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This blog will explore the smart application of music in games and how these music enhanced player experience.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

September 25, 2023

7 Min Read

The importance of music in games is self-evident. Good music can enhance the overall gaming experience, not only by creating atmosphere and immersing players, but also by providing ample room for imagination and evoking resonance. This blog will explore the smart application of music in games and how these music enhanced player experience.

Music and dopamine

Listening to music can be relaxing, allowing the brain to release dopamine, thereby generating a feeling of relaxation and pleasure. This may be the most basic reason why many people love listening to music. And sometimes, loving a song is not only because of its catchy melody, but also because of the story behind the music and the free imagination in the listener's mind - we call this 'resonance'.

And the chorus is generally considered to be the most outstanding and catchy part of a song, so the distribution of the melody throughout the whole song will have variations in intensity and pace, creating a change of ups and downs, giving the strongest impact when the chorus arrives. In the midst of a fierce battle in the game, there are radical and high-pitched horns, melodious and tragic cries when emotions run deep, and relaxed and agile notes after finding a treasure, all representing this strong impact.

Synergistic effect: Music adding values to games.

Synergistic refers to the phenomenon where two or more elements combine to create a more powerful effect than each individual element alone, commonly known as "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." This concept applies to game music as well. Game music not only provides background songs for a game but also combines with other elements of the game to create a multi-sensory impact, intensifying the sense of excitement. High-quality game music can synergize with other game elements, such as visual effects in clever ways, enhancing the overall gaming experience for players.

Every game incorporates feedback systems designed in different dimensions to create more interactions with players. For example, in a game, clicking on a glowing treasure chest immediately rewards the player with coins, providing a simple form of instant feedback. In MMORPG games, completing main quests and gaining experience for leveling up is a form of medium to long-term feedback. The more dimensions of feedback there are, the stronger the sense of enjoyment in the game.

The general feedback effect is received by people through the five senses. In games, it mainly includes visual feedback, auditory feedback, and a small amount of tactile feedback (such as controller vibration). Visual feedback can be achieved through art, UI, and animations: how to help players understand the map and reach the destination, whether the fashion is attractive enough to stimulate players' desire to own, and what kind of reaction the enemy will have when hit, etc. In addition, game designers can emphasize auditory feedback to evoke players' emotions in different scenarios. Whether to create a tense atmosphere in intense battles or a relaxed atmosphere, designers need to consider the specific situation and what kind of emotions they want players to experience.

Therefore, game designers not only need to design interesting gameplay, but also consider what kind of music is most suitable to effectively evoke players' emotions and enhance immersion in different gameplay and game stages. In order to add enough variations to increase the tension of game music within the regular melody, and to make players feel surprised while anticipating, besides the composition, special sound effects in game can also play a crucial role.

Speaking of synergy, in games, the better gaming experience is achieved through the combination of visual, auditory, and tactile elements, we cannot ignore Ace Attorney as a remarkable text-based game that excels. Apart from well-designed scene layouts and player perspective designs, exaggerated character expressions and special effects, and appropriate vibration feedback (gamepad), Ace Attorney also incorporates highly rhythmic background music to enhance the tension during courtroom debates. The frequent vibrations even give players the illusion of playing a rhythm game. It is worth mentioning that during the crucial stage of the courtroom debate, when the protagonist, Phoenix Wright, presents the decisive evidence that deals a fatal blow to the opponent, the background music suddenly becomes quiet. This detail cleverly handles the moment using a "silent is more powerful than sound" approach, creating a stark contrast between the previous tension and the sudden silence, naturally drawing more focused attention from players.

Impressive game music

Epic feeling

If you have ever searched for game music playlists, it is not difficult to find that the most common tag for the BGM of many AAA games is "epicness." The combination of grand melodies and the vast game world is the reasonable choice for many people. The understanding of "epicness" may vary from person to person, to some extent, depending on their own gaming experiences. Some people may immediately think of war scenes, while others may envision ancient and solemn historical themes. Some may associate it with team battles and the pursuit of honor. For example, the most iconic background music in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, "Dragonborn," begins with drum beats, followed by deep male vocals, strings, horns, and more war drums. This conjures up images of icy tundras, ancient palaces, and dragon descendants wielding weapons, creating a strong sense of epicness.

Atmosphere

Speaking of the sense of atmosphere, whether it's in movies or games, there is a genre strongly associated with music - suspense/thriller. "What remains Edith Finch's won the Best Narrative Award at the 2017 TGA with its unique, fantastical and eerie style, and many players commented that it is "healing but also a bit melancholic." The game's storytelling is mainly done through subtitles and monologues, and the perfectly fitting background music deepens the fantastical imagination. For example, as Lewis's imagination evolves, the elements of the background music gradually become richer. In Molly's transformations, such as becoming a cat, an owl, a shark, and a sea monster, the background music and sound effects also change accordingly, increasing the sense of strangeness and oppression.

Feel of high Quality

The music in NieR: Automata won the Best Game Music Award at The Game Awards 2017. Other games nominated for this award were The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Destiny 2. The game features a large number of tracks that combine vocals and synthesized sounds, and the arrangement design is highly consistent with the emotions of the characters, as the game's producer has said. One standout piece is the background music for the amusement park level: as you enter the park, fireworks suddenly burst in the distance against a dark purple sky, accompanied by voices, and all you see around are robots. You await an unknown battle. The contrasting feeling of liveliness and loneliness fills your ears, and the auditory impact that hits you as you enter the amusement park gates becomes an unforgettable scene for many players. Some dedicated music enthusiasts are even willing to spend hundreds of hours covering or creating remixes of the game’s music. The existence of NieR: Automata makes people realize that music is not just a "seasoning" that can be added or omitted in games; high-quality and thoughtful game music can become an important reasons to start a game for music lovers, ultimately benefiting the game itself.

Classic IP

Game music melodies can evoke nostalgic emotions and resonate with players who are familiar with the IP. For example, in the game "Harry Potter: Magic Awakening," the dance gameplay is closely linked to the game music, incorporating waltz, tango, and flamenco into the rhythm game format, with each track having a scoring system and reward mechanism. Game music playlists and sharing of fan creations have also become hot topics of discussion among players.

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