Yesterday I got a reminder to vote in the Golden Joystick awards, one of the categories being best soundtrack or something along those lines. This isn’t something I actually think about a huge amount, but it’s certainly a perfectly valid category. In fact it’s one of the thing that sets the Halo series a cut above a lot of other games in my opinion, the soundtrack is simply brilliant and matches the epic scale of the series’ galaxy stretching story.
It seems easy to overlook a game’s sound design in an industry that seems to increasingly on the graphical fidelity of games, but good sound design and a good soundtrack add to the atmosphere at least as much as good graphics, perhaps more. Graphics are far more limited by technology than scoring a soundtrack that draws you into the world, that reflects what’s going on in the story and adds to it.
I’d actually say that a game’s soundtrack brings back a lot more memories than seeing actual artwork. If you hear the retro stylings of Sonic or Mario you’re instantly thrown back to a more innocent age and much more recently the amazing soundtrack from Comic Jumper has stuck in my head much more than the art. Maybe that’s just me, different people may remember different senses more vividly.
Of course there are those titles, largely sports games, that just pick fairly random tracks from popular bands and artists as the soundtrack. I suppose that it’s a quick and easy way to get some music into the game without really having to think about it. I mean I don’t really need to be deeply drawn into the world of FIFA or Need For Speed, it’s not like there’s some deeply involving story that needs an extra dimension added to it. Even so I would actually prefer a custom soundtrack scored specifically for the game, it just seems better.
There’s also the issue of custom soundtracks, but I don’t think I’ve ever used one. I much prefer to use whatever the developers have put into the game, even when it’s not something that’s been scored specifically for the game.
So does the soundtrack really matter to you? Is it as big of a focus as graphics are, or does it take a more secondary role? Do you find it easier to remember a game’s soundtrack than the artwork?