Reality Check - Why Do We Love Video Game Music?

Cam teams up with violinist extraordinaire Lindsey Stirling to investigate why we all love classic video game tunes.

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About Reality Check

Flex those mental muscles and join Cam Robinson on a journey of discovery in Reality Check, the show that investigates the science behind your favourite games, and spawns a few wild theories of its own.

Schedule: Thursdays at 12pm PT

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517 comments
natanmir
natanmir

what is the name of the music in the intro and outro?

ESPM400
ESPM400

I disagree a little bit, although the 'Mere Exposure Effect' is something I definitely agree with, my great affinity for video game music comes from the fact that as a musician, video game music is simply the most fun to play. I haven't had a piano/keyboard in years (I couldn't afford a decent one that felt like a piano, and the one I eventually bought died about a week after the warranty expired), but Battle with Gilgamesh from FFV is honestly the song I've had the most fun playing. On the familiarity note, some of my favorite OSTs come from video games that I've never played. Honestly, some of the best remixes I've ever heard are from username 'Songe' on YouTube, and are from games I never played. Familiarity is definitely a factor; my favorite composer is Keiko Kobayashi from the Ace Combat series, which I loved, and there's a electronic remix of Tetris music A that I find fantastic, but there's a certain 'x-factor' to video game music and - to a certain extent - some movie OSTs (I can't put my finger on it) that just makes them more enjoyable.

Zloth2
Zloth2

Definitely true but it's not limited to just the good times you had as a kid.  It IS possible to have fun as an adult, you know!

karloss01
karloss01

16 bit Sonic (and other sega games) Little Big Adventure, Doom, Resident Evil 3, Perfect Dark, Timesplitters and Halo get my nostalgia going the best as they are games that I played with friends and with my dad and sister (my mum's not good at them).

philace9
philace9

 Sonic 3&Knuckles Mega man X4 Adventure of Batman and Robin (genies) Zone of the enders, Kingdom Harts, Final fantasy 7, Sparkster Rocket knights II, Ducktails re-measured, paper mario, MVC, DBZ burst limit, Chip & Dale  (NES), The simpsons (arcade) 

Joesocwork
Joesocwork

I'm a social worker and I am really enjoying these mini psychology lessons! 8)

kalgert
kalgert

You know...If Lindsey Stirling wasn't hanging around, I would watch this episode..But since she is yapping her gob, I will give it a pass...

Think I am crazy to dislike her? I will give you a reason: I kinda dislike her for some reason, I wasn't really impressed by one of her musical bits, her appearance kind of affects me psychologically (In the sense that it makes my Aspergers click a little, her looking like a teenager and all that) and well...Her voice isn't impressing me either

So there's my reason to not like her, now feed your dark desires upon my textual ramblings!

bfa1509
bfa1509

I watched this video hoping to be hauled down to nostalgia town. I heard 4 songs: Zelda, pokemon, mario and sonic. This is not enough to take me to nostalgia town.

SurfaceNerd
SurfaceNerd

i am a nuclear physicist with background in pyschological engineering and what he said is true

brinxster
brinxster

Great episode. Lately I've been listening to more video game music covers online. They really can be quite emotional. 

solid_snake1461
solid_snake1461

Doesn't seem to be a good episode to me. Because it simply mention the effect of music in general on people. It didn't touch the core part of the matter: video game music! Honest speaking, the first few parts of the series are quite good, but it has become very vague lately.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@solid_snake1461

Egads, there are still people like you using preference for Call of Duty as a form of degradation. How cliched of you.

solid_snake1461
solid_snake1461

If you have a counter point, say it, I'll be happy to have a constructive debate. Otherwise, I have no interest in replying to your pointless nonsense.

proceeder
proceeder

yeah, "you missed something"!

you didn't mention Metal Gear!

Tiwill44
Tiwill44

It's often a major part of the experience, at least for me. All my top favorite games seem to have catchy, memorable music. Sometimes I wonder if, for some obscure reason, games didn't have music in them at all, I wonder if I would be as much of a gamer as I am today. Honestly, probably not.

I guess that's why most modern games (triple-A stuff, big budget games) don't have as much of an impact on me, because for the most part, they use orchestral music and it's usually not memorable at all. Almost makes some games feel like chores at times.

ExtremeBanana
ExtremeBanana

Why does the right side of Cam's lips open at the end of each word? This has been bugging me for a while.

shantd
shantd

As a composer and a big fan of these shows by Cam, this was obviously a very welcome topic. Gotta say though, not a lot of meat & potatoes here. Most of the info in this segment was common sense. All of it really.

JVjefke
JVjefke

@shantd Most of his videos are but it gives me an excuse to stand still on these topics for a moment an think about it instead of taking them for granted. I think that's realy fun.

