Games are Art: How Music Can Make Moments Matter

A great soundtrack can make a scene. The right song at the right time can elevate a mediocre scene to great or a good scene to amazing. Quentin Tarantino is one of my favourite directors who really uses music to its full potential. Take this scene from Kill Bill for example:

Now watch it on mute. Really, most of the scene is just the two characters staring at each other and the scene is honestly a little boring. But the music makes it one of the most tense and exhilarating fight sequences I can remember seeing.

Music can be just as important for a video game and while there are many games that have great soundtracks, only a select few have truly used music to draw an emotional reaction from the player and really enhance the storytelling of the game. One in particular stands out: Red Dead Redemption.

Red Dead is a love letter to Western cinema where you take control of John Marston, a man on a mission to return to his family. After a long, brutal and exhausting campaign across the Wild West, you are finally given the opportunity to reunite with your loved ones and “ride into the sunset”, so to speak. But while most Western movies cut to the credits at this point, by virtue of you being in control of John, you get to play out this victorious moment in full. Just as you begin to ride, without warning, the soundtrack changes (having been almost exclusively instrumental pieces up until that point) and we get this great moment:

The game never cuts away, it never pulls you into a cutscene for this moment, it just lets you ride, keeping you in control. Because this moment is the climax to everything you had been working for since the very beginning of the story. It’s triumphant and sombre at the same time – you finally get to return home, but only after doing terrible things to get there. The fact that you’re in control really lets the moment sink in, really makes you feel as if it’s not just John’s story, it’s your story as well. It’s a perfect example of how gameplay and music can work in concert (pun intended) to deliver an amazing experience. Games are art.

What are your musical moments in gaming or film? Sound off in the comments below!

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6 thoughts on “Games are Art: How Music Can Make Moments Matter

  1. I definitely agree, music can change a scene completely as it plays to more than one of your senses to create a new collection of emotions that renders what you’re seeing on screen. People don’t realise how unbelievably hard it is to choose the right soundtracks of movies/tv etc. There’s a reason the Academy Awards have an Oscar for the music genre.

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  2. I’ve just finished with Alien: Isolation and it has an absolutely fantastic dynamic score using musical themes and motifs from Ridley Scott’s original film. The closer you are to enemies, the more the music builds to a crescendo. Sometimes it’s even used to lull you into a false sense of security; much like the film. The sound design, more generally, is outstanding in that game. If you’ve got the nerves for it (and the patience), I highly recommend giving it a go.

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  3. Music is important to improve our sense experience to a game or film. For example, we will feel interesting if we turn off the volume when we were watching the horrible film.

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