What is Game Audio & Music?
Game music is an eclectic term, encompassing the many different musical genres that are used in video game scores. This chapter introduces readers to important game music history while seeking to define what musical characteristics are unique to game music. As composers found creative ways to work within the scope of this limited technology, unique challenges led to the conception of a new body of musical work that would later be referred to by the gaming world as “video game music,” or just “game music” for short.
This chapter explores the history and development of game music as a genre. It focuses on analyzing how the limitations of previous gaming systems influenced composers to make specific musical choices, while also seeking to define what aesthetic characteristics are unique to video game music and how interactivity has led to new musical forms.
Early Video Game Audio and Musical Style
Video game audio / video game music (VGM) is the soundtrack that accompanies video games. Early video game music was once limited to sounds of early sound chips, such as programmable sound generators (PSG) or FM synthesis chips. These limitations have led to the style of music known as chiptune, which became the sound of the first video games.
With technological advances, video game music has grown to include a wider range of sounds. Players can hear music in video games over a game’s title screen, menus, and gameplay. Game soundtracks can also change depending on a player’s actions or situation, such as indicating missed actions in rhythm games, informing the player they are in a dangerous situation, or rewarding them for specific achievements.
Video game music can be one of two kinds: original or licensed.