Sn0wGl0be
Sn0wGl0be

VG Music is some of the best. Far too underrated. 

natanmir
natanmir

no comments about Lindsey stirling! what you never heard of her? if you didn't, hit Youtube what are you waiting for?!

natanmir
natanmir

hahaha Lindsey! <3 wow welcome to gamespot! ^_^ i love stirling so much! her music is a masterpiece!

GrahamZ
GrahamZ

Am I the only one who actually DOES NOT love Video game music then?  There are only a few exceptions, but in general, I find it incredibly inane and repetitive.  I nearly always have to turn the sound or music off in games and use my only tunes to entertain myself in games.  Some notable exceptions are games like Civ 5, Skyrim, and Fallout 3.  Then again, I'm an older gamer with different musical tastes.

GYTISLEE
GYTISLEE

@AggrandizedUser @GrahamZ normal.then some battle beggins on rpg and you need to get a lot of xp music can kill your ears.but somethow i just ignored it like the ears get ability to ignore it....

stev69
stev69

@GrahamZ I don't either, usually the first thing I do is turn it off.

RPG_Fan_I_Am
RPG_Fan_I_Am

@GrahamZ Wow...you only like newer games music... It's not even as good as the old stuff. and I'm not talking about mario or sonic either. I'm talking about when the video game companies got actually orchestras to play music on the PS1 days. Or the more advanced music days of the sega and super nintendo. Can't say the original nintendo offered much in good music though. Thats just nostalgia talking if someone actually enjoys it today.

GrahamZ
GrahamZ

@RPG_Fan_I_Am @GrahamZ I've never owned a console other than an off-brand Pong (and my dad really was the only one who liked it).  Did have an Intellivision at our coffee house in college that I dabbled with but I really never liked arcadish games.

radikel
radikel

@GrahamZ 

probably the exposure effect!!! You never really gave the old stuff a try or played the game with the music on, and instinctively turned it off. granted they were a bit repetitive, but its not only for the music per se, its also the association of that tune with the game, which is what this show talks about. The association of that tune with happy memories!!!

You probably started giving the new games' music a try like you mentioned and played it during the game, hence your assessment.

Awesome show!!!!

loafofgame
loafofgame

@GrahamZ Judging by the scores you listed (assuming that you mean Inon Zur's music when you mention Fallout 3), I'd say you enjoy the more linear (epic) orchestral pieces without (a big emphasis on) electronically generated sounds. I think one of the main problems with contemporary game music is that it is used too much and that it emphasises the importance of being dynamic too much. In a lot of games the music plays constantly and can therefore lead to listener fatigue very quickly, because of constant repetition (there is always way too little hours of music compared to the time spent playing a video game). 

In addition, video game music  is itself often repetitive, in order to make smooth transitions between different events en moods that are triggered by the player. There appears to be a tendency among developers to think that using linear music and more abrupt transitions between musical sections (through hard cuts and quick fade-overs) breaks player immersion more easily than using smoother techniques like vertical orchestration and horizontal sequencing (which often result in repetitiveness). But a lack of immersive qualities in one aspect of a video game can be compensated by other aspects (like visuals, controls, narrative, etc.). The brain can only focus on so much things at the same time. So I don't think using more linear music, which is often more interesting and more emotional, is a problem.

Anyway, I think there's still a lot of game music for you to enjoy, especially from the time that cd-roms were introduced (which lead to much more available storage space for music) and the first orchestral pieces started to appear. This music was often completely linear, because the possibilites to make music react to the player's actions were very limited. Also, keep looking in the RTS and TBS department, because using linear music is often less 'problematic' there.

GrahamZ
GrahamZ

@loafofgame @GrahamZ I think you are right about a lot of this.  I tend to not like electronic music that much -- I mean there's some that's ok, but mostly I prefer real instruments.  And when I was mentioning Fallout 3, I was mostly referring to the radio station music, the actual old-timey songs.  Even though they are kind of before my time, and they could become just as repetitive (because of the limitations of having a fixed menu to choose from), but It was something I could listen to (until I couldn't lol).  There were some cool mods that added to the soundtracks, and I liked some of those.  Although I have to admit that Bethesda's choices tended to be a bit better.  They did add variety.

In other words, I'd rather listen to a song,of fixed length that fits the mood or setting, than something that seems to go on and on.  And I'd rather hear actual instruments, even human voices, and so on.

Btw, while I don't have any real musical talent other than a good ear (or so I've been told), I do come from a musical family.  My mom was a professional singer, guitarist and dancer, and has tought voice, folk guitar and dance, has performed in nightclubs and Carnegie Hall, competed in ballroom dancing competitions (only time I remember seeing her compete, she won), regularly played lead roles in community theater, and sang opera on the radio (when she was a teenager).  I grew up listening to a wide variety of music, everything from classical to opera to folk to show music.  I don't have the same taste in music as she does, but it certainly has influenced my preferences.

