Will music and gaming ever be a match?

Despite constant efforts, there is still yet to be established a perfect synchronisity between music and player controlled gaming. Gaming music currently is totally reactionary, dependent on the the unpredictable decision making of the player. It seems therefore that as users are given increasing technological freedom within gaming, a truly interactive music score which incorporates excitement and relevance will be unattainable.

This issue has developed as the player assumes the role over a character’s action in the world, limiting the narrative methods that gaming produces can use to tell a story, and by extension, the music which can aid in the story telling (Abraham 2011). As such, game produces are left with the choice between forcing ‘the music to fit the action, or the action to fit the music’ (Abraham 2011, p. 65). Either priority has consequences, however production teams continue to prioritise the action, leaving music production in gaming stagnant in improvements.

The challenge for game producers is to make the environment as realistic as possible.

Music in its own subtle way, contributes to the gaming environment, a complex message system which allows the host to control how the user thinks, feels and behaves (Islas 2016). Ignoring the importance of music in gaming alters the playing experience, and ultimately restricts any game from achieving high level complexity, making the game feel so real in mirrors the real word. When the medium prolongs a physical or mental decision, the surrounding environment becomes obsolete, making the player far less responsive to the concept of the game.

The differing responsibilities of music within certain games also impact the likelihood of a producer establishing synchronisation between music and game content. First player shooter (FPS) games have a responsibility to create an environment in which music responds to changing danger levels within the game (Thomas 2004). Music synchronisation is made near impossible in FPS gaming as the endless supply of variables available to the gamer enhances complexity in the plot. Role playing games by contrast have soundtracks which accompany complex plot lines, this programming means there is very little chance for interactive music (Thomas 2004). With producers quickly realising the difficulty of music and content synchronisation, focus should perhaps shift to alternative music structures. Surround sound and 3D audio positioning have the ability to transform the playing experience from beyond what is cast on the screen. Such alternative measures could also ensure the marriage between music and gaming becomes far more consistent, and not just occasional ‘happy accidents of synchronisation’ (Abraham 2011, p. 64).

In game music will always struggle to progress as fast as in game complexities, as the user demands more realistic experiences. The producer cannot, however, forget the importance of sound in the creation of technological environments.

Reference List: 

Abraham, B. 2011, ‘Halo and Music’, in L. Cuddy (ed.), Halo and Philosophy, Open Court Publishing, Chicago, pp. 61-70.

Islas, O. 2016, ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), the foundations of Marshall McLuhan’s tetrad’, Explorations in Media Ecology, vol. 15, no.1, pp. 81-91.

Thomas, M. 2004, ‘Music in Video Games’, International Journal of Urban Labour and Leisure, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 1-20.

Image References: 

James, D. c. 2014, The Most Realistic Video Games, The Game Inquirer, viewed 30 August, <http://thegameinquirer.com/realistic-video-games/ >.

Richardson, P. 2007, Music Video Games…Beyond Fun and Games, MetLab, viewed 30 August 2016, <http://music.ece.drexel.edu/research/musicgames >.

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