Let’s Ramble About Entertainment: Video Game Soundtracks

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Hey, Paw Print readers, I’m Brandon Ngo and I’m currently a junior. In this column I want to create a place to discuss entertainment. I hope you enjoy, and I can’t wait to hear your feedback!

This week, my topic will be the importance of music in video games.

The soundtrack to any piece of media is important because there are several choices that can help set an aesthetic in so many different ways. Say a soundtrack incorporates only 50’s-esque songs like the post-apocalyptic game series, Fallout. The game takes place in a world that relies on atomic energy and where everything was destroyed by an atomic bomb. The songs it features are cohesive because modern music wouldn’t work with the world; the player has come to expect all of its music to have a certain sound.

Likewise, the instruments being used can create a soundtrack based around certain characteristics. They could be purely acoustic, orchestral, synth, chip-tune synth, etc. or any combination of these things.

Basically, if a lot of these songs have a similar aesthetic, it helps to build the world of a game.

Music can also subtly help tell the story. Leitmotifs- short pieces of music (usually a melody) associated with a person, place, or thing -can be used in multiple songs across soundtrack as a callback to certain moments or to even help you make associations in the game’s world. In the fantasy series, The Legend of Zelda, the most iconic songs can be seen over and over again throughout, notably the theme for the classic game from 1986.

A soundtrack that I really loved growing up was the soundtrack to Super Mario Galaxy, because of its varying moods and often grand production. Some of it utilizes an orchestra and has a very adventurous tone, (see the song: “Gusty Garden Galaxy”) and makes you feel as if you are going on a huge adventure.

Have you had any soundtracks that have resonated with you? Please let us know in the comments below.