Musical Landscapes

The brave bearded one amongst us got me thinking about my relationship with gaming music. I’m a big fan of it. I know many who see it as an annoyance that needs an immediate option to turn it off at the earliest possible convenience. However, I feel that the crafted gaming soundtrack can really enhance your experience, and make it more emotional and memorable. Also, you can enjoy the ambience of the fantastical world you play in, even when you’re not at your PC/Console/Gaming Device. Many hours of work or lonely commutes have been helped along by gaming soundtracks.

The first soundtrack to really grab me emotionally was the one for the SciFi MMO Anarchy Online.

The Norwegian Morten Sorlie composed the soundtrack and its remained with me ever since the game was released in 2001.

It has an airy timeless quality. Lost, lonely. In a barren desert wasteland of the future, but bubbling up through pounding drums and choral shimmers we pass through dreamlike oases of pure hope.

I can’t froth at the mouth about game music, without mentioning Dear Esther. The arty solo explorable story in a rugged haunting Hebridean landscape. The piano and cello move together in deep tones, and build up to ascending anthems of emotion. Composer Jessica Curry is simply a genius, and I can easily be moved to tears with this soundtrack. Here is my favourite “I have begun my ascent”.

My tastes are as far as they are wide, and any game is up for musical exploration. Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast was one of my first true online gaming experiences on a console, via a 56k modem, and deep into the night. The theme tune was a lullaby and a comfort blanket all in one, despite its orchestral J-popiness. A few bars of this, and I’m transported back to those heady days of pioneering online.

I could go on, sifting through my memories, and my musical uplifts. But I’ll leave you for now, with a rather obscure but heart melting track from the PC game Divine Divinity. The start of a whole series of PC based RPG’s, but one which was totally defined by this ghostly chant.

Oh sod it, you have to hear this nurturing piece of music, that isn’t part of The Secret World soundtrack, but is merely a backdrop for one of the quests in the game. You are attempting to find the source of this The Siren Song.

It sort of lures you toward it, as it should, mothering, comforting, leading you on. The best bit being its a loop, and it plays continuously whilst you’re on the quest. On a loop, it never gets old. It just soothes, over and over again. Dreamily.

Lastly I’d like to mention a podcast where you can hear artists talk about their gaming musical landscapes. Emily Reese hosts Top Score, and it is exploration of gaming music in all its forms and of the creative processes behind it. 

If you have a penchant for dramatic emotional ambient music from games, then please check it out.

Perhaps highlighting good gaming music here could become a laserbeardy thing? We’ll see.



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