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How Video Games Changed My Musical Tastes

06/03/2011

…or something. I just liked the title. May not reflect what develops. Anyways, this is the post I wanted to write last night but couldn’t…

I spent most of last night listening to classical or Baroque music. From Wikipedia, “Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1750.[1] This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era.” I’ve been listening to a lot more classical music lately, as it seems to be good background music that does not require any intellectual investment in order to listen to and enjoy, unlike other genres such as rock or alternative. A few years ago, I lived with a guy who would turn on the classical music station in the mornings, and we would just let it play until the afternoon; I grew to appreciate hearing softly playing classical music in darkened rooms with a breeze coming through an open window. It’s a great way to wake up.

(Plus, I’ve noticed that if you listen closely to classical music, you can almost hear the same notes and song structures in some modern rock music. Muse in particular seems to translate equally well backwards or forwards.)

Lately I’ve also had a craving for harpsichord music, which is where my interest in listening to Baroque comes from. A harpsichord is a unique instrument that you can immediately identify, and brings a certain element to classically written music. This directly relates to video games as I was introduced to harpsichord music (or so I remember) through the background music on an old PC game, Mario’s Time Machine. Mario’s Time Machine was one of the educational Mario games that very loosely had anything to do with Mario, and I believe it came free with a printer or something similar when I was a kid. It barely ran on our old 386 IBM PC; in each level was a single Koomba you had to stomb on as Mario, and the jump probably was 5 frames a second. Took 20 seconds or so to jump once, land on his head, and earn your single coin. And with that, the “Mario portion” was pretty much done. Still, I had fun with the game. Plus it introduced me to this tune, which I’m sure I heard for hours growing up:

Well, maybe it’s not quite harpischord, but it sounded like it to me. And I dug it. Don’t you just love how with memories, the reality isn’t quite as you remember? Anyways, I’m fairly certain that’s the song I’m remembering, but it’s tough to find decent game footage and music from such an old PC game (especially without someone chatting over it).

Fast forward a few years to the Nintendo 64 era, and a decidedly 8/10 game called Mission Impossible, based loosely on the movie that had just come out. There was one level where you play as Ethan Hunt in an embassy, and you are tasked with poisoning a man’s drink, but to do so, you have to remove a few obstacles from your path. It was quite a difficult level and difficult game when it came out, one I never beat, yet I played this level for hours and look back fondly on it. Plus, it has some amazing music in the background.

Now we are moving to the next Nintendo console, the GameCube, home of one of the scariest and immersive games of all time, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Inspired by HP Lovecraft, this game had you playing the descendants of the games’ protagonist through different periods, often in the same locations, such as the family mansion in New England, ruins in the congo, or a large ornate church in Europe (an area which went from it being built to it ultimately being a refuge for people during World War II). The game was very popular, yet no sequel has emerged yet. It also holds the honor of being the only video game that has truly scared me. To say I hold it dear is an understatement. And then there is this song…

It fits the mood of the game perfectly, and really gets under your skin when combined with creepy shrieks and screams, the sound of war outside the cathedral’s windows, and creepy demons with glowing eyes slowly walking toward you in the balcony. Epic game. The whole soundtrack was worth buying off of eBay years ago.

So yeah, that’s a little taste of how video games changed my musical tastes.

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