Gamer Grooves: A Retrospective on great Video Game Music by Alex McVeigh

Gamer Grooves

Video Game Music and Me: Intro

Ah, video game music. Video game music (or VGM) goes back with me as far as I can remember. Since I was young, the soundtrack of a good video game was like a story written for me, and even if the games my brothers and I played lacked dialogue, it wouldn’t have mattered. The songs and themes the composers wrote told me important things: when things were going well, when things were about to go wrong, who was your friend, and who was your enemy. Was the game over or has your journey just begun? As I’ve grown older, instead of becoming more jaded towards music, I became more interested. I have come to appreciate the work of composers of which I had once been barely aware.

Oftentimes, music is an underscore, meant to be played under whatever you are doing at the time. Underscores are designed to manipulate your emotions without you ever noticing it’s there. Take this song from Minecraft for example:

Calm1 is one of the first songs you’re likely to hear in Minecraft. If you’ve played the game and had the music on loud enough to hear it, you’ll recognize it. The piano that plays does so softly to let you know that you’re in a safe place. The Minecraft soundtrack is a lot like this in general, and plenty of players (including myself) have sat back just to listen. The music doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to get your emotions in the right direction.

On the flipside, there are songs on soundtracks that are meant to jump out at you, be as loud and jarring as possible to unnerve you or cause you stress. It will amp up either your concentration or your fear:

This song is from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and if you’ve played through this part, you’ll know what I mean. Now compare it to this song that plays while the guardians are not awake:

You could understand why this song might cause some alarm to players of the game. The pounding metal sounds make you feel like you’ve stepped from something nice and calm into something loud and frantic; giving you the feeling that you are not welcome, that these creatures are out to remove you one way or another. If I had just told you that there were creatures that were chasing you, you could likely paint your own pictures of them in your head, possibly scarier than the actual creatures. The music isn’t really complex, similar to the music from Minecraft, but it doesn’t need many moving parts to get you (and by proxy your character) into action.

Those two songs are merely examples. Plenty of songs that I will mention in the days ahead will bring us on similar auditory journey, and there could easily be more that I have never heard. Now for the mission statement and outline for this little project.

A ‘Brief’ Guideline:

These posts throughout November represent my feelings towards certain songs within certain games. Each day will represent a game of my choosing and the songs within it that struck me the most. My claims are subjective, of course, and should be taken as such. A couple of things to note:

  • No post is made the same. Each one could be a different length with a different amount of songs selected.
  • There is about a 95% chance that my posts will be riddled with spoilers for games that I am posting about. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it at the beginning every time and hopefully it will be common sense. If I’m going to talk about how a game made me feel, I’m likely going to reflect on the situation that made me feel it to begin with.
  • Not every post will be focused on a game. I might choose to focus on a composer or maybe even a genre.
  • I can’t make any promises towards how many times a game within a type of series (Zelda, Metal Gear Solid) or any of its spinoffs will show up. I will try to vary it so as not to make it the ‘Mario Music and Me’ write-up, but as I said before, I’m limited to what I know, and it wouldn’t be right of me to talk about games I haven’t played.
  • The same thing that goes for company and genre. JRPGs have very memorable soundtracks because they had to. You do a lot of wandering around and talking (or fighting) so the songs have to stick in your head and you have to like them being there. Many shooting games might have good soundtracks, but the underscoring might not have stayed with me.
  • And the most important, I repeat, MOST IMPORTANT, part about these posts is that this is all my OPINION. I don’t claim that anyone’s taste in music is superior to another’s; we all like what we like and that’s what makes people diverse and great. If we share an opinion, then that’s cool and I’d love to discuss it. If you disagree, I’m sure we can discuss that, too! Regardless, I can’t wait to hear everyone’s opinions in the comments!

I hope that whoever reads these posts enjoy them and enjoys how my brain interprets VGM. I look forward to any feedback in the days ahead and I hope everyone learns something new. Even me.


About Alex McVeigh 28 Articles
Alex has been a nerd for as long as he can remember. Every normal conversation he has had could be matched 1 for 1 with a conversation about why Scrooge McDuck is obviously richer than Edward Cullens' Dad and here's why. He can talk about and play video games for hours only to conclude with "anyone wanna play some magic?