The Stigma of Video Game Music

“What’s your favourite band?”

This is a question extremely common when meeting a new person. It’s clearly founded on the question, “Do you like music”, but the answer to that one is often assumed. Only a weirdo would say that they don’t like music, after all, right? And who makes music? Bands. It’s a perfectly natural and friendly question to ask, an attempt to find common ground.

Ever so slightly, I fear this question. “I don’t have one” is the reply that rings clearly in my mind, but that’s not an answer I can just throw out there without explaining. It’s not like my hardline stance on watching football, in which I can honestly say “I would have a far better experience in watching paint dry” and not feel a single shred of guilt because man do I really hate football. Because I do like music, just not the music people ask you about when they’re getting to know you. But do I want to say “I listen to Video Game soundtracks”? Why don’t I go deep-sea diving in the ocean of social perceptions tied to my absolute favourite boulder while I’m at it?

I am not ashamed of being a total nerd. I like to think that I own it, flaunt it even. But I’m not a fan of feeling the need to justify those preferences of mine that differ from most on a base level. I consistently get far better responses when I say that I listen to Japanese music that I pick up from anime. Which is true, but I have like… 10 total in my phone. Video game music seems like conversation poison, and that’s a huge shame.

There is a lot of video game music that requires context to be fully enjoyed- it’s certainly not unique in this, but with the added element of interactivity, the principle seems to apply more than in other forms of media. Someone who hears such music divorced of its natural environment might understandably be puzzled as to the appeal. But, nowadays especially, there’s a lot out there that stands easily on its own. For example, I’ve recently been enjoying delightful orchestral pieces from the Super Mario Galaxy games. Just… listen to this.

This is not the kind of music that people usually associate with video games. There are no blips or bleeps (although I freaking love a lot of chiptune music), and since it’s for the game’s credits it doesn’t even loop. There are still people who would think of it as being a strange thing to listen to, and of me as being strange for listening to it. I’ve met at least one. There’s a part of this stigma that is entirely independent of the quality of the music itself, even in these times when video games are no longer a niche but a widespread hobby. It bums me out just a little.

And what am I going to do about it? Complain, of course. Complaining on the internet is part of the skill I’m honing, here. And maybe the word “complain” gets a bit of a bad rap. A lot of people complain about things that bother them. Sometimes they write complaints on placards and congregate in the streets, often about things that aren’t dumb. In some parts of the world they might complain about that pesky dictator that went and shot their cat and also their entire family. Maybe those complaints are ultimately ineffectual. Doesn’t matter. Trivial or harrowing, some things are better off said.

-Jesse (@BackBlogGuy)

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