Friday, 6 March 2009

Play a tune for me why don’t you?

Sound is an important part of any entertainment form since it allows more senses to be stimulated at the same time. When playing games, atmosphere is built using imagery, lighting and most importantly sound. Sound allows the player to know what is going on in the game, what is to come and allows for immersion into the virtual world.

Imagine playing a survival horror such as Resident Evil to the sound of circus music. The scary, tense feeling will disappear and the player’s gameplay will change to them feeling more over-confident about taking on enemies, doing so in a comical manner. With most games, music can be a presentiment for what is to come. In areas where enemies and fighting occurs, music changes to a more intense and adrenaline fueled style. This informs the player that they need to get ready and be careful. In safe areas, music changes to a soft melodic or less tense tone providing the player with the sense of safety. Some games have changed the way music is provided by constantly throwing the player in a false state of security to heighten frightful moments since the player does not know if there really is an enemy coming or if it really is safe.

Sound also plays a key feature to music games since without sound the genre wouldn’t exist. Music games use present media to excel the experience since most people like to impersonate their favorite music artists and would like to sing along to current or popular songs. Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Singstar all use existing songs from professional artists for players to sing and play along to. They work well in both selling songs and allowing for constant entertainment all using sound as the primary form. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are similar in style and game systems but the only way one can be better than the other is from the selection of songs available. This sets the bar for musical artists since they can profit from advertising their songs on the best game.

Martin O’Donnell, Kenji Yamamoto, Toru Minegishi and Koji Kondo are some of the well-known composers in the gaming industry. Kenji Yamamoto worked on the Metroid Prime series as well as contributing to Super Smash Brawl. The music in Metroid Prime is some of my personal favorites; it allowed me to be immersed on Tallon IV. The atmospheric and calming music in Phendrana Drifts (tundra) especially allowed me to enjoy the frozen wasteland even more, to the point at which I went there after battles just to look around and listen to the ambience and soft music. Toru Minegishi and Koji Kondo have worked on several titles also including contributing to Super Smash Brawl. The work I prefer has to be from the Legend of Zelda series. Again as with Metroid, the music in Zelda games has always made me revisit certain areas within the game just to feel how the music intended you to feel. Zora’s Domain, Hyrule, Kokiri’s Forest, and Goron City have to be some of the most amazing places in Ocarina of Time. Each place had its own individual musical style that made it fun and interesting. All the locations in Zelda never get boring and will always bring back memories. Martin O’Donnell is the man responsible for the music in Halo. Halo has large worlds and environments each filled excitement, fear and activity. With so much going on, the music balances the scenarios, injects emotion and above all is able to magnify the beautiful landscapes. Each moment of battle makes the player feel like a war machine able to fight any enemy (including scarabs) all down to the right balance of music. Martin O’ Donnell worked with some famous artists such as Incubus and Breaking Benjamin who provided their own individual styles to help push the game forward.

When talking about music in games, my personal favourite above all has to be from Zelda. Reason, the music in the game is a good balance of modern music in games mixed with a retro feel to it. The music never gets boring and makes the player feel like young Link. Towns and Cities are filled with happy music that gets ingrained into your subconscious only to make you hum the tune for the rest of the day. The best bit of the game involves the use of the Ocarina. Learning the songs and playing them on the ocarina makes the music aspect of the game even more rewarding. I loved remembering how to play songs such as Epona’s song, Saria’s song and Zelda’s Lullaby by humming the tune and miming the button orientation. The saddest possibly thing I have ever done however, has to be learning how to play all the Zelda Songs on a real ocarina just hoping to see Epona appear out of no-where (Still waiting for the day that happens, then we’ll see who’s laughing then...I’ll have a free horse). As for influential recordings, I believe that there can’t be one definitive recording since people have varied taste in music but it is up to an individual to decide their own.

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