How Game Music is Unique


The perfect blend of visuals and gameplay is never complete without a captivating soundtrack. We all know this. From Mario’s theme song to the swelling music of Skyrim to the punchy tunes in Doom, music plays an important and integral part in defining the gaming experience. That’s right. Gaming music goes far beyond just background noise; it’s a powerful tool in building atmosphere, marking action, telling stories and creating memorable identities. Let’s take a look at how video game music stands out from other types of music and musical scoring.


Diverse Styles

It goes without saying that music in games comes in a vast array of styles. From orchestral scores to electronic rhythms to pop music to chiptune, games all build their scores based on a variety of different musical aesthetics. Composers often blend and play with these different styles in order to build different worlds, reference different moods and create the unique feel of the game in question.


Beyond Just Loops

One of the largest features which differentiate game music, is that lots of game music is designed to play without being a specific length. For example, a film score for a 3 minute scene will only need to be scored for 3 minutes—that scene is never going to be any longer or shorter. But for a game level, one player might finish it in 1 minute, while another might be exploring it for 15. This introduces a unique challenge for composers to create flexible compositions which call loop, transition or develop depending on the player. But that doesn’t just mean creating a song which loops—it’s more complex than that. The best video game scores will be built of a variety of interactive “stems” (or musical parts) which can be turned on or off depending on in-game cues—allowing for things like seamless musical transitions when the game state changes.


Music and Player

Game scores often use the player’s actions or state as a key way of influencing the score. For example, in games like Journey or Metal: Hellsinger the music can be directly influenced by what the player does—based on things like proximity, moving to the beat and more. This interactivity allows composers to be very creative, increasing the potential affect of their scores by connecting music directly to player activity.


Emergent Melodies

Going a step further beyond the interaction between the player or the game’s systems and the music is another style of video game music called “emergent” music. This is music which isn’t pre-composed but is instead generated in real-time directly based on the player’s action, decision, or the game state. Games like Minecraft and No Man’s Sky use procedural music generation to create unique scores to keep things fresh for players. The emergent music is a form of music truly unique to games, facilitated by their interactivity. The systems required to create effective emergent music is often incredibly complex, requiring specialist composers.


Technical Challenges and Creative Solution

While game music offers a whole host of new opportunities for composers, game music has a number of technical challenges and limitations which can be tricky to master.

We’ve already covered a number of these challenges: in creating dynamic scores which react to player or game states, while being able to loop. But that’s not all. Video game composers often have to wrestle with technical constraints; like squeezing hours of music into very small file sizes. If you go back to early games, game composers had a tough time developing compelling music which could squeeze into a few kilobytes. But, innovative as they are, composers have developed a number of techniques from sample-based composition to adaptive music system to real-time manipulation to fit complex scores within the technical restraints of video games.


Video Game Pop Music Takes Centre Stage

While video game music will most often conjure up the scores which accompany us through the game worlds, matches and stories which unfold within games, it’s also worth noting the much more recent development of video game pop music. These are those catchy anthems developed by game studios to expand their games into the world of music. League of Legends is the prime example of this, having created the virtual group K/DA and released songs like Pop/Stars, Rise, Warriors and more. Speaking of LoL, buy LoL accounts to get ahead! This expansion of video game music into pop music points towards larger trends in gaming as one of the most popular forms of entertainment on earth.


The Future of Game Music


While the features mentioned in this article are all likely to continue into the future, it’s also worth thinking about how game music is going to change in the future. One of the key developments on the horizon is the use of AI in procedurally generated scores, which may help to further create emergent music within the confines of small file sizes. But, such systems still need a lot of work before being widely applicable.

Video game music is a genre of its own, built up of a variety of styles, techniques and notable composers—all coming together to create memorable sounds which accompany us both inside and outside of game worlds. So, the next time you pick up a game, be sure to prick up your ears to pay attention to the hard work done by the composers and programmers.

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The Author

Jason Micky

Hey Guys, I am Jason Micky The game guy. On this website I share a lot of stuff. Review games, free cheats and give out important update.