25 June 2013

Top 5 Videogame Soundtracks to Listen to while Reading or Writing a Novel

Why Game Soundtracks? 

Movie soundtracks are done by some of the best composers in the industry, and they’re backed by big money. But the art form constricts them to movie scenes with specific lengths and cuts. This makes for great cinema, but when you’re listening to a movie soundtrack without the accompanying visuals, it comes across as pretty jarring. You get really dramatic and sharp cuts in the music. Videogame soundtracks are written without that restriction, which lets them have more natural beginnings and endings to them. They simply have better flow. That’s one major draw for me when choosing music for writing.

And I’m dead serious—great music makes me write better scenes.

1. Black Mesa

It’s gritty and techie (like grunge guitars with fast-paced electronic rhythms), and, I have to admit, it goes along with the theme of ECKSDOT really well. So I’m a little biased. But it’s also FREE to download (with donations accepted). It has a lot of ambient tracks, which I like because it’s less distracting. But it also has high intensity tracks that make me write awesome climactic scenes. (P.S. If you’ve never played the original Half Life, Black Mesa is a great way to catch up on what’s probably the greatest FPS of all time.)

2. World of Warcraft

I’m featuring the original WoW soundtrack here. (I’ve also listened to WoW: Burning Crusade, which is just as good, and there are three others that I haven’t gotten yet—but I’m guessing they’re good too.) It has rousing, noble themes with brass and heroic melodies that make you want to pick up a sword and march into war. The tracks also fill you with that fantastic wonder that always seems just out of reach. Several tracks are also haunting and creepy. You can get all five of these in the iTunes store, which I mention a little grudgingly.

3. Braid

This soundtrack haunts you with beautiful melancholy. Its overall style is ambiance, so if you want something to subtly back you writing without distracting, this is the one. (It’s probably not the best for writing action sequences though.) Or if you need to write a sad scene—something contemplative or meditative—this is also the perfect choice. It features lots of stringed instruments with wandering melodies. A couple of the tracks are upbeat, and seem to hint at Irish folk. And did I mention haunting melancholy? Well it is. Get it on Steam.

4. Skyrim

The opening chant (a track called “Dragonborn”) has so much energy. (“This song always makes me want to get into a swordfight,” says my roommate Izzy.) And the album continues to do this throughout. The vocals are awesome—male choirs, female solos—and they’re backed by a full orchestra. This is surely one of the greatest scores ever. It goes particularly well with fantasy, but it could inspire just about any sort of writing. I’m not sure why the mp3s aren’t on Amazon, but you can get the discs here. Or talk to Captain Jack.

5. Uncharted

High adventure seems to be the best way to describe this one. In a lofty Indiana Jones style, it has beautiful, soaring melodies that make you want to wander the world in search of El Dorado. But the drums and flutes give it a harder, grittier edge too, ringing not just with the hope of fulfilling the quest but also with the threat of defeat. The sequel soundtracks are by the same composer, and are just as good. Buy this one on iTunes too.

Now I’ll Publicly Admit How Nerdy I Am

I watch videogame “movies” on YouTube.

Basically, I don’t often have time for games, but I love the rich stories and artwork that sometimes go into them.

Thanks to our internet culture, gamers will play through a title and capture important action as well as all the cutscenes. Then they post “the movie” on YouTube. These let me get the story and artwork in about 5% of the time it would take to play through (sort of like watching a movie trailer and then reading the Wikipedia synopsis when you don’t have time for the full film).

The first one I ever watched was Uncharted “the movie,” which I’ve embedded below—it’s an Indiana Jones style of adventure. (By the way, I curse Naughty Dog for licensing this to PlayStation only. Otherwise, I’d totally just buy the game and play it.)

PRO TIP: When you’re searching YouTube for these videogame movies, including “HD” helps you to find the higher quality ones.

Your Opinion Is Important to Me

I’d like to know about your favorite game soundtracks. Or your favorite games with awesome stories.


Leave a comment—I read every single one.

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— J