Variations on a Theme
The jingle that launched a thousand quarters, the opening to Pac-Man is one of the earliest examples of video game music, and likely the earliest one that is still memorable to today’s audience. Once it became possible to reproduce entire songs, virtually every video game made since has had some form of background music. From the simplistic tones of early arcade hits to modern tracks with immense production values and orchestral backing, music and games have gone hand in hand since the end of the early arcade era.
If you ask any gamer about the most memorable things about their favorite games, the music is likely to be high up on the list. For some gamers, it might be more memorable than the story, or the graphics, or even in some cases the gameplay! Across nearly every musical genre, including some that only exist due to games, video game music has made its mark on the culture of both gamers and the world at large. Huge orchestras are dedicated to playing gaming’s greatest hits, and entire games exist centred around music itself!
I think we can all agree that video game music is, on the whole, fantastic. Even games with no other redeeming value may have a track that excites the imagination. But what makes video game music so good? What about it excites us in ways that nothing else in a game can?