A trip to Sin City prompts thoughts of the one thing people usually don’t think about when they think of Games, but something absolutely essential: sound. Music. Melody. The burbles of the casinos to the chimes of pinball to the soundtracks of computer games – it’s an essential part of losing yourself in another world.

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Members have made 27 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Penfold Member

    Speaking of sound: I hear silence from 12:25 – 13:00. Just me?

    • #1
    • April 5, 2016 at 8:35 am
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  2. Profile photo of Belt Member

    Yup – there must have been some sort of hiccup in the recording. Sounds like they had to restart the recording at that point. Not that I’m complaining, but could you guys increase the sound level for the Ramble? I had to double the output on my speakers to hear this clearly. (I’m not complaining, just remarking, okay?)

    On a different note, I spent many an hour killing demons in Doom. I also picked up the ‘Hell to Pay’ mod at one point, which gave it a new experience. Also, iddqd.

    • #2
    • April 5, 2016 at 11:32 am
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  3. Profile photo of Blue Yeti Admin

    Thanks for the heads up, this has now been fixed.

    • #3
    • April 5, 2016 at 12:55 pm
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  4. Profile photo of Spicy Food Hiccups Member

    Oh, man…now here’s a topic near and dear to me. My wife regularly ridicules me for how many video game scores I listen to — but there really are some excellent instrumental pieces. (Even back in the days of the beeps and bloops.) That Halo track was a perfect example of the emotions just hearing that music can bring back, though I’d agree that the more atmospheric pieces would have more impact for players who experienced them firsthand.

    • #4
    • April 5, 2016 at 4:55 pm
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  5. Profile photo of cirby Member

    A shocking amount of the music I listen to is from video games. There’s a massive amount of wonderful stuff from the Final Fantasy series, for example.

    Quite a bit is from games I’ve never even played, for that matter.

    • #5
    • April 5, 2016 at 6:45 pm
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  6. Profile photo of KC Mulville Member

    Battlefield. Simple game from a few years ago, but the score for the game from Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra is always on my favorites.

    My son plays Fallout, and that’s where he first heard Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Didn’t really like Fallout, but the music is priceless.

    The Scott Joplin piece (Solace) is also a lovely background for a montage in The Sting.

    These pieces have the same power of fragrances … they instantly connect you with a memory.

    • #6
    • April 5, 2016 at 7:15 pm
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  7. Profile photo of Grosseteste Member

    My introduction to Edvard Grieg was this Atari 2600 game:

    Anitra’s Dance at around 1:45, Hall of the Mountain King shortly thereafter.

    • #7
    • April 5, 2016 at 7:57 pm
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  8. Profile photo of rebark Member

    For me the definitive video game song will always be the title theme from Civilization IV- this powerful, orchestral presentation of The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili, set to these sweeping vistas of human endeavor.

    It’s the sort of thing that reassures you that video games are, in actual fact, a form of culture.

    The title themes of FTL and the original Deus Ex are also both strong contenders.

    • #8
    • April 5, 2016 at 9:26 pm
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  9. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

    I’ll listen to the podcast tomorrow. But I’m partial to Jeremy Soule of the Elder Scrolls series. The Oblivion soundtrack is endlessly soothing.

    For adventure, Dovahkin is great, but nothing might ever beat the Zelda theme.

    • #9
    • April 5, 2016 at 9:39 pm
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  10. Profile photo of James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks Post author

    Thanks for listening – and I love how everyone has their own favorite. I can’t believe I forgot to mention Myst, but as the title of the series suggests, these aren’t storyboarded in advance. 😉

    The “Myst” story should be another Ramble, now that I think of it. One day I’m a fan; then I’m on a plane to go the game designers’ HQ and ink the deal to write the novelizations. And then it all went horribly south.

    • #10
    • April 5, 2016 at 10:52 pm
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  11. Profile photo of Derringdoo Member

    James Lileks: I can’t believe I forgot to mention Myst

    That’s where I thought you were going when you ended up talking about Halo. I could never stand playing Myst, but I will admit it was pretty.

    • #11
    • April 6, 2016 at 12:11 am
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  12. Profile photo of cirby Member

    Of course, if you’re looking for evocative music, “Hell March” (from the Command and Conquer series) certainly does the job.

