The Player: Videogame soundtracks are often better than movie scores

Written by Naomi Alderman – The Guardian

For the first time this year, the Ivor Novello music awards will
include a category for "best original videogame score". This development
is overdue; videogame music moved beyond pinging MIDI files long ago,
and game soundtracks are often better than those of many movies. In
2005, the opening song to the game Civilization IV – Baba Yetu, a gloriously uplifting
version of the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili – was so popular that fans
demanded it be released for download. The piece has now been performed
at venues including the Hollywood Bowl and the Royal Festival Hall.

music has long been the venue for "earworms" – pieces of music that get
stuck in your head. Anyone who ever played Tetris on a Gameboy will have the
Soviet-style theme etched on their brain. And the chipper Super
tune is similarly unforgettable. But with technological
developments audio quality has improved as much as graphics and the
earworms have become more sophisticated. The music of Katamari Damacy – a quirky Japanese game in which the player
rolls up objects into a huge ball – is unbelievably catchy, and
perfectly sets the surreal tone for the game.

Games in which the main goal is to make
music are also popular: from ElectroPlankton for the DS to Singstar, and
the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. But to my mind the game that makes
the finest use of music isn’t an expensive boxed production, but one
that is free to play online: Auditorium. The player directs beams of light
through markers that play different elements of a track. Get all the
elements playing together and you’ve completed the level. It’s addictive
yet relaxing, fine art combined with great gameplay. And the music,
naturally, is fantastic.