How the Music Industry and the Video Games Sector Flow Together

If you think back to the most iconic video games, you’ll most likely start to hear their theme tunes in your head. Whether it’s the racing melody of Tetris or the ocarina music from The Legend of Zelda, these songs are instrumental to the game – sorry about the pun.

But where did this all begin and why do these two sectors mesh together so well? The answer to the latter lies at the heart of the human psyche and the way we interact with music. Simply put, sad songs will make you sad and tense ones will make you tense. When this is paired with a visual, it’s amplified exponentially.

Technology is on the fore of playing to our emotions during a game, just take a look at modern mobile games for example. Games like Candy Crush have a mellow theme until the counter starts to get close to zero and then they add more of a frenetic tone. In this way, the music can act as a selling tool as gamers grasp to finish the level at all costs.

If you think about modern roulette games, such as the ones that you would find on sites advertised by, you’ll understand that music plays a large role. The aim is to create a game that will have players at the edge of their seat and one element of this is the sound. As the roulette ball settles into place, the player should have a fully immersive experience – almost like sitting in a real casino.

Even puzzle games employ music to make the stages more difficult, as you quickly become distracted by the rhythm. Games solely based on music take this to the next level, as anyone who has played any one of the Guitar Hero games will tell you. While it’s not the first franchise of its kind to use music as a gameplay mechanic, this game executed it well.

The attitude in the games industry is changing too and becoming more like the film industry. You wouldn’t expect to go see a Bond movie without an iconic theme, would you? The Mass Effect trilogy was at the fore of bringing this change about, with an orchestral soundtrack that would rival the biggest blockbuster.

If that doesn’t resonate with you then we don’t know what will! The context of the song is that your character has spent many years attempting to protect the Earth but the alien invasion has forced them out. It’s arguably one of the most cinematic scenes in any video game and it wouldn’t be complete without the music.

Music is always in place to enhance our experiences, whether we’re sitting at home listening to a record or playing a party game with friends. The pairing of music and video games is a huge industry, with live orchestras being hired for games unveiling. Take a look at this clip from E3 featuring the new God of War reveal:

As you can see, the conductor is just as much a part of the theatrics as the gameplay – with the audience taking note. In the short clip, we see a story unfold and the music is at the helm of the action. If you time travelled from a mere decade or two ago, this would blow your mind.

There’s obviously a massive difference between revealing cinematic scenes and designing a tune for Candy Crush but the music is ever present. Whether it’s made up of a few blips or a grand orchestra, it can still have the same effect on the player.


If we look into the future for a few minutes we can begin to speculate where this relationship will go next. Virtual reality technology is up and coming but they’ll need music to really sell the experience to players. Built in ear pieces already exist on most of the available tech and the possibilities are endless. Everything from watching movies, playing games and even just listening to music could be enhanced by this tech into a more immersive experience so watch this space.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38011 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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