    What it evokes? Let’s just say it has an appropriate title.

    • #12
    • April 6, 2016 at 3:54 am
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  13. Profile photo of Grosseteste Member

    I’d like to put forward a couple more games that were exceptional in putting forward a unified aesthetic:

    Jet Grind Radio had an excellent soundtrack, and melded really well with the cel-shaded (before everything was cel-shaded) graffiti-style art. I played this game a LOT, and on my first play it took me an absurdly long time to pass the sewer part of Garam’s challenge shown here. Going back to the game, it’s not unusual for me to fail a couple times before I get it:

    But to this day, the “click click click click” at the beginning of that part gives me a charge of adrenaline and apprehension. Get ready!

    Space Channel 5 is completely about the aesthetic. The gameplay is basically Simon with a rhythm element, but the midcentury-modern futuristic setting perfectly choreographed to the soundtrack (taken in a weird Japanese direction) makes it a blast to come back to. Here’s the first level boss from Space Channel 5 Part 2:

    • #13
    • April 6, 2016 at 7:23 am
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  14. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

    I haven’t been to Vegas. But that soundtrack effect from the elevators to the sidewalk sounds brilliant.

    “The key was back in the apartment under the carpet all along.”

    What a terrible ending.

    The new Doom has actually caught my interest, though I’m still unlikely to buy it. Bethesda seems to have brought back the emphasis on action over fear. Hell (even on Mars) is not a setting one wants to vividly experience.

    Halo‘s composers wanted to infuse the futuristic setting with ancient history. So chant in the main theme was brilliant.

    Supposedly, a Red Dead Redemption sequel is around the corner! Great setting, great story.

    “You simply wanted to stand there in awe.”

    That’s a magnificent aspect of the Elder Scrolls games: beauty. They want you to occasionally stop killing things and simply be wowed by vistas or details as the music takes you away. It makes you — the player — want to be there, like when you’re looking at a photograph of a mountain or crystal waters.

    I’ll have to pass on your anecdote about the bassist to my old bassist. He used to call his style “spank and pop” and it definitely put a jump in your step.

    • #14
    • April 6, 2016 at 10:54 am
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  15. Profile photo of Hank Rhody Member

    These days I play video games with the music turned off so I can listen to Ricochet podcasts in the background.

    • #15
    • April 6, 2016 at 11:31 am
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  16. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

    You might be interested in some of these old recordings of mine, James. They remind me of the progression of video game music.

    There are two riffs recorded in old MIDI. The first was my idea of a few gypsies around a campfire with two violins, a tamborine, and a flute. The old MIDI violin grates by itself, but is slightly more bearable and realistic when paired with a second violin. The second MIDI file is a marimba riff which sounds much better.

    All the riffs labeled “tech” are from many years ago when I experimented with a sequencer program called FruityLoops. I didn’t learn the sequencer’s nuances, so was limited to loops and constant volumes. “tech 2” reminds me of an old sidescroller game. It’s all the sort of limited and repetitive music that used to accompany games.

    “New Targonor” is a guitar piece I put together for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes while the game was still in development (before the project went to ruin). I spent a lot of time talking about game design with the Sigil team back then. I would have applied to be their composer if I had any skill at recording and mastering. In hindsight, I like (somewhat) that the guitar isn’t totally in sync because that gives it more of an impromptu tavern feel.

    The guitar piece “Beryl” and cheap keyboard “Lisetta” were made but not used for another game.

    • #16
    • April 6, 2016 at 11:33 am
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  17. Profile photo of Blue Yeti Admin

    Hank Rhody:These days I play video games with the music turned off so I can listen to Ricochet podcasts in the background.

    You are a great American. 😉

    • #17
    • April 6, 2016 at 12:00 pm
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  18. Profile photo of Hank Rhody Member

    Blue Yeti:

    Hank Rhody:These days I play video games with the music turned off so I can listen to Ricochet podcasts in the background.

    You are a great American. 😉

    Today I played Diablo III while listening to the Ramble talking about video game music which I had turned off so I could listen to the Ramble…

    I’m caught in a loop!

