If video killed the radio star, then video games killed any stragglers that were left. Now that the kids are finding most of their music through You Tube, they are also discovering music (both new and old) through their Xbox and PS3. And musicians who toiled away at the club scene, or tried to market their music through independent channels quickly found that making music for video games not only helped pay the rent, but the exposure to millions of eager gamers could mushroom into a fairly impressive fan base.
In a way, video games offer gamers a great experience with music. I mean, how many times have you been driving while a song is playing and it adds almost a pitch perfect accompaniment/soundtrack to the experience? When the right elements converge (environment, activity, and music), there’s a real cinematic quality to it. Video games replicate many of those experiences and give the user (especially if it’s a first person game) a feeling that they are in their own movie — complete with a nifty soundtrack. So, in honor of those whose passion for gaming comes close to an addiction, here’s six tunes I think will bring a smile to your face. “Press A to Continue”
“Still Alive,” Jonathan Coulton and GLaDOS (Download)
My daughter was absolutely hooked on Portal after a friend loaned it to us. At first she didn’t like the game with the various levels of puzzle solving, but the character of GLaDOS kept taunting her and promising her cake, so she soldiered on triumphantly to the end –where she was treated to his rather awesome song by Jonathan Coulton. By the way, Coulton is playing The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco this month where a small army of fans will undoubtedly be frothing at the mouth and fall over backwards when he plays “Still Alive.”
“Smooth Criminal,” Sega (Download)
1990 was the year this game made its debut, and if it wasn’t for Ickmusic’s Michael Parr suggesting it to me, I would have overlooked it. Michael must have a fondness for MIDI tunes and while this instrumental initially brought a smile to face, the more I started thinking about this version of “Smooth Criminal” popping up on my iPod, the more that smile turned into a cringe. Other cringe-inducing moments occur when you realize the plot of the game involves MJ trying to rescue kidnapped kids from some guy named “Mr Big.” Yeah, MJ and kids … not a good combo. Oh, and sorry Sex in the City fans, but it seems Mr. Big is not only Carrie’s love, but an evil kidnapper, and also Eric Martin’s band from the late ’80s.
“Halo 3 Main Theme,” Marty O’Donnell (Download)
Ah, Halo … The game that made the makers of Xbox so very, very happy. The game and the sequels have brought hundreds of millions into the coffers of the creators and Microsoft, and there are legions of fans who bought the game and a lot of the merchandise that went along with it. Interestingly enough, the film version of Halo never really got off the ground and is officially “on hold” because, well, a story about a genetically enhanced soldier whose face is never seen is kind of hard to make into a compelling film. Hell, even Robocop had his mouth exposed so we could at least connect with a small part of “Murph’s” humanity. The Master Chief in Halo is a strong (mostly) silent type who doesn’t have any outward signs of emotion that film viewers can connect with, so it’s not surprising that the film version of this game’s character is having trouble finding his emotional core.
“Baba Yetu,” Christopher Tin (Download)
I don’t know much about this game beyond the Wiki entry on it, but from what I’ve read it seems kind of cool. Basically, you build a civilization/empire and attempt to win the game by conquering other nations, controlling land and people, or landing a space ship in another solar system. It’s a game where users have to take turns, but there’s obviously a lot of strategery that goes into the game, and that can make for some long, but entertaining nights. But on a purely musical level, Christopher Tin has created an epic multicultural song that’s quite soaring and certainly fits well with the nature of the game.
“No Heaven,” DJ Champion (Download)
They say never judge a book by its cover, and I suppose the same goes for video games, but I gotta say that cover of this game kind of scares me. However, the song by DJ Champion (Maxime Morin) is quite the winner. Champion is a Canadian musician and this rather dark tune charted in Canada at #30 back in 2007 — even though the song was released in 2004. The hunting vocals, incidentally, are supplied by Betty Bonifassi.
“I Am (All of Me),” Crush 40 (Download)
I think I’ve heard this song more times than I can count — thanks in large part to my daughter’s love of the game. Shadow the Hedgehog is a standard video game (i.e., jumping through obstacles, battling creatures, and collecting rings for points), but there’s a slight twist: the gamer can decide if Shadow is going to be evil or not, and that changes the plot of the game. The music by Crush 40 is one of five other groups who contributed music to the game, and it’s all high energy stuff that’s really annoying if you’re trying to read a book while someone (no names here) is playing the game and won’t turn the volume down!