Music plays a crucial role in video games since its early years. It is impossible to think about Super Mario Bros, Tetris or Street Fighter without humming the melodies, since they made the game memorable, fun and engaging for the players. But with the rapid advance in technology came today's video games, and they are a whole different story, making the soundtrack selection harder and more important.
Background music is the most powerful tool for creating emotion and setting the tone of the story in video games. Just like in the movies, the soundtrack is the base of the scene, creating the ideal atmosphere for the audience to have a better understanding of the story and feel more connected to it. In video games, this is even more important, because we are not only watching a story but rather living it through the screen. We make the decisions and control the actions of our character while being focused on achieving our goals, so background music and sound effects might not take our full attention, but they are vital for the experience.
The nature of video games is immersion, feeling like you are completely a part of the experience and deep into the story. This is what makes it so entertaining and helps us disconnect from reality, we are not watching from outside but engaging ourselves. And when it comes to this experience, we are not supposed to notice anything that doesn't fit perfectly in the narrative, so the soundtrack needs to be natural and has the ideal tone. If the soundtrack or sound effects are awful your focus will go to it, and your immersion will be lost, even if the story itself is amazing.
One of the key elements of immersion is having all your senses tuned in the game, as soon as you feel disconnected from something you stop feeling a part of it. This is why the latest technology includes VR, and what makes it so enticing.
So music really has a crucial role in video game productions, and can completely affect the connection players have. The genres, tempos, styles and moods need to be chosen accordingly, the volume needs to be right and the overall story has to make sense and feel real.
A great example is GTA, which is one of, if not the biggest game franchise ever created. And there is something very particular about how they decided to present the soundtrack to the player. They offer a diverse and vast collection of radio stations for the player to choose from while driving and makes it even close to real life. As a result, many other games have taken this method and adapted it.