Video Game Music

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String courtet
Henry VIII with his string quartet accompanying his gaming.

A thousand years ago, King Henry the Eighth would play video games when he wasn't romantically entangled with one of his many wives or founding the Anglican Church. Back then, video games were primitive, coarsely pixelated affairs, with only the most basic of sound effects, so King Henry VIII would have a string quartet by his side to produce background music.

About 800 years later James Clerk Maxwell invented electricity. Thomas Edison used this new innovation to come up with a means to make music play automatically while one was playing a video game. He called this an electrovideogrammophoneplaything, but modern day gamers are more familiar with the term "video game music". The first use of this new "video game music" was in Pong, but the quality was poor so many players confused the sound effects with the music, which was admittedly rather minimalist. (This would Edison's sole musical composition.)

As a response to this, video game manufacturers began having professional musicians compose the music. Unfortunately, this was when people stopped caring about video game music. This changed in the mid to late 1990s, when the quality of video games began to rival movies. As a result, video game popularity was increasing, and the industry took advantage of this fact by appealing to the movie-watching desires the masses had. As a result, games became more like movies. Annoying cut scenes (ironicly included in the final product) became prevalent. Video game music developed a Hollywood tone, and because this music was recorded on the game discs like music on cds, people were now required to play in sync to the music. People liked this because they didn't have to make decisions.

There are currently a vocal few who protest the dullification of video games, but nobody cares about them, except maybe this guy.

edit Properties of Video Game Music Before Things Got Boring

There used to be many differences between video game music and other types of music.

First, this music did not have a beginning or an end; it existed in a mobius strip in space-time. This made it almost impossible to hum from start to finish, but note that John Cage has experimented with this property by writing a score of his on the outside surface of a roll of toilet paper. (An organ in France began this piece back in 1997; it is expected to continue playing this piece until AD 23984, when scientists predict fracture will occur due to the increased diffusion of carbon into the steel of the organ pipes, making the pipes take on the brittle properties one would expect from cast iron.)

Scientists have found numerous uses for the mobius-strip-like quality of game music. For example, a team in Switzerland has found that piping the music of Sonic the Hedgehog into a hedgehog cage gives them the power to move at very high speeds (one might even say "sonic" speeds.)

Second, this music did not use instruments in the sense that normal people would define instruments. Archaeologist Edgar Brenner has said, "Let's face it, those beeps and boops are primitive to the point of being cavemannish."

Third, it should be noted that video game music, unlike other forms of music, exhibited interactivity, which can be divided into three kinds:

  • Diegetic - music played in the world of the game, i.e. your Katamari ball rolls over an orchestra and a cacophony results
  • Non-Diegetic - music you hear that characters in the game don't hear, i.e. the music to Super Mario Land. (Note: One might assume incorrectly that the music in Sonic the Hedgehog is non-diegetic, but if one is patient, one will see Sonic tap his foot to the music.)
  • Russian Reversal - In Soviet Russia you play game music.

edit Video Game Music Criticism

With the growth of video game music comes a corresponding growth in video game music criticism. Or so one would assume. Currently the sole piece of VGM criticism is the following from Roger Ebert:

“I am drunk and I think video game 'music', if you can call it that, can eat shit!!!!”
~ Roger Ebert on The subject at hand

(Note: The above is the spell-checked version of the quote.)

edit Now for the Important Part

Does anyone know where I can find the music for Super Mario Land for the NES? I've been searching for years now but I can't find this music anywhere on the internet, so I was wondering if you knew where I could find it. Thanks.

edit Notable Game Soundtracks

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