Why It Matters: Music

Games are alive with the sound of music.

Early this year, Kotaku's Stephen Totilo wrote a fascinating essay about how music in video games is nonessential. It's a good read and is well written, but I disagree with Totilo on a very fundamental level. Of course, he is technically correct: you can play most games with the sound off, and in extreme cases, I've done so due to awful voice acting or repetitive music. But to dismiss an important aspect of the gaming experience as nonessential undermines it; after all, games themselves are nonessential. We do not need them to function; they do not provide physical warmth (unless, of course, you use them to create a fort) or nourishment (they are not an appropriate source of fiber).

Yet like fine art, and literature, and love, and all the creature comforts that make our lives extraordinary, games entertain and enrich us. Music, too, is not a necessity, but it's a joy that has elevated human beings for countless centuries. And it's no less desirable in a game than it is on its own. In this way, the game is a microcosm of life itself: its soundtrack may not be essential, but it is an expression of emotion and intellect that should not be rejected simply because it isn't a requirement of life (or in this case, game) function.

And so music matters and is a core aspect of the gaming experience for most of us. Consider:

You know this music. When you hear it, it initiates a reaction. Music has power, and used properly, it can elevate a game (or misused, it can sink a game like a boulder).

I think games use music in one of four ways. Of course, some of these ways overlap; abstract music (say, the Mario tune above) still creates an atmosphere, and indeed, a Pavlovian response. (I dare anyone in their 30s to hear that and not have an immediate emotional response.) But I believe these categories work well and are a good place to start when considering how music exerts its power over a gaming experience.

Music as Atmosphere -- "It's like I'm Really There"

You are Ezio Auditore di Firenze. As you ride your steed through the streets of Rome, a lilting tune in 5/4 time brightens the journey, just as the glowing sun brightens the cobbled streets.

You are John Marston. The strums of a guitar elicit images of rattlesnakes and cacti in the Mexican wilderness--you don't even need to open your eyes.

These are great examples of music matched with visual design to pull you into its world. In many cases, these are period pieces, in which music gives immediate historical context. BioShock is another terrific example: an interesting mix of '30s/'40s/'50s tunes and an original orchestral score from Garry Schyman. Atmosphere is BioShock's single greatest asset. It uses period music and art design in a unique fictional setting, and I can't imagine being swept into Rapture if I turned the music off--or indeed, if BioShock had gone with a purely original score. I'm reminded of my favorite film, Moulin Rouge, in which familiar music is used to tap into existing emotions. I think of this music as emotional shorthand, and in BioShock, it's incredibly effective.

On the flip side, I offer up Fallout 3 as an example of a game that did not leverage music to its advantage. An excellent game, no doubt, but the soundtrack did it no favors. Its symphonic swooning and light musical accompaniment didn't fit its postapocalyptic vision. It struck me as particularly "Bethesda-ish," in the sense that it might have worked well in an Elder Scrolls game, but it didn't fit the setting particularly well. Like BioShock, Fallout 3 used period music in an attempt to elicit a response, but there were scant few radio tunes, and they weren't used to any particular effect. I referred to this in Why It Matters: Storytelling, but it applies here too: games are best when every aspect of them is used to communicate a singular vision. Because the soundtrack was incongruous, and because the period tunes were so sparse, Fallout 3 doesn't make a musical impression.

Music as Communicator -- "Pavlovian Response"

There is a point at which sound effects and music converge: small motifs blend with a few notes or chords, and these motifs communicate important information. Listen to the first few seconds of this:

This little major-third warble haunts the Gears of War series and is immediately evocative. Bulletstorm's victory gong is a good one, using a short guitar crunch to signal the end of battle. There are longer themes used to this end, however. How about this:

It's possibly the most famous victory theme of all. Just hearing it says to me, "You just triumphed once again over those that would vanquish you." More recently, Rift has used music to great effect to get your heart pumping. Consider:

Here's one of my favorite battle themes of all time, causing me to whip around and see if there's a rollerrat lurking behind me:

Massively multiplayer online games (and other genres) frequently use music to communicate that you have entered a particular area. World of Warcraft is particularly good at this:

Final Fantasy XIV is not:

Part of the problem here is the matter of notes versus rests. In FFXIV, the music plays nonstop and never gets a chance to breathe. In composition class, one of the first things you learn is that rests are as important as notes. Just as a maze of cookie-cutter forest corridors is visually tedious, so too does this music wear on you in time. It retains the same time signature, the same key, and the same instrumentation from beginning to end. There is no tonal variety, which is emphasized by the fact that the music never stops as long as you are in the Gridania forest. WOW's music is more immediately evocative, more varied within a single composition, and it gives your ears respite because it does not continually play. Another thing you learn early in orchestration class: go easy on the oboes and English horns. Excess reeds are another reason this music gets so wearisome, so quickly.

