I have a big flaw, I am very easy to please or amuse. I can give my attention to many things easily, or more precisely, get distracted with them. If you want to show me something or tell me a joke, most cases will be that I will enjoy it. Is not that I cannot detect when something is just plain terrible, I just can absorb the likes of almost anything. Romantic comedies, childish cartoons, some mediocre webcomics, I have a whole collection of guilty pleasures.
Going with that, an every day question like "what music do you listen to?" puzzles me at the same time I cannot find an easy answer. I listen to almost every genre without applying it to much in my personality. Classical, Rock, Electronic, I just can bear anything (well, ALMOST everything
). But naturally as a player, I also include my favorite video game tracks on my playlist. So, is my favorite genre Game music?
Yes, but it is not really a genre. It goes far beyond that.
What is exactly Game Music?
Let that one sink for a moment, what is Game music? The tracks from our favorite 16-bit system, the compositions created in very restricted mediums? There are a lot of reasons why we love this kind of tunes.
In a formal analysis, video game music is not a genre at all, however it is so easy to differ from other kinds because it does not try too hard to represent a genre at all. Video game music covers everything. Is not really about the bleeps, or about the game it is from, the joy of it in part is due to how variated it is. Back in the humble beginnings of our favorite industry, developers had the idea to set music inside their projects to set a mood in their environment. Being restricted to only three channels of audio in the NES, developers thought about somehow integrating all the already known genres inside of it. As the sound quality was insanely poor, we could only listen to how artificial it was, but still, with a little bit of imagination, a concert was set in our heads.
Let's take a very basic, and very well known example.
The Final Fantasy prelude is a very, very classical tune for all the fans of the music in video games. What does it exactly make it a masterpiece? Once again, the resources of that time were too limited to provide a highly detailed sound, but still the simplicity behind makes it unforgettable. The designers then thought of those synthetic tunes as harp chords, and they managed to get across the ears of the playerswith the same idea.
Time passed along, and SquareSoft dodged the bullet of disappearing with that game
, and is today what is known as SquareEnix. In the middle of the road to success they improved this simple melody as technology advanced as well, giving them the chance to add more instruments, a finer quality, and even voices; and yet more depth to their tracks.
Naturally, the prelude evolved as well, and is a tradition to be included in every main entry of the Final Fantasy franchise.
Something else that the prelude demonstrates is tradition. Orchestral pieces like Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Beethoven's symphonies or Mozart's melodies get endlessly remade and played in different tones, but still in the same old basic composition. It does not really remain about certain artist's guitar, or the genre it stands for, the simple structure behind is beautiful by itself, and various musicians have kept the essence behind.
The prelude means for us gamers something more than the track from some video game, as the way it is served, it also represents the beginning of something very amazing.
Why is video game music important and unique?
This is a very hard question I made to myself. Why is it that we love to listen to this all the time? In part of it, I believe it is because we can recognize the moment a track was set on. Music is designed to capture us into a mood like in movies. If the hero is in the middle of a pursuit, the music will go way upbeat filling us with adrenaline and raising our concentration. If the hero is in a peaceful place like a home village, the music will go cheerful, soothing, or reminding us that there is nothing to worry about for the moment.
This kind of music has a power to project an image on our heads about what is going on in the sequence of tunes. If the character is sneaking, brooding, running into action; or heck, forget the character. What if we are the hero? What if we take their side and start to get in action in the real world draining our fears as we do in video games? What if we can be like that brave man that prevented a nuclear war not just because he was told to do so? What if we can glare at our opponent's eyes and just do what we have to do and only fear has prevented us to take action?
I am not afraid of you now.
Playing the Other Way Around.
Funny to think, video game music was born to imitate already existing instruments, however a new concept is imitating the synthetic tunes from decades ago making our game systems a new instrument. GameBoys and NES systems are commonly modified to manipulate their three-channel sound processors obtaining the bleeping sounds from them.
Chiptunes are what could be closer to be an actual genre as they cover a general concept. New bands like I Fight Dragons, Anamanaguchi, or George & Jonathan are starting to be very popular these days, as other independent composers like Jake Kaufman a.k.a. Virt have created their own tunes without representing a video game at all.
But why do I find such harsh tunes to be pleasing? Most important to me, is the base behind these projects.
Chiptunes are not produced for merchandising it, making your father proud, or showing everyone that you are a rebel. Chiptunes were born due to the big love these artists have to the unintentional culture that gaming has brought us.Growing up with the square waves that told stories upon in some sort of digital bard made us see the beauty behind those tunes like any other guitar, piano or drum set.
Another interesting characteristic of this genre is that it does not only try to recreate the aspects from music from video games from the surface, the way several tracks are composed, they intend to bring a mental state of adrenaline, soothingness, victory or melancholy each just like in game tracks, so it does deliver an emotional state, providing even an image or setting.
It is very hard to me to use words to describe sound. I swear, I am trying way too hard right now. So it is almost impossible for me to describe the joy I feel when listening to tracks composed like this. A tiny universe is created in your mind in which you are in a pool party under the stars, riding on a shooting star, feeling like the whole answers of the universe are at your hand and closer than you think. It is not the best to listen to when you are in a study session, but it helps as an emotional tonic.
Music will always be music regardless of medium.I do not see why we should take an image behind it so deeply all the time, however I don't think i can restrict everyone from it. Music is identity as much as it is the purest concentration of joy. Eternally intriguing to our human lives be it on the best or worst times.
Video game music is not a thing, it is rock, it is classical, it is hip-hop, electronic and jazz. Video game music is made of pretty much everything.