Video Game Music as a Genre

There have been a lot of great posts about video game music, its ability to produce nostalgia greater than other aspects of video games, and the connection gamers form with the soundtracks of some games. What I have found interesting over the past few weeks is that when I share pieces of music created for video games with people who identify as gamers and non-gamers alike – they are often able to identify the music as coming from a video game without being familiar with the music. This prompted me to consider, has video game music developed into an established genre?

Previously, I considered music in video games to each be a part of a different genre. For instance, something like Dragon Roost Island from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker makes use of Andean instruments and sounds

While Tifa’s Theme from Final Fantasy 7 is more in line with Contemporary Classical as a genre

Yet I have found gamers and non-gamers alike who, unfamiliar with the specific pieces, were able to identify them as “video game music”.

Despite the fact the composers for video games are drawing on a number of cultures and periods, has the video game culture acquired a sound that noticeably blends into its music across games? I find this fascinating because even other forms of entertainment and art (particularly Cinema) have not, in my mind, developed the music they use into a genre. While they are certainly characteristics from composers and production groups – it’s easy for me to identify a Disney song or something my Hans Zimmer even if I haven’t heard it before – nothing that goes across the industry as a whole.

I’d be curious to know if anyone else has noticed this or consider the music within video games a genre in itself.

3 thoughts on “Video Game Music as a Genre

  1. I think if the music uses a synthesizer, I usually recognize it as video game music. Or if I feel like the music sounds adventurous and catchy. However, if I heard Tifa’s theme separately, I don’t think I would be able to tell it was from a videogame

  2. I think because I have become saturated with video game music, I begin to feel that it is its own genre. When I sleep at night, I like to have a playlist of slow music that I listen to that will calm me. I realized that in that list, I have it switching from “Viridi’s Solo Menu” from Kid Icarus: Uprising to Adele’s “Skyfall” and then back again to “Yakushi Village” from Okamiden.

    I think that video game music has a different goal than “regular” music in the sense that most of the time, game music is meant to be atmospheric and used as a secondary tool to build a world. Above all else, it must be something that will be aurally pleasing when prone to repetition. When you spend ten plus hours sailing in Wind Waker, you want a Great Sea Theme that you won’t grow tired of. What that becomes is a cerebral connection: when you think of the ocean, you think of that theme.

    In that sense, every piece of video game music has the ability to convey an emotion or scene. It doesn’t so it independently, but the way it is delivered gives it that edge. The same goes for a movie soundtrack or sound effects: the music becomes a symbol of the larger thing it represents. Everytime I hear a flute, I subconsciously imagine the Japanese landscape and aesthetic that Okami offers to me through that work.

  3. To answer your question, I do think that video game music is in itself can be considered a separate genre, while at the same time not. I think that when composers get asked to compose a piece, they would usually have an idea of the general mood they want to portray, and certain genres of music would best suite the desired effect.

    Also I found a radio site dedicated to video game music:

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