes. Again; I do think musical scores are important, but the over-reliance on it just seems to reek of bad design to me. Especially in modern games and movies, I tend to really dislike it for example when things like sad scenes are over-saturated with sappy piano-music, when it probably would have been much stronger if they let the scene speak for itself.

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Yes they are. The greatest games have the greatest soundtracks. I dare say people talk about a great game music more than great graphics. Mega Man 2's soundtrack is still one of the greatest even if its graphics are not by today's standards.

As I learned from watching the Simpson's DVD commentaries... music should always enhance drama and never comedy.

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Definitely, whether it's a full orchestral score, something electronic, or something ambient. The soundtrack adds mood, and conveys emotions and place in a non-visual way.

Like others said, try turning off the music to a game sometime, even if it's just ambience. Or better yet, replace the soundtrack of the original Doom or Quake 1 with this. Either way, everything emotional about the game changes. Heck, try it with Bubble Witch Saga or something silly like that.

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yukib1t said:

Definitely, whether it's a full orchestral score, something electronic, or something ambient. The soundtrack adds mood, and conveys emotions and place in a non-visual way.

Like others said, try turning off the music to a game sometime, even if it's just ambience. Or better yet, replace the soundtrack of the original Doom or Quake 1 with this. Either way, everything emotional about the game changes. Heck, try it with Bubble Witch Saga or something silly like that.


I love the Quake 1 soundtrack, but growing up as a kid I didn't have a proper sound-system for my computer, so I could never hear the music. I still thought it was a great game all the same.

geo said:

As I learned from watching the Simpson's DVD commentaries... music should always enhance drama and never comedy.


Ugh... No. Please, no. If I want music to tell me when to feel emotional I'll go watch some American reality TV show.

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If a game doesn't have music worth listening to, then it's not a game worth playing.

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The game is always worse without a (decent) soundtrack, especially when it relies on atmosphere more than on action.
Edit: after all, my life is worse without music.

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Basically what everyone is saying above. Music makes the game for me more often than not. Bonus points if the tunes don't stop ringing in my head for at least a week afterwards.

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Yes. Music is a universal language. It can manipulate your emotions and outlook on things.
Lets take a Doom map: E1M3. This track is slow, suspenseful. Thus, your feeling towards the map will be the same: slow, cautious, etc.
E1M1 has music that basically says the opposite. Why be cautious when you've got this badass music ringing in your ears? Don't you feel like taking the map in a badass approach too?

Would you really enjoy playing an action-oriented map with some violen music to accompany you, more than with just-as-badass music?

When I played Quake, I didn't have the CD needed for the music. Thus, Quake is not etched into my brain as Doom is.

Heck, just look at the impact the Doom 2016 soundtrack made. It screams badass awesomeness, just like the game itself.

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There's a reason that some of games on Steam sell their soundtracks as a "purchasable" DLC. And personally, if the game doesn't have good soundtrack, I will never play that game again and I will never buy any games created by the same developer.

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Gez said:

If a game doesn't have music worth listening to, then it's not a game worth playing.

Indeed, a great game is not complete without a great soundtrack!

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antares031 said:

There's a reason that some of games on Steam sell their soundtracks as a "purchasable" DLC. And personally, if the game doesn't have good soundtrack, I will never play that game again and I will never buy any games created by the same developer.


It's not DLC, as the game already has the soundtrack. They're selling the music separately so you can listen to it outside of the game.

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Sick Bow said:

It's not DLC, as the game already has the soundtrack. They're selling the music separately so you can listen to it outside of the game.


IKR. Still, it's categorized as downloadable content on Steam.

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Indeed this pretty much depends both on the game and the soundtrack that it has.

I remember a couple of times when I had to turn off music because it was too annoying and actually distracted from playing. But it is also true that some games may be payed without music just as well as with it.

If a soundtrack is repetitive, there's a good chance the player will stop paying attention to it altogether due to habituation. On the other hand, there are games with dynamic music change where the soundtrack actually has a meaningful function related to gameplay.

Overall, I can't name any games — at least, off the top of my head — where the soundtrack would overtly clash with the rest of the playing experience. At the same time music indeed often contributes to the atmosphere, in a certain way.

I think we could come up with a set of diagnostic questions to ask players about, such as: is there any moment in the game when you want to turn music off? do you play this game with music turned off? would you listen to the soundtrack without playing the game? etc.

An interesting question would be whether a certain soundtrack may "work" with a different game than the one it was written for. Have you ever played a game with different music (or wished that it were technically possible)? I used to play C&C: Red Alert with the soundtrack from the original Command & Conquer a while ago, as it is easy to put together a replacement soundtrack data file with community tools (both games use the same sound file format).

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The elusive and hard-to-find Doom Music CD was apparently arranged to be usable as Quake's soundtrack.


I dunno if it really fits, though. Quake's soundtrack is excellent.

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Gez said:

The elusive and hard-to-find Doom Music CD was apparently arranged to be usable as Quake's soundtrack.


I dunno if it really fits, though. Quake's soundtrack is excellent.

Cool, I didn't know that :) I wonder who did the arrangement, Bobby Prince himself?

BTW, what about that CD with Sonic Mayhem alternate Quake soundtrack which IIRC got them on board of Quake II as official composers?

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MrFlibble said:

Cool, I didn't know that :) I wonder who did the arrangement, Bobby Prince himself?

BTW, what about that CD with Sonic Mayhem alternate Quake soundtrack which IIRC got them on board of Quake II as official composers?

In the absence of further information I'm just going to assume Bobby Prince did the arrangement, yes.

As for Sonic Mayhem, I suppose you mean this.

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