The average listener hears music composed for video games while subconsciously wandering through a virtual world. Helping to set the mood much like a movie score, these often-simple tunes are secondary in importance to the player’s interaction with the visual components.
Occasionally, the music and sound effects of games are taken out of their original context and put into a strictly audio based setting, making a derivative art form ripe for experimentation and aural exploitation.
Preceded in popularity by personal computers and other appliances, video game devices – handheld, console, and arcade – were far from the first electronic machines to make noises, tones, beeps or buzzes. But being that composers, like legendary Nintendo sound director Koji Kondo, actually made real (albeit technologically and musically limited songs) there was simply more for future producers to work with compared to say, the sounds of a toaster.
Bedroom producers started getting creative not long after videogames emerged as a mainstream form of entertainment. The one-eyed baby sitter became more fun as it became more interactive, and thus more popular with irresponsible children and parents alike.
The 1980s spawned a variety of methods for crafting “chiptunes,” named after the sound chips used to generate sound and create synthesis, and artists like Yellow Magic Orchestra, whose eponymous debut album sampled Space Invaders, ran with it.
With music evolving further into the digital realm, however, creators are no longer limited to sets of clunky hardware, tangled wires, and outdated means of extracting data. EDM and hip-hop are borrowing just as much from Mario Bros. as the dust bunny DJs of yesteryear.
A particularly polarizing rapper named Lil Yachty has waxed what not all would agree is poetic on productions featuring entire melodies lifted from classics like Super Mario 64. While not every fan of hip-hop is fond of his style, often deriding it to be cartoonish and wonky, he touches upon a certain level of nostalgia. Reporter Victor Luckerson has a piece delving into the psychoanalysis of the artist’s use of videogame music, why it has such a profound effect on people, and even how it can be used by the artist, or their label, as a marketing tool of sorts.
Even the dirty “D” word that is often the scourge of EDM, with fans and critics deriding it alike, Dubstep has seen remixes featuring the legendary music of Zelda. Ephixa, a DJ and producer crafted what he calls “Zelda Step.”
Clearly the limitations of 8-bit have been practically shed, but constraints and stylistic limitations still have a purpose that keeps this sub-genre reinventing itself. Hell, if German artists were able to create aesthetic beauty during the Third Reich there’s no reason the muzak of today can’t be hummed in mancaves instead of elevators.