Music in the gaming industry has gone through a lot of development over the years, from chiptune to proper compositions. The first tunes and sound effects for games were borderline primitive because of the state of technology those days. They were generated by transforming program code into sound: music was stored on the analogue carriers and it was too difficult and expensive to convert it into digital form. This simple form of accompaniment later created something of a video game genre of music which still influences modern artists, especially in genres like synthpop.
As the computer technologies developed, it became possible to insert streaming music into games and create personalized soundtracks. A whole bunch of composers (primary Japanese) appeared as original game composers. But the interesting thing is that many popular musicians from various genres were involved in composing for video games—some of whom you would never expect to make such music. Here are a few of them.
The famous creator of the “Twin Peaks” theme is also responsible for the soundtrack for “Fahrenheit” (a.k.a. “Indigo Prophecy”). In fact, the plot of the game is slightly Lynch-esque itself: the main character, in a possessed trance, strives to uncover the reason behind some murders. He begins to experience hallucinations and eventually contacts a spiritual medium, who places him in a trance to try to recall the events in the diner. The perfect scene for Badalamenti’s dark melancholy.
Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails are behind the sound effects and ambient audio for “Quake” by “id Software”— Reznor was happy to help, being a huge fan of its popular game “Doom.” He also composed and performed the theme music for “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” And the NIN album “Year Zero” was released alongside an accompanying alternate reality game!
A lot of modern teenagers only know Gary Numan for these original soundtracks (OST). Gary Numan’s “Cars” appears in “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” in a fictional radio station called Wave 103. But that’s not the only game he participated in: “Need For Speed”, “The Evil Within” and other games also include his hits, such as “Long Way Down” and “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?“.
Zimmer is probably one of the most famous music figures in the game industry. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and “Crysis 2” owe him for their OST. Zimmer himself feels that video games are the new modern art form: “As a musician, we play all our lives, so the idea of playing something and being involved in something is actually quite powerful to a musician. The participation is the thing.”
This one went even further and made himself the main character of a video game. “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker” follows the story of the film of the same name, in which Michael Jackson must rescue kidnapped children from the evil Mr. Big. And the OST for the game appears as synthesized versions of some of the musician’s songs, such as “Bad,” “Speed Demon,” “Smooth Criminal,” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.”
It’s obvious that the music and video game industries are developing in parallel and keep on influencing each other. Modern musician use 8-bit samples in their songs, while the soundtracks for games become more and more complicated. And the thing that’s so special about video games’ OST: while you’re involved in the game, this soundtrack becomes your own. So choose a world to live in — and turn it up.