    • #18
    • April 6, 2016 at 12:03 pm
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  19. Profile photo of Spicy Food Hiccups Member

    If the new Doom brings back the keycards, I’m on board.

    Aaron Miller: That’s a magnificent aspect of the Elder Scrolls games: beauty. They want you to occasionally stop killing things and simply be wowed by vistas or details as the music takes you away. It makes you — the player — want to be there, like when you’re looking at a photograph of a mountain or crystal waters.

    If anyone wants a perfect example of this (though there are many):

    • #19
    • April 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm
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  20. Profile photo of Stad Thatcher

    When James played one of the songs from Doom, my mind raced back to those games and other similar ones. IIRC, Quake 2 had some good scores, so did many of the Command and Conquer games (anyone remember “Hell March” from Red Alert?).

    • #20
    • April 6, 2016 at 1:23 pm
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  21. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

    “Hell March” was so popular that fans demanded it be included in both Red Alert sequels. I think most fans, like myself, didn’t think much about its goosestep connotations and simply enjoyed it as an energetic rock song — something to make marching toward enemy bases as fun as zapping enemy soldiers with tesla coils.

    • #21
    • April 6, 2016 at 1:37 pm
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  22. Profile photo of C. U. Douglas Thatcher

    Aaron Miller:I’ll listen to the podcast tomorrow. But I’m partial to Jeremy Soule of the Elder Scrolls series. The Oblivion soundtrack is endlessly soothing.

    For adventure, Dovahkin is great, but nothing might ever beat the Zelda theme.

    Actually, I love Soule’s work in the TES series. However, little beats “Watch the Skies”

    Every game has combat music, Skyrim was no different. But they upped the ante when you fought dragons. There was a handful of dragon-combat songs that let you know, “Now things get Epic.” This piece, however, was my favorite of the bunch.

    The opening piece of Skyrim is good, but best of those for me is still “Nerevar Rising”

    Note this came out at a time when all games had start-up animation intros that set the story and setting. Morrowind just opened you to the intro screen with this song after some loading screen art. Did much more in that little start to draw me in than any game I’d played at the time. There is nothing like that music and intro for since.

    • #22
    • April 6, 2016 at 2:17 pm
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  23. Profile photo of Casey Member

    Sound is an amazing thing. That one can hear a song or a beep and be instantly transported to another time and place is amazing. And it is so complete. You can feel the weather at that time and place. You can taste and smell it. And so effortless. You couldn’t transport yourself that way as an act of will. You just hear the sound and you’re gone. Fantastic.

    • #23
    • April 8, 2016 at 8:47 am
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  24. Profile photo of Benjamin Glaser Member

    Sid Meier’s Colonization was my introduction to old folk music and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

    • #24
    • April 12, 2016 at 6:16 pm
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  25. Profile photo of MAW Member
    MAW

    James, that was as brilliant a podcast as I’ve heard. Exquisite attention to detail of the ambient.

    • #25
    • May 13, 2016 at 4:05 pm
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  26. Profile photo of rebark Member

    I heard this today (from the new Doom’s soundtrack) and thought back to this podcast. An evocative piece of music has a way of sticking around:

    • #26
    • October 2, 2016 at 6:14 pm
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  27. Profile photo of Hank Rhody Member

    Grosseteste: Jet Grind Radio had an excellent soundtrack, and melded really well with the cel-shaded (before everything was cel-shaded) graffiti-style art. I played this game a LOT, and on my first play it took me an absurdly long time to pass the sewer part of Garam’s challenge shown here. Going back to the game, it’s not unusual for me to fail a couple times before I get it:

    When I was in junior high I didn’t have any money with which to buy video games. A friend of mine would get enough to get the PC Gamer magazines that came with the demo discs, and would play those demos over and over again. He’d also go through the magazines, carefully cutting out the one and two page adds and put them up like posters in his room. Jet Set Radio was one of them; a great big graffiti of the log. It took you a moment to see the lady and her dog that got painted with the wall.

    A year or two ago I saw it on a Steam sale, picked it up on the basis of that add, and forgot about it. Three weeks ago I installed it and started playing. You’re right, it does pretty well presenting an aesthetic whole, and that sewer challenge is all kinds of frustrating.

    • #27
    • October 2, 2016 at 6:27 pm
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