The continuing evolution of gaming soundtracks

Although music has probably been with us since prehistoric times, video gaming is a more recent phenomenon. And as a result, we’ve seen video games soundtracks showing a rapid evolution as they seek to add to the excitement, and even influence the gameplay itself.

A quick look at the gaming hits of last year illustrates just how intensely games developers are thinking about how soundtracks can play a part in the overall feel of the game.

Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment was one of last year’s biggest hits. And the epic Victory Theme Suite track that was created by in-demand producer, Neil Acree, instantly gave the game a perfect French horn-flavoured sense of bombast to accompany the superhero action.

Soundtrack producers like Neil Acree have become increasingly influential in the lucrative world of AAA gaming. And other top titles of last year like Doom and Hitman also featured incredibly powerful soundtracks thanks to the efforts of composers Mick Gordon and Niels Bye Nielsen respectively.

However, it wasn’t all about creating a grandiose feeling of drama, as Watch Dogs 2 used the acclaimed DJ producer, Hudson Mohawke, to deliver an innovative soundtrack that blended the big-screen ambitions of John Williams with the more contemporary sonics of today’s electronica.

It’s the way that many of the most successful soundtracks subtly enhance the action without annoying the player that’s critical to video game music success. The post-rock band 65daysofstatic picked up plenty of plaudits for their sprawling, yet subtle soundtrack to No Man’s Sky, and similarly, the looped soundscapes that make up the musical backing to the Betway Casino online slots games shows how music can augment the action without distracting the player.

However, it must be said that there’s also room for music soundtracks that form the central part of the gameplay action. Whilst we’re all familiar with the guilty pleasures of Guitar Hero, it’s pleasing to see that things have advanced a little with the phenomenal Thumper rhythm-violence game showing just how music can really get the adrenaline going thanks to a strong soundtrack by Lightning Bolt bassist, Brian Gibson.

So whilst gaming in the 1990s used to feature pretty basic 8-bit audio soundtracks that sounded like a broken-down ice-cream van, it’s good to see that even an online slots game in 2017 can have a thoughtful and complementary soundtrack.

— Featured photo by Flickr user canadadan, Creative Commons