Flash of Steel header image 2

Why I am a philistine

September 22nd, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

Right up there with “Scariest game?” and “Worst Ending?”, “Favorite Game Music” is a perennial topic on game forums the world over. And it is one of the many topics on which I have no firm opinions. I am probably one of the few serious gamers who doesn’t care about music in a game.

Yeah, they have real composers now. Some of the stuff may be quite nice at setting an atmosphere – especially in role playing games. But most of the time it isn’t. And there is usually nothing memorable about music in strategy games.

Not that they don’t try. It’s just that it all sounds the same to me. There is either an overly bombastic classical score (like the Paradox games) or poorly written mood music that loops over and over again (check any RTS).

What passes for music in many games is, fact, a series of sound cues. “Here is where you feel excited!” “Here is where you triumph!”. It’s like those organ players at stadiums who tell you when to cheer. This isn’t different from any soundtrack, of course, but it would help if the musical cues were more creative or interesting than the random tunes I can find on the Internet or my CD shelf. I know people who listen to game music as music; I mostly turn it down or off and put in what I want to listen to.

When I play Children of the Nile, I’d much rather have Aida in the background. Random Broadway tunes beat most sci-fi strategy music, almost all of which is some pseudo-techno synth music with Star Trek sounds. I can’t think of any occasion in which the score to Total War is better than Spirit of the West or The Tragically Hip.

All this makes me somewhat less than human, I suspect. Music is the food of love and all that jazz. And I’m sorry that the efforts of the game composers is lost on me. But if I can’t turn your music off, your game will have one more hurdle to overcome with me.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Astarte

    Nah, you’re perfectly normal. I always turn the game music down within an hour of starting a new game.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Either perfectly normal or we’re both crazy.

  • Thomas

    You’re both nuts.

  • Classic Game Music Chosen for You

    […] written before about my general barbarism when it comes to game music. I could probably come up with an alternate rock/folk/showtune soundtrack for any game that would […]

  • Krupo

    How’s this for the height of irony? While writing a music exam on 20th century modern stuff, I had to write a definition of MIDI and provide examples.

    Rather than use the textbook example of MIDI music, I cited the soundtracks to Ultima VII and Falcon 3.0.

    When I got my exam back, I saw marks on the paper indicating that my response was sent “upstairs” for arbirtation and review (i.e., figure out what the hell I was talking about), but in the end I got full marks.

    One of my happiest pedagogical moments.

    The Falcon 3.0 MIDIs were pretty good.

    Original C&C was also not bad for an RTS. I can’t say they’ve kept to its level since.

    I don’t mind the TW music though – the bombastic battle loading screen music is just what the doctor ordered.

    I’ll agree with you on many other games though. ;)