Saturday, March 12, 2016

New Thoughts on Video Game Music

     I've been listening to video game music since age 14, when I discovered "sound tests" in certain NES games, such as Bubble Bobble and Ninja Gaiden II. The ability to listen to the music without having to simultaneously play the game was much more than novelty - it was liberation. One can't say I was experiencing nostalgia at age 14, because not enough time had passed for nostalgic thoughts to develop. Had game developers also included "art tests" in games, in which players could view the characters and stages without playing the game, I would've taken the time to view those, just as I had taken the time to listen to the music. Because of this simple analysis, it is clear that I do not listen to video game music because it is video game music, but because I appreciate video games and consider them to legitimately be art.
     I consider myself to be picky when it comes to what game music I listen to; there are many soundtracks I don't care for. It's important to understand that video game music is not a "genre" anymore than movie soundtracks are a genre. Genre refers to style, and since video game music utilizes a vast array of styles, it encompasses many genres. To say that I listen to video game music is just as problematic as saying that I read science fiction, since they both include many styles. I'm not sure how to define science fiction and I'm even less sure of how to define video game music. I know what they are, but they are beyond the scope of what any one human being can possibly experience - or tolerate. If I really wanted to provide a so-called "end-all" definition of video game music or science fiction, I would need to understand what it is that they offer. I have some idea of what they offer, I have some experience with them, but I'm missing a considerable amount of information.
     My preferred means of experiencing video game music is through the CD format, since I've found it provides better detail than music players that stream or decode MP3 files. While it's convenient to stream music and really convenient to use foobar2000 or winamp, it is not so with the CD format. With digital music on a computer, one can quickly make playlists and experience only their favorite songs, rapidly. Everything is fast fast fast with ripped or streaming digital music and satisfies the impatience that currently plagues humanity. People expect everything to happen RIGHT NOW and that satisfaction occurs IMMEDIATELY. I've tried that lifestyle and it does not promote happiness. This is why I've gone back to the CD format and use a regular CD player. I have to *gasp* get up and *gasp* change discs when I want to hear a different set of songs. What I've found about listening to music this way is that it provides for greater appreciation of the music, since the brain is not being rewarded continuously. Each song on a CD is not a favorite, but *gasp* listening to actual CDs means that one may have to *gasp* experience a non-favorite song.
     As an example, consider the Street Fighter II Image Album. I used to always not include Dhalsim's or E.Honda's themes on playlists, but I've come to enjoy those songs and appreciate their subtleties. Furthermore, when my favorite songs on the album play, they are even better because my brain is not continuously being rewarded. By experiencing non-favorite things, one allows their brains a chance to cogitate. People that only listen to their favorite songs are like drug users; they develop a tolerance and need more of the drug to get the same effect. Comparably, one also needs more favorite music.

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