Things That Bug Me #1

So, instead of a game or something this post, I’m going to write about something that bothers me. Sounds fun, right? I’m glad you think so, too.

You know what doesn't suck, though? Google Images.

Lately, what’s been bugging me is music. Game music, to be exact. As you may have figured by the name of this blog, and by the things I generally post about, I’m big on things from the 90’s, games especially so. Oh, sure, they weren’t all great. I’d never say that, especially after some of the things I blogged about. But the thing about their music a good majority of the time was that, while it wasn’t always catchy, you could always actually hear it, and know what the song was.

Take, for example, this. Or maybe this. Or, if you want to get a little more obscure, this. All different genres, different years, different systems. The thing that ties them all together is that even if they may not be your particular kind of song, they have a PRESENCE, whether you’re actually playing the game or not.

With this whole new generation, and the 360, PS3, and all that, however, gaming, as you’ve probably noticed, has changed. Games are trying to be more like movies, (and sometimes, movies try to be more like games), and with movie-ish games, comes movie-ish soundtracks.

Basically? Game music turned from this:

A caption would only ruin this image.

To this.

I have no idea who this is, but it's what Google Images gave me for 'sad musician'.

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with that. A lot of movies are known for having great music. But a lot of the time, the music’s very subdued, so that it doesn’t overpower whatever’s going on in the film, like, say, dialogue. And there’s the issue right there: Subdued works for movies. It doesn’t work for games.

The problem is that I honestly can think of very few games that were Western developed that came out recently that have music I actually remember. It’s not that I have an issue with the game themselves, just that their songs are so quiet they might not even be there. Let’s talk examples, shall we?

Like, say, this, from inFamous. It’s not really a bad song, it’s more that it’s really just kind of there. I guess the best way to describe it would be ambience. It suffers from the issue I feel a lot of music in modern games have where you wouldn’t actually notice it unless you were actively listening for it. And if you pumped up the music volume all the way.

The other issue with modern game music is that it’s barely ever actually there. Oftentimes, when you’re playing, there won’t be any music. At all. Just complete silence, occasionally broken up by 10 second snippets or so. This is OK for an open-world game, where constant music would probably get annoying, but in a game like, say, Bulletstorm, where you’re constantly moving forward, and doing actiony things? It’s boring.

But it’s not all bad. There are exceptions, as rare as they may be. Eat Lead: Return of Matt Hazard, for example, what hardly what I’d call a ‘good’ game, has one of the best action hero theme songs since Grabbag. Donkey Kong Country Returns has music just as good, as not better, than the game it was based on. (Just for the record, I’m talking the first DKC, not 2 or 3.)

Sadly, though, this seems to be a habit in the gaming industry, and the way things are going, I doubt it’ll stop any time soon. Bah. I’m going to go play Gex and get my fix of music I can actually hear. You kids get off my lawn.

 

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