GrillePainMAN
GrillePainMAN

What an awsome show Cam! Congrtulations! One of my fav over the entire web! Keep up the amazing work :D

viche4
viche4

Okay, I think Cam came really close to saying this, but there are a couple of additional, incredibly obvious reasons for why we love game music, and they tie into the familiarity factor. First in no other medium do we listing the SAME BASIC TUNES over and over again for hours and hours on end. That's probably why we love the older more simple tunes. I can't whistle even a single note, off the top of my head, from the soundtrack of any game produced in the last 10 years. They are just too complex. I may recognize main themes when I hear them, but I can't, let's say, start whistling Gears of War, Uncharted, or Heavy Rain. At the same time, I CAN whistle the tunes from Zelda and Mario from 30ish years ago. The same simple themes repeat over and over and over during those games. It also helps that we have these themes reinforced through their repetition in TV shows, videos, and new releases just about all the time.

So, simple, repeated melodies, that are constantly reinforced. Huge factor. It helps that the music and games are good, of course.

farmerjbm
farmerjbm

nabuo uematsu has really been important to me. Once I failed a really easy subject and was full of doubt- the next course was neurology... and well it was a real bear. You know, I can't figure out if it was because I loved FF as a kid or listened to its music through so many tough times during/since but when I am really challenged this music means so much. Thanks for the video Cam; I was arrogant enough to think I was alone on my nerd island.

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

Nobuo Uematsu*

Without him, ff7 would not be the first and only game in history to bring a tear to my eye. 

*SPOILER ALERT!*

aerith's demise was nothing short of perfect. one of the key characters being killed off was like taking a knife in the back, and the sad piano theme accompanying their death twisted the knife for me.

bielzabob
bielzabob

Now Cam, was this just an excuse to talk to a pretty lady? if yes... fair play!

NoAngle
NoAngle

Tetris - Prince of Persia WW - BattleField - Skyrim - Age of Conan - PWI - Duke Nuk'em

all have great music.


Great show.

tenakakhan
tenakakhan

In truth, this is one of the first Reality Check vids that I felt truly hit the potential for the show. Some previous topics have been a bit forced, but this was interesting! I listen to game music all the time, Skyrim OST is on as I type. For me it's calming - a way to take a slice of my own little world with me wherever I go. I have previously suffered from anxiety issues, and game music was a key calming trigger for me.

RoadStar1602
RoadStar1602

You always comes up with the most interesting topics for his segment. Thumbs up!

As for you shirt...I'm willing to bet you've never seen a baseball game in your life.

tchanah
tchanah

One of the best shows on GS. Always love it! 

willzihang
willzihang

It's reading into it too much as far as I see it. All of the amazing game songs I remember from my past weren't occurring at the same time as noteworthy events in my life; I remember them simply because I played and loved them. It's very much - on nostalgia terms - loving things like Labyrinth, and in particular, the soundtrack. As a youngster, one tends to like things with a rather high degree of enthusiasm.

I was just listening to Barber's Adagio, as someone mentioned Homeworld, it brings me to tears not because it reminds me of past events: but simply because it is such a beautiful piece of music.

farmerjbm
farmerjbm

@willzihang Homeworld- adagio for strings by quire of voyces. Still remember kharak going down and the urgency I felt to save every cryotube

willzihang
willzihang

It's because the music was very much its own thing back then, it was game music thick and through. Nowadays games try hard to be cinematic - like a cheap Hollywood flick - and the music represents that. It builds that unique game atmosphere, the immersion that is particular to games. 

It's not totally lost: Skyrim's theme is pretty much a game theme,  it wouldn't really work in a film. Listen to the amazing 8-bit version of it on Youtube and it fits right in with old-school RPG games, like Ultima. FTL also has a fantastic old style game theme. Just anything by Rob Hubbard.


Some of my personal favourites are:

Last Ninja 3 central park C64, Battle Valley title C64, Delta title C64, Space Crusade title Amiga, Brian the Lion Jungle Amiga, Zoids C64, Shadow of the Beast (when you go in the tree for the first time) multiplats.

Bigfatlardygit
Bigfatlardygit

I still walk around with the Skyrim ambient music playing in my head...

farmerjbm
farmerjbm

@Bigfatlardygit How old are you? I ask because I really think there must be something to being younger. It sucks because I recognize skyrim as having a fantastic, even superior, score but I just don't feel anywhere close to the affection that I do for the music of the games I played 10-16