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In just two decades, technical progress has allowed the video game and its soundtrack to evolve very rapidly. The music that accompanies it has gone from a few rather rudimentary beeps to real symphonies, offering an unforgettable sensory experience. In this article, we will look at games that have used music in a particularly memorable or innovative way.
Since the game’s release in 1999, the Tony Hawk ProSkate franchise – with its rap and metal soundtrack – has introduced players to many aspects of skate culture, and allowed them to discover metal and pop-punk artists such as Bad Religion, Millencollin, and Suicidal Tendencies. The game reproduces the skateboarding lifestyle very faithfully, and the soundtrack is still the first thing what nostalgic gamers remeber when talking about the great time they had playing the series.
The bands featured on the soundtrack had been around for ten or twenty years when the games were released, but they were pretty unknown outside of the underground rap and skate-punk scene. The game series provided a fantastic showcase, introducing the bands to the general public who would otherwise never have been exposed to these genres.
The Grand Theft Auto series will be remembered by gamers for ever. One detail might be surprising, but the stereos provided in the cars are quite unique, offering players a personalized experience depending on the location they are exploring and allowing them to listen to real radio stations, with DJs, commercials and news reports.
Each radio station has its own music genre or theme – just like in real life, and they’re accessible from almost every vehicle!
Understanding the success of this seemingly minor detail, the creators of the game will continue to develop it.
Since 2015 it is possible to include your own music by adding mp3s to a folder – a very simple and accessible process.
But it is one of the recent updates of the game, Los Santos Tuners, that has further innovated and customized the music experience of players by introducing a feature that allows them to fully customize their radio, bookmark their favorite stations and access them instantly from the wheel, but most importantly, by integrating music into the quest series.
Players will be able to create fully customized playlists by collecting items scattered around the world map in secret locations, which will give them access to exclusive music tracks that are otherwise unobtainable.
Fifa is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. Each game in the series features about 40 tracks, and a band that makes it onto the game is guaranteed to get exposure like no other.
The popularity of FIFA soundtracks exploded in the early 2000s, with indie bands like Bloc Party Gorillaz, or Franz Ferdinand.
Behind these elaborate soundtracks , there are two men – Steve Schnur, and Cybele Pettus, two of the directors of Electronic arts and the main people responsible for the cultural phenomena that these soundtracks have become. Steve Schnur explains in an interview that soccer can be something more than “we are the champions” and that he wanted to allow soccer fans to discover other sounds.
But the bands of the 2000s are already well-known. They do not owe their success to the video game, even if their sales have increased after being part of the soundtrack.
In recent years, the Fifa team has become passionate about artists who are still unknown, doing the job of a talent scout at a record label.
“It’s not a random effort,” Schnur continues. “We’re not out there at the last hour saying, ‘Let’s go find 20 or 30 songs.’ We took a year to define the soundtrack.”
Even before Fifa’s 2021 release, several bands became global hits thanks to the game. “The Crack” from the London alternative rock band Another Sky became a huge success even though the band was virtually unknown a year before the game’s release. The same happened to the band Pixx.
But it is probably Fortnite that has innovated the most by integrating live music into its games. In 2020 several concerts were broadcasted live from the game servers, and given the success of the operation, in the summer of 2021 Fortnite is organizing a collaboration with the international star Ariana Grande!
The Rift Tour is not only an exclusive concert show of the singer, but also new exclusive skins and cosmetic items, as well as a series of ephemeral quests to unlock several rewards.
While orchestras regularly make their way into video game music, it has begun to invade classical concert halls. As Kenji Kondo had already demonstrated the classical genre and video games are a perfect match, and what better place than a philharmonic hall to host these sounds, at the crossroads of history and modernity?
In 2005, musician Tommy Tallrico and composer Jack Wall organized Video Games Live with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, performing some of the most famous works in video game music. The event was so successful that it has been touring ever since, filling concert halls around the world.
Other classical ensembles, such as Cologne’s renowned Rundfunkorchester, have added video game music to their more conventional repertoire.
In 2018, UK radio station Classic FM also teamed up with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and PlayStation for PlayStation in Concert, offering a unique performance – music from Playstation games in the prestigious setting of the iconic Royal Albert Hall.
With music arranged by award-winning composer and Radio Classic FM presenter Jessica Curry, the concert – featuring the City of London Choir – provided an opportunity to hear or rediscover memorable tracks from PlayStation games such as Crash Bandicoot, The Last of Us, Uncharted Horizon Zero Dawn and the classic Resident Evil.
The limitation of live concerts due to the 2020 pandemic, the and the technical progress now allows music and video games to influence each other, creating new practices. And with the arrival of virtual reality video games, this trend will surely expand.
We will be back mid-July for a new series about anime and piracy. Stay tuned !