It might seem like a weird idea to turn to your games console to hear the best in cutting-edge new music. But things have moved on since the monophonic games soundtracks of yesteryear, as gaming in 2016 requires an audio soundtrack that complements the gameplay and provides a suitably engrossing gaming atmosphere.
From next-gen console titles that recruit the best hip-hop and alternative music talents to provide exclusive soundtracks, to mobile-friendly casino games that require artists to provide an array of new content, it’s clear that the expanding gaming horizons have significantly broadened the opportunities of the 21st century musician.
One of the most high-profile gaming releases of 2016 was No Man’s Sky. This groundbreaking release not only featured an endless universe to explore, but it was accompanied by a suitably spectacular soundtrack from enigmatic post-rock band 65daysofstatic.
The band were approached by the game’s developers, Hello Games, to provide a musical accompaniment that was as flexible and far-reaching as the scope of this wildly ambitious game. And although the project was huge, it proved to be much more dramatic than the standard album release.
This groundbreaking venture quickly illustrates how integral music has become to the modern gaming scene. It’s a path that developed with the likes of fast-paced racing games like Burnout using the latest alt-rock sounds, whereas Grand Theft Auto used a variety of different radio stations to allow gangsta rap, R&B and rock’n’roll to make the streets of Los Santos appear all the more authentic. And it’s clear that the licensing deals between gaming companies and music publishers represent a significant source of income for musicians in 2016.
Given the ease with which indie games developers can access the mobile gaming market, the art of sound design has become increasingly important for the modern musician. So whether it’s arranging a musical score for a simple puzzle game, or even just providing a suitably glamorous atmosphere for a casino playground at the Betway gaming site, it shows that music composition is about so much more than writing the hits in the 2016.
Interestingly, it seems that it’s realism, rather than artificially created soundscapes that is still the holy grail for gaming soundtracks. As well as the aforementioned work by 65daysofstatic and the diverse GTA soundtrack, this was proven by the Los Angeles underground rock band, Health, who created an original and striking score for the Max Payne series by using instruments in a way that was a world away clinical synthesisers and samplers.
And with hip-hop pioneer The RZA reportedly working on an album based on old-school Atari music, it looks like the close relationship between music and gaming can run in both directions.