I’m going to start off by answering this question right off the bat: No. No it is not weird to listen to Video Game Music. In fact, even while writing this, I’ve had my own personal VGM soundtrack pumping me along, a common habit I indulge when working.
For a lot of people of a certain age (myself falling within that particular bracket), Video Games have been a huge part of our lives. More precisely, part of our childhoods, and have had a large hand in shaping our personalities, views on art and culture, and even things like our friends and relationships.
For those that grew up with and love them, they’ve more than likely become deep personal mementos of our formative years. Other art forms such as film and music have also contributed independently, but growing up and coming-of-age in the late 80s and 90s meant millennials especially have a kind of nostalgic attachment to Video Games, and the music that soundtracked these pieces of revolutionary entertainment can teleport us right back to playing Super Nintendo with our siblings or the first time we heard Zelda’s Lullaby.
But not only does it serve as a way of spraying nostalgic mist into our senses, music is also a proven producer of dopamine, often dubbed as the “pleasure molecule”, in your brain which makes you happier and feel reward. This means that it can literally make you more productive and benefit your brain if you listen to the right stuff, and Video Game Music has all the right ingredients to do just that.
Does video game music (VGM) have no lyrics?
While this isn’t true for all Video Game Music, the majority of it is instrumental, which is not necessarily proven to make you directly more productive, but a lack of singing or speaking (or just “human noise” in general) is far less distracting, according to a study by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Speaking from personal experience, I feel like I get a lot more done when listening to the God of War soundtrack as opposed to a podcast or audiobook (not that audiobooks or podcasts aren’t entertaining but for the purposes of productivity, I go with people like Kratos and Master Chief).
Also, a study conducted by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information in the US showed that “continuous noise” was the least distracting when applied to people trying to complete cognitive tasks, whereas speech was reported as being the “most disturbing, most disadvantageous, and least pleasant environment” to be in. So while VGM is a very good choice for reducing distraction and drowning out unwanted noise, other instrumental music like classical or lo-fi are equally good options to choose.
The reason voices distract you is because your brain is wired to face the voice that’s speaking to you, even if there isn’t one present. However, you may still feel drawn to face your phone or second screen if you’re trying to expand your mind with a TED Talk or listening to a throwback Spotify playlist, so it’s often better to flood your brain with melodies and symphonies rather than lectures and conversations.
Video Games, much like films, have their music created in tandem to match what the audience would be seeing or what section the Player is currently working through. That’s why certain Super Mario levels are up-beat and high tempo, to keep you running through the Mushroom Kingdom, jumping on Goombas and dodging Koopas. The same goes for boss encounters in the Dark Souls series, being triumphant and grandiose, with big crescendos and operatic scores to translate the magnitude of the demon you’re battling.
So listening to tracks that have a high tempo or immense musical score can put you in the right frame of mind to tackle certain types of tasks. A good workout ahead of you might mean channelling your inner Little Mac and playing Doc Louis’ theme, or putting together some Ikea furniture might call for an extended loop of the trial theme from Phoenix Wright to keep you in a calm, focused state of mind while you assemble your new coat stand (but still refusing to read the instructions).
The right music can literally make us mentally better at doing things, and VGM has a lot of the qualities that contribute to that process.
Music also has the ability to make us more creative if it’s set up correctly. A paper published by the Oxford University Press found out that ambient background noise at a relatively “medium” volume actually fuels people’s creativity.
Loud, high energy music/noise is great for getting us moving, exercising or performing physical tasks but can often be overly distracting and detract when we have to focus or zero in on a more mentally orientated challenge.
I’ve listed below some of my personal favourites of examples of video game music (VGM) that will hopefully fit with a particular task or tasks. Feel free to suggest your own top tunes in the comments!
Relaxing Video Game Music
If you’re after a calming and relaxing set of tunes, these may help you unwind:
- Minecraft – Minecraft Theme
- Dustforce – Elvish Piper Academy
- Donkey Kong Country 2 – Stickerbrush Symphony
- Mirror’s Edge – Introduction
High Energy Video Game Music
General housework just breezes by with these tunes in my ears:
- Mortal Kombat – MK Theme
- Street Fighter III 3rd Strike – Remy’s Stage (The Beep)
- Halo 3 – Warthog Run
- F-Zero GX – Night of Big Blue
- Kirby’s Triple Deluxe – Masked Dedede
Heavy Video Game Music
There’s not many better things to play air guitar to than these
- Thunder Force IV – Lightning Strikes Again [Metal Squad]
- Alan Wake – Children of the Elder God
- Doom (2016) – BFG Edition
- F-Zero X – Big Blue Metal Mix
Retro/8-bit Video Game Music
Some great retro-sounding beats.
- Mega Man 2 – Dr. Wily’s Castle
- Super Turrican 2 – Wormland
- Punch-Out! – Training
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Chemical Plant Zone
- TMNT: Turtles in Time – Sewer Surfin’
So in conclusion, no, it is not weird to listen to Video Game Music. In fact, it would be the weirdest thing not to.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as a guide only for educational and informational purposes. It is not legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.