Perhaps the height of music as communicator is found in games in which music and sound effects are one and the same, exemplified by Everyday Shooter, the recent Bit.Trip games, and this outstanding game:

The power in all of this music comes from its consistency. Tunes and even a few notes are always associated with a particular action, event, character, or emotional state. This association gives it power. It's similar to how hearing a particular song or smelling a particular scent can stir up old feelings in the blink of an eye. Gears of War without the satisfying "Gears of Warble" (as my coworker Chris Watters so affectionately refers to it) may not feel the same--at the very least, the warble is a recognizable part of that franchise's identity.

Music as Manipulator -- "I Cried Because the Music Told Me To"

This is one of the most superb examples of music as manipulator I can think of. I want to make it clear that I do not use the word "manipulate" to pass judgment--though I believe that games must earn the right to manipulate you. At this stage, Final Fantasy X had earned that right. Without the heartbreaking circumstance surrounding it, this scene might have rung hollow. But because you are invested, the music properly taps into that sense of sadness, remorse, and, finally, uplift.

I have mixed feelings on manipulative music. On one hand, I referred to Moulin Rouge above--a film that relies almost entirely on emotional manipulation. I believe that movie works because it encompasses a range of emotions rather than being simply maudlin. It works for me in particular because the musical shorthand is effective; using tunes I know well to immediately convey emotion and to tap into my own memories to add depth to them.

What do I mean by "earning the right" to manipulate? I mean that big, sweeping battle music and tear-jerking piano melodies work only when the game (or film) uses them to enhance existing emotion--not to create it. In film, James Cameron's Avatar strikes me as a good example of a movie that uses music to telepath emotion without earning the right. It's effective at eliciting that emotion, mind you, but it's a case in which emotion is induced with music and imagery. But the characters are plastic and the dialogue is dumb, thus making the manipulative nature of the soundtrack noticeable.

I have respect for a composer who can conjure emotion like this; he's doing his job incredibly well. But then it falls on the rest of the game to match that tone. An otherwise fine soundtrack might come across as a cheap ploy, rather than a poignant triumph. And, of course, some music is too overblown to be considered anything but overblown. A barrage of brass fanfares means nothing if it isn't contrasted with something more subtle, and I have little patience for Hollywood-style bravado. Unfortunately, that bravado wins awards--even though it requires the least amount of imagination on the composer's part. In any case, let's consider two examples. Warning: spoilers.

This is the most emotionally compelling scene in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, and an exquisite example of the positive use of music as manipulator. By this point, you know these characters, and you are invested in their fates. The scene's early silence serves only to make the simple music even more effective. The soundtrack does not overwhelm the scene, because it doesn't need to. Developer Funcom trusts the player here. It knows that we care, and so the music intensifies the emotion, subtly--it doesn't attempt to create it out of thin air.

Then there's this:

The music during the romp fits just fine; the music afterward does not. You can initiate this scene early on, and Isabela is quick to jump into bed. She makes it clear this is just sex, and the--er--energetic frolicking and dramatic drumbeats indicate that this isn't romance. What to make of the swoons of the string section afterward, then? From my perspective, the music attempts to elicit emotion, but the game hasn't earned it. You can jump into bed with Isabela without knowing her all that well. Romantic chords don't seem appropriate, even if you buy that Hawke had developed feelings for Isabela at this stage--which isn't likely.

In both cases, we get excellent music. In only one case, however, does the emotional manipulation avoid feeling cheap. The effectiveness of the music doesn't fall just on the shoulders of the composer, but also on the entire development team. It comes down to matters of cohesion and vision. Once again, we see that one aspect of the design might suffer when it isn't supported by the others.

