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Hellbender avatar 12:33 PM on 09.06.2011  (server time)
5 Songs For 5 Games: This Changes Everything.

The power of videogames lies in in its interactivity. The ability to interact with the media in front of you, instead of just sitting idly by, is what makes playing the things so damn entertaining. Having control over your entertainment creates not only an empowering experience, but a memorable one as well. So why not make it more memorable? Why not interact with your game even more?

People do this all the time, by way of mods. Tell me that the maker of Mr. Mochi did not feel a more personal connection to Oblivion. Tell me you didn't feel a more personal connection to that game after watching that video. But let's be honest: Modding is not for the faint of heart. That shit is hard. But there are certain things the layman can do to make his gaming experience that much more personal, i.e., changing the music.

Music helps inject emotion into a game. They're audio cues to let you know when to cry, when to be surprised, or when it's time to just plain ol' kick ass. But a person can increase their relationship to a game exponentially if they can tie their memories evoked by their favorite songs into those of their favorite games. This is especially true of games with licensed tracks. Why listen to shitty music that some executive bought because "the kids'll be into it", when you can play games with music that means something to you?

Granted, some games need the music specifically created for it for maximum impact. but these five games don't, and with new music, you can amplify or even outright change the feeling and tone conveyed by the game.

1) Dirt/Dog Day Nights

Dirt 3 is a dirty game. Tires fling mud and filth across windshields and against all over cars. Shrapnel and shards of metal careen across the track after hurling yourself into a tree at 80 miles an hour. But making it through a hairpin turn while your rear wheels spin out on the grass off the track feels sooo sweet. So what better to watch that replay of you torquing through that turn in your mudslinging Ford Fiesta than a song that's equally dirty?

"Dog Day Nights" is deliciously barebones, with only handclaps, drums and a filthy, filthy guitar tone to accompany his gravelly voice. Really, that's all you need when all is there is a car and a track. And that production, oh that production! So cheap! So gritty! The rough and rolling song fills your head with visions of careening through dirt tracks with plumes of dust trailing behind you. A perfect accompaniment to the best rally game money can buy.

2) Fallout/ Kind Hearted Woman Blues

This was a hard choice. As Fallout games are huge, sprawling, behemoths of interactive media, many songs can fit in its post-apocalyptic world. So, among choices of Modest Mouse, Johnny Cash, Pinback and many others, Robert Johnson's classic "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" rose to the top of the list. The song, a classic from the thirties about unfaithful woman, showcases multiple themes similar to those in the Fallout games.

But most of all, loneliness and resignation permeate both the game and the song. Beneath Fallout's spiky exterior, what with the cynical ghouls and such, lies a layer of melancholy that the player can feel in every inch of the game. The song encapsulates that feeling in particular, as Johnson's voice and guitar just sort of meander around a crackly soundscape that slides in well with Fallout's neo-retro aesthetic.

Fallout and Robert Johnson share the same message; People don't really live. They just get by, like they're saying "Yeah, the world had gone and blown itself up, but we're still here; what are we supposed to do except keep on living?"

3) Grand Theft Auto/April 29, 1992

No, guys, I promise this combo works. Think about it. A song about people, disenfranchised, forgotten, and unable to change their station in life through legal means, taking to the streets in frustration. Images of police brutality and violence. Corruption rampant. Sounds a lot like a certain game, no? Plus, a groovy, laid back song like this kicks ass while blowing up cars and shooting police officers.

4) Gears of War/8:08

[Editor's Note: Apologies that the video linked to this article is a bad live recording, but go listen to the album version if you can. It. Is. So. Good.]

do you remember those Gears of War commercials that hyped the game to astronomical proportions? Remember how the game was actually nothing like that? This song changes that, as well as adds one more dimension to the game: femininity.

Gears of War has always a story of hopelessness, and it has tried to make that apparent in the game. Too bad that it gets buried under giant, lumbering bodies and an adolescently masculine, "Oorah!" attitude. "8:08" carries over that theme of hopelessness and sadness and brings it to the forefront of the game. The song gives the game a softness, reminding the player that in spite of everything, humanity is what is at stake All of a sudden, the player remembers that the game is not just about jacked convicts shooting the snot out of some aliens. It's about just surviving. If you fail, then it is the end of everything.

5) Battlefield/Cobracoustic

It's a war game. It's got soldiers. It's got guns. You know what comes with soldiers and guns. But what happens when you play an acoustic song in the background extolling warnings about the follies of war? Now, the game feels more like Flags of our Fathers than Modern Warfare. It highlights the moral ambiguity of what you're fighting for, even if it is a game. It keeps those guys (what are they, anyway? terrorists? Rebels?) from being so faceless, instead reminding the player that those are people. Why this question has never really been asked in a game before is beyond me, but at least we have the ability to do it for ourselves.

So there you have it. Five songs for five games, in some way changing the experience and making it more personal. What about you guys? Does anyone else choose their music to change the game?

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