Since video games have become commonplace in today’s society, their influence has grown in ways that may seem unexpected. When we look back at some of the very first video games and compare them to the games we see in stores today, it seems like we followed some natural progression to get where we are, and I would have to completely agree; stories have become more in depth and intricate, graphics have almost reached the realism many FPSs aim for, and the sounds! Voice acting, effects, and, yes this is what I’ve been setting up, music has become exceptional… so much so in fact, that video game music seems to have gained an unprecedented-in-video-game-communities following, which is that of non-gamers. When I say video game music you might think of the beginning 8bit music of Tetris, or maybe something like the always recognizable Mario theme. What I want to get to is not how easily recognizable these classics have become, but how they have influenced actual artists and fans outside of game production and inspired them to create something beautiful, whether those creations follow cannon, are covers, or are something that is a combination of old and new, cover and creation.
Many artists and groups cover video game theme music, and add their own personal flair to make it their own. Take Lindsey Stirling for example. She is a violinist and dancer that covers these themes and imposes her own style on them, which is expressed in how she dances or the actual video she creates and the idea it presents, like in her cover-creation Zelda Medley or in her Pokemon inspired video. Other famous groups include the Minibosses, Japanese group The Black Mages, and Powerglove to name a few of varying styles.
What really amazed me and who I personally enjoy is The Protomen. “We basically gathered up all of our good friends from the local rock bands of Murfreesboro, tied ourselves together, and tried to walk. And somehow it worked. At the time, we noticed a void in rock and roll. A hole that could only really be filled with grown men and women painting up like robots and playing some fierce and furious rock music based on a 1980s video game. We were fairly certain no one else was going to fill that hole. But, by god, it’s filled now. You can thank us later.” (Wikipedia) They compose based around the Megaman storyline, but where other video game cover or tribute bands take some part of the music from the actual game score, The Protomen utilize the plot, not only that, but far more liberally than other bands of the same nature. They use the Megaman storyline as a sort of set-up. Their two albums are written as prequels to the actual plot presented in game but do not necessarily stay cannon. The first is about the origin of Megaman himself setting us up in a dystopian world of mostly robots ruled by a human, Dr. Wiley (the series main villain) through the story of his “older brother” and his fight to save the world. Their second album is a prequel to the first and is about Dr. Wiley’s struggle with and against Dr. Light (Protoman and Megaman’s creator) and his subsequent rise to power. These albums are beautifully composed and emoted, but not only that, it is the creativity of the story itself and the world building in the songs that make them so atypical and has given The Protomen the cult following that they have.
Video game music has not only affected fans though, it has influenced more mainstream sounds too. It can not only be heard in electronica artists like Dizzee Rascal and Keiran Hebden, but also in rock bands like Dragonforce and in pop songs like Ke$ha’s Tic Tok which was the best selling single in 2010. It can be seen in music videos that have become more cinematic, telling stories that show video game-esque themes like in Switchfoot’s music video to their song Awakening referencing rhythm games or in The Red Hot Chili Peppers song Californication. Video game music is a growing genre that is beginning to gain more of a following in pop culture.