Music as Abstract -- "Pretty for Pretty's Sake"

Sometimes, music is there just to keep things from being silent. Early video game music worked in this manner due to technology limitations. Thus, the same music looped again and again, and the composer's duty was to make it catchy and interesting so that you didn't tire of hearing it. Thus:

Of course, this music needed to fit with the game, but for the most part, it was music for music's sake. We see it in modern games too, of course, most notable in sports and racing games. The music can contribute or detract, but this is based more on factors of personal taste, and whether or not the music fits the game.

Burnout 3 didn't need to use this song; it could have been any song that seemed to fit the mood, though this one is forever associated with the game now, at least in my mind. Obviously, this is a crossover into the music-as-atmosphere category, but the fact that many such games let you import your own soundtrack is an obvious statement: this is music for music's sake--insert your own as you wish. This is where your own musical tastes play a greater role than before. If you don't like Creed, you aren't going to like them in a game, no matter how well suited that (awful) music is.

And, of course, music can also annoy when used as a backdrop:

That's not what I want to hear over and over again in a puzzle game--particularly in one that requires some trial-and-error repetition.

Music has power, as I hope I have demonstrated above. Tell us what music you love and how it contributed to the game. Conversely, do you remember a game that suffered because the music made you want to shut it off? Let us know in the comments!

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Want the latest news about Fallout 3?

Fallout 3

Fallout 3

Follow

Discussion

407 comments
Hisairness2345
Hisairness2345

Kevin Van'Ord needs to stop thinking that he can give Nobuo Uematsu music lessons...

GirDraconis
GirDraconis

A problem I had with Fallout 3's music was the choice of where to put it. They put some great classic WWII/Cold War era music in there and it fit wonderfully but it never served a purpose in enhancing emotion. The article's author said it was music for music's sake and I agree. The score wasn't anything to get in a fuss over either. It was there. That's about it. HOWEVER, the menu music is INSANE! It's an epic score fueled by dynamics (different volume levels) and a driving rhythmic section. The minor key gives a sense of regret, yet triumph. It's truly a masterpiece. Does it show up in actual gameplay? NO! THAT WOULD MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE! Imagine the final line being delivered... "War... War never changes" BOOM! Enter the menu music at full blast, giving the player (who just beat the game) a sense of triumph. How freaking cool would that be? Oh well... I'm just a nerd/musician raging over something that I felt could have REALLY worked. Thumbs up if you agree/appreciate what I said. Thumbs down if not. Thanks! PS: link to the menu music I mentioned. Find a stereo with some serious power or some wicked headphones. It's the least you could do. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4dTDG3bCEw&list=FL_nNUkpfPPYOyPZ2v21iCSA&index=31

hell---fire
hell---fire

Earliest examples of exemplary execution of a musical score for me was in Diablo. The string sequence in Tristram is haunting and invigorating in equal measures. Still gets my heartbeat racing when I listen to it.

grbolivar
grbolivar

FFVI has one of the best sound tracks ever! [2] That game would not be the same without that amazing soundtrack.

xxxDirtyJoexxx
xxxDirtyJoexxx

If there was no radio in Fallout 3, it would be a horror/scary game.

Hisairness2345
Hisairness2345

I'm a big fan of videogame soundtracks but...VanOrd completely ignores the point of Totilo's extremely well writen article and decides to go off on his own rant about how he loves videogame soundtracks because he obviously feels like this run of the mill rambling is something we never thought of before. This article is junk and I can't believe gamespot would publish it on their esteemed...or once esteemed site. Everyone click on the link and read Totilo's article. Your brain demands it.

Thy_Conquerer
Thy_Conquerer

To address Apathetic_Prick's comments and the Kotaku article, I would say that neither of you are incorrect in saying that audio isn't essential. But then... neither are visuals or storyline. I don't want to sound like some unglued art nut, but let's not forget that game production is an art form and that art's essential pieces are decided by the creator alone. Saying that audio isn't essential to a game is on par with saying that paint isn't essential to Michelangelo's statue of David. Of course it's not, because the artist created exactly what he meant to create and it didn't need paint. But could you imagine the "Mona Lisa" without paint? All the sensations that producers use in a game are merely tools used to construct an interactive world around an audience. If they don't think audio is necessary to do that, then it is not. If they do, then it is. It's like a blind person walking into the Sistine Chapel and hearing the echoes off the walls, smelling the incense, feeling the pews and saying "this is a church". They're not wrong, but they're missing a huge part of the experience that the artist wanted to portray. Same thing with a game. Yes, you can still press buttons and kill things with the sound off, but are you really getting the full experience of the world that the producer has created? As a side note: I personally think that the audio in DeadSpace was f***ing awesome.

