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Genese Davis: Musical Gaming

Column By Genese Davis on August 15, 2013

Two decades ago, game designers had to focus their limited processing power on visual interaction, and since most music was on analog storage devices such as cassettes and records, designers added audio sparingly. Today’s technology has removed those restrictions with special processing units for sound and musical effects, and the evolution in video game music has continued to create worldwide followings.

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Whether in an MMO or FPS, an action/adventure or strategic puzzle, video game music has influenced musicians and vice versa for decades, dating back as early as the 1970’s pioneering group Yellow Magic Orchestra. And events like Video Games Live is just one example demonstrating how influential video game music has become all over the world.

It is interesting then to look at why changing a video game’s stock music while gaming has also become popular. For example, while playing your favorite MMO, what do you set your sound settings to? While asking various players their routine, some said they always play with the game’s originally composed scores, while others play with their game sounds always off, and instead listen to their own iTunes playlists or play movies and TV in the background. Others answered that it depends on what’s going on in-game—if they’re exploring, they leave the game’s music on, but during a PVP match they pump up the rock. FPS players had similar answers and said that they often set their console to play their personal playlist if the music for that particular game isn’t exciting enough.

Video game designing is evolving in ways to allow more and more player control like in EverQuest Next. Disney Interactive and Harmonix recently announced that industry composer Inon Zur is creating original music for the upcoming Xbox game Fantasia: Music Evolved. A game designed to emphasize creative control where players can manipulate popular music.

What would happen if you could manipulate your MMO music, similar to the “Build it, Break it, Make it,” theme in EQNext Landmark? This direction may become more and more viable seeing how players become stakeholders in every part of the game’s evolution, and customization allows players to explore their creativity.

Of course, great composers are great for a reason, and their music is almost incomparable, so I’d hate to touch their masterpieces. I play MMOs with the original music because to me it is very pleasing, diverse, and keeps me immersed in the world. Video game music has proven to be memorable as probably all of us can hum the tunes to our favorite games.

Video game composers share a common goal to create a seamless and profound gaming experience through music. Their work inspires and connects us to places beyond everyday life.

Tell us about your musical gaming habits. Do you listen to the original game’s music, or play your own tunes? What would you do if you could manipulate the original music in MMOs? Would you leave it or tweak it?

P.S. Let’s connect: Find me at GeneseDavis.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Until then remember: write at night, game hard, and lark your life. <3

Every week, Holder’s Dominion author Genese Davis opines about MMO gaming, the issues the genre faces, and the power of shaping online worlds.


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