I’ve spent my day yesterday doing bits and pieces of work, watching football, and pondering video game soundtracks.
I can understand that it’s not necessarily a cost-effective product, but surely in the days of online distribution it’s worth a punt? Why can’t I find the F.E.A.R. score anywhere? That game sounded absolutely fantastic.
It’s really hit home playing Bully on the Wii. Having never owned a PS2, I decided to join the game nice and late recently as a kind of soft build-up to the devastating effect GTA:IV is going to have on my free time. A few hours in, and the biggest impression made upon me, on top of all the solid gameplay I’ve enjoyed, is that Shawn Lee did an amazing job with the score. Playing this video game, the soundtrack hits you as something clearly superior to the vast majority of games, yet it doesn’t distract you at all.
Halo has always received a lot of credit for its soundtrack in developing the atmosphere, though personally I wasn’t a big fan of much outside the choral chant stuff. And it’s not exactly something that you put on at parties. The GTA games have had excellent soundtracks, but the strongest impact in those games comes from licensed music.
Maybe soundtracks are hard to find because they’re only starting to become independently relevant, as film scores have been for years. The Bully soundtrack suits the game completely but can still stand apart, at least according to my personal taste. Don’t get me wrong: I think the music made for the Mario and Sonic franchises, for example, was fantastic. However, due to the technical and genre-related limitations of the time it was very much ‘video game music’. I will always love the Zelda theme, for personal and aesthetic reasons. I just don’t see myself commuting with that song in my headphones.
Richard Jacques is someone I tend to associate with ultra-SEGA Sonic music, a genre with which he has had huge success, to the point that inspires pretty strong feelings in some people. He has also been very successful in less ‘video game music’ type stuff, as with Massive Effect and Headhunter.
So, does this fit into the argument over whether video games can count as art? Video games are a form of entertainment that incorporates artistic expression, and the best examples display the best artistic work. I’m not convinced in the merits of arguing for video games as an art form. I’m not sure that it’s an argument that needs to be had. I challenge you to watch Norbit and argue that film is always art. Art does have a place in the creation of games though: better art makes video games better. That’s good enough for me.