tysonius
tysonius

Mechwarrior II: I still have the soundtrack to the game, and just listening to it instantly pulls me back to solo missions in the early dawn, running a Mad Dog across the desert hard rock or through a shallow stream bed, engaging multiple targets, and beginning the dance of to maneuver into a kill. Unforgettable.

raptor400k
raptor400k

Aalso to add to points I was just thinking about: for Fallout 3, I found that the radio and some of the quiet ambience tunes completely set the mood (but the fight scene music just sucked, it was just not pleasant listening to it). I thought that they even tried to do something similar to what grand theft auto does with its radio(though this one doesn’t have ambience tracks), in the sense that the radio makes the world feel more alive as it doesn’t care about you mostly. Just because you’re in a crazy firefight in some unknown place doen’t mean they’ll be playing some bombastic music to set the mood and just because you’ve had a bad day doesn’t mean they’ll stop the comedy shows, heck the fact that you can even turn off the radio if you feel it doesn’t go with what’s happening to you somewhat like in real life immersed me.) Also I forgot about rythm games where music is usually such a big help in playing the game that I just have it on mostly, or different chimes a game can make to tell you of what's going on(though that is more a sound more than music).

raptor400k
raptor400k

Interesting, I think a middle ground is needed for this as the Kotaku article actually showed that music in a game can be beautiful and help convey the mood. I actually do think that good music is not a necessity for a good game (though bad music can ruin it, even when I can turn off the music by itself it still) but I also believe this article has shown how music can have a very positive effect on a game. For me it's what "mode" I'm in when playing: when I want to get immersed in the world or see how the tracks are) I usually have music on, but when I just want to have some fun, free roaming and replaying levels forgetting about the story, I don't mind having the music off really. In fact I agree with him in the sense that re-listening to soundtracks can also get annoying(just like re-watching cutscenes) like for example if I go level grinding in a turn based rpg I usually have it off because re-hearing the battle theme can get tiring. I also don't have any sounds on at times when I'm playing a portable game in a car ride because I've heard it before, I usually just want a quick game or it's not that good so it's not worth pulling up headphones to listen too. Basically music to me in games is like over the top blood and gore, super advanced graphics, cool art styles and deep stories, you DON'T need (well usually) them to create a good game but they can add much to the game when done right and set the mood and I enjoy the use and disuse of music (sometimes having the music OFF can be quite powerful) in games as some games even have some of my memorable soudtracks. I don't know if anyone else feels the same, music is a "device" and like n movie or poetry one doesn't need to use all devices, but they can elevate a work, however in games rules are a bit different thanks to their freedom and flexibility.

soulmaka
soulmaka

persona 4 and blazblue have great music

theOmegaCloud
theOmegaCloud

Try watching a movie like Inception with subtitles and no sound. Kinda takes the soul out of it.

Apathetic_Prick
Apathetic_Prick

As interesting as Kotaku's article is, it isn't "technically right", it's 100% right; audio is non-essential for games or TV. Closed captioning is proof of this. So give credit where it's due; don't denigrate your competition, it makes you look cheap. You just have a counterpoint, and that's all right, too. But there was a point in which you were flat-out wrong - that being the soundtrack for Fallout 3. This has already been pointed out, but I'm going to hammer it home again: See, Fallout 3 (and New Vegas) have a soundtrack composed of two parts. The first is the ambient music that wonderfully defines the environment. Then you have the '50's (and in the case of New Vegs, some 60's) music which perfectly juxtaposes against the bleak wasteland, and you clearly don't understand why music from that time period was chosen. So I'll tell you: The 50's and 60's are considered the North American Golden Age - it's a complete polar switch. It serves as a reminder that if you thought it was great, you weren't really there as it's the attitudes of the 50's that put the world where it is in the Fallout canon. As a point in your article, I think that that was both a lost opportunity and seriously squandered effort. That said, I thought the rest of the article was okay, although it might have benefited from some more historical material, like Megaman 2 because while it's something like 22 or 23 years old, the soundtrack is still considered great today.

duckman710
duckman710

Most of Final Fantasy, all of Half-Lifes and Portals, Metroid (Primes especially), Super Mario and Crush 40 who did Sonic the hedgehog's Tunes. These have the best music from video/computer games in my opinion. May have missed some other games though. There aren't any games I've played that stand to mind that have terrible music I guess but I know there have been some, easier to forget haha. Also I love the games that let you play around with music from other amazing games there have been like Dissidia and Brawl for example (along with the characters, items etc obviously; that's what makes them fun).

duckman710
duckman710

@Kingdom_fighter I could not agree more, I yearned for a boss fight just to hear it haha!

Kingdom_fighter
Kingdom_fighter

Crisis Core Final Fantasy 7 have awesome good music.

omidsaint
omidsaint

the final fantasy IV has a best music in the video games

X1212
X1212

Legend of Mana's soundtrack is a masterpiece.

TrueIori
TrueIori

Ikaruga also had great music , and it just a Shoot 'em up xD.

cbeck002
cbeck002

For all FF14's faults,am I the only one who kinda enjoys the music? XD

DanielL5583
DanielL5583

@russian_takeout Most of the music in Fallout 3 went unnoticed to my ears. Not that it was bad; it's just that I couldn't tell if I was listening to music or atmospheric noises.

DanielL5583
DanielL5583

For me, the best soundtracks I came across are in the Metroid Prime series.

Scandals123
Scandals123

The best soundtrack I've ever come across was that of Brutal Legend, they couldnt have made that better for the setting and style of the game. Also games like Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 both had great (if slightly similar) soundtracks that are still immediately recognisable

xSlider257
xSlider257

Great piece Kevin. Many of the points addressed here are entirely accurate. It's interesting how naturally a lot of the choices as to what fits or doesn't fit is based on personal tastes, and yet some music can derive the same emotional response from a large number of people. Looking deeper may reveal we all have more in common than we think.

Metropolis3003
Metropolis3003

@ colossus235890 - You're right. Halo's soundtracks have always been awesome. Definitely considered "musical scores" in the most positive light. However, you pointed out a truth, that they are becoming repetitive. The composer is a genius so let him do his thing.

Metropolis3003
Metropolis3003

Game music should be ambient/atmospheric. That way it has a subconscious effect and never dulls.

russian_takeout
russian_takeout

who ever mentioned as fallout 3 sountrack a failure, should cut his ears off. in fallout 3, music made a huge impact on the game. not to mention comics art. both made the game have a personality, not just run and gun. i dont thing any other music would suit beter than 30's songs. also try playing some middle eastern shooter, and not having middle eastern beat to it.

Raven-002
Raven-002

Music "always" matters in a video game. It sets the tone, forms the atmosphere, alerts you if incoming enemies, etc. Imagine playing Resident Evil without that creepy sound of a zombie breaking past a door! Music inspires us and excites us, it is a very important component of the game. Not as critical as characters or plot, but almost as charming as the visuals. A great game is defined by well put together components, bad or no music will weaken that link. I've been gaming for over ten years and I can tell you it sure as hell matters.

jhayzcee
jhayzcee

I love the Jack and Jill song in Fallout 3. LSS fever. Music matters because, in simple words, completes the wonder of something. In whatever form of entertainment that it is you like -- may it be movies, a TV shows, or just listening to raindrops (I entertain myself just by looking at it) -- there is music. I have to agree with the Mario song. It is unforgettable. I have my own version of favorite in-game music recently posted in my blog. Kindly visit it if you have time. http://theoldtrees.blogspot.com/2011/04/thought-about-in-game-music.html

Aravesque
Aravesque

I cried when I heard the Turret Opera, it was beautiful

keybladegamer
keybladegamer

Kingdom hearts had a great soundtrack. In the end of Kingdom Hearts (after you defeat the final boss) The music (Combined with the emotional ending) pushed me "lump in my throat" to Sobbing. Music narrates the mood the game sets. I do love a great video game soundtrack.

joku760
joku760

Kingdom Hearts and The world ends with you have good music.

WorldComingDown
WorldComingDown

Main theme in the original Icewind dale. Guilty Gear X2 Reload soundtrack

aramsley
aramsley

Shadow of the colossus' musical score is the best I have experienced. It built up the tension as you grew closer to the next colossus with spikes in the ambient string orchestra and when you finally began battle it made it so epic and unforgettable. Seriously you have to hear it to believe it (and I'm not just being a silly Fan-boy) look up the first colossus' theme (youtube) and have a listen it will make your spine tingle.

JimB
JimB

Music and sound effects bring out the richness of the games and set the mood at a certain point and time in a game. The first computers I played games did not have sound cards in them they were an extra. What a difference when I first played Master of Orion with sound.

Fo128
Fo128

I am surprised no one ever mentioned the Mechwarrior series. Personally, I think this is the best ever musical score for a computer (video) game. It is so explosive at times and yet so tranquil on occasions. Grim Fandango's off beat jazzy / mexican style score was also very "exceptionnel" - as the french would say. Another very interesting score was the cello variations in Max Payne (can''t remember if the original or the sequel). Also, very beautiful music accompanied the Longest Journey series. I have copied all above and often listen in the car or at work when I stay late and I am alone in the office.

navilink
navilink

My favorite is most definitely from Beyond Good & Evil. Just about 30 seconds into the game, you're served with a short but peaceful simplistic music, and when the alien arrives, it turns into adrenaline-pumped battle theme.. must be seen to be appreciated!

ChamomileBaths
ChamomileBaths

Music is crucial in single-player. What's a character thinking? Music can tell you that. In multiplayer however you want to get the music out of the way. Sound effects are part of the gameplay but music is an emotional thing and multiplayer is usually no place for that.

Soul_Slasher
Soul_Slasher

"I offer up Fallout 3 as an example of a game that did not leverage music to its advantage. An excellent game, no doubt, but the soundtrack did it no favors. Its symphonic swooning and light musical accompaniment didn't fit its postapocalyptic vision." Thats what made the whole experience bizarre and damn funny. The irony og slaughtering deformed figures over cheerful music was delightful.

stratus41298
stratus41298

What the heck was wrong with Avatar's soundtrack? For better or worse, I thought it matched the movie perfectly.

TheoAlmighty
TheoAlmighty

very very true. couldnt imagine playing kingdom hearts without their great music!

Silent_Raven92
Silent_Raven92

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

thisranks
thisranks

I am a huge Rock 'n' Roll fan and i love all music in general, but i will say this: the Ar tonelico 2 soundtrack is easily one of the best collections of music i have ever heard...period...throughout ANY genre of music. The whole Ar tonelico OST collection for that matter. All i can say is in game music adds to the experience for me, and i'd be miffed if companies decided to remove soundtracks...unless they allowed for us to use music on our HDD in game. Even then i'd still stress i'd prefer the in game music. It may be non essential to some....but some doesn't equal all.

Warsilver
Warsilver

Plain and simple: music can easily make or break a game... some say to just mute it if the music isn't good but come on, we need sounds.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @Hisairness2345 I know I am late--but I am confused as to what your problem actually is with the article? If you have any actual evidence as to how this article is junk, I am happy to respond, and to hear a different point of view. I did not at all misunderstand Totilo's point, though I decided to use it as a jumping-off point to discuss the ways in which music has power. 

 

I would be interested in hearing a point of view with a specific argument as opposed to general claims of "junk" and "rambling."

Hisairness2345
Hisairness2345

 @Kevin-V  @Hisairness2345

 That's pretty sweet that you replied to my post.  TBH, I was going through an "anti-gamespot" phase at the time.  I really miss Greg Kasavin.  Anywho, when I read over the Totilo writing, it seemed like he was saying how music in games matters and that he can't fathom why anyone would want to play games on mute.

 

The only point I really disagreed with was the point about how music in World of Warcraft doesn't loop while it does in FF14.  FF14 has an amazing soundtrack...I'm sure you know, I watched your review.  I actually don't enjoy today's games as much because there's no music half the time.  Like Skyrim has an awesome soundtrack but you're mostly just walking around without it.  But Super Mario Galaxy is awesome because it has great music and you always hear it.

 

Anywho, I'm pretty much past my "anti-gamespot" phase and I think I've moved onto an "anti-IGN" phase.  I'm a lot less of a troll nowadays though lol.  Kevin I enjoy your reviews, keep it up.