If you’ve ever played a boss level in a video game, you may be the type of person that needs to mute the in-game soundtrack or turn on your own music. Primarily, this is because of the intense situation you’re about to be in.
However, people that play video games often may interested to find that there’s a correlation between the in-game music and the scenario they’re playing through.
The music within a video game is largely developed to set the tone for the circumstances of a level. However, it’s not just designed to go with the ambiance of the moment – the sound designers are creating an environment to make an immersive experience, affecting everything down to your mental assessment of the goal.
Mental health professionals from online resources may suggest playing low-stake games for patients that are sensitive to negative themes or heightened stress.
If you feel an increase in your stress, anxiety, or even depression during and after your game time, take a look at the music in the background.
For more information about dealing with stress and improving mental health, click here.
The Sound Design Behind Video Games
Sound design within a video game encompasses more than music – the dialogue, sound effects, and even menu noises are all developed with a goal in mind.
In order to create an immersive environment that contributes to the player’s experience, sound engineers play a crucial role in the game’s early stages.
In fact, a sound designer doesn’t just focus on what would make the game sound cool – they’re looking for how they can influence the player’s reaction, playstyle, and more. More specifically, the music is purposefully placed in a way to manipulate your mental response.
For example, when playing a horror video game, high violins and eerie background music is designed to increase your anxiety and stress while exploring a level.
The music may even signal when you’re getting closer to the villain, increasing in intensity and fervor. When the monster finally bursts into view, the crescendo of the soundtrack heightens your reaction, contributing to the fear and surprise you may feel.
The Motivation Behind Stressful Music
When it comes to stressful situations like encountering a monster in a horror game or racing from hostile pursuers in an online battle royale, you can often thank the music for increasing your anxiety.
In fact, there are even instances where a game will purposefully cut out or reduce the music as you get near a concerning scenario; this is placed to provoke confusion and stress since it’s more common for music to increase in intensity rather than stop entirely.
The sound team isn’t necessarily trying to induce a panic attack. Instead, they’re purposefully increasing your chances of producing adrenaline, which can often have an effect on your reaction time and decision making skills.
At first, this may feel like a counterintuitive measure: with the increased stress, you’ll most likely make more mistakes at first. However, as you continue to practice, associating certain musical scores and cues with stressful situations, you’ll begin to react faster and rely on muscle memory for certain tasks.
Positive Video Game Music Experiences
Again, sound designers aren’t trying to harm their players by provoking panic attacks or prolonged stress-related conditions. In many instances, the team creates boisterous, rewarding music to hype up a victory after defeating a particularly taxing level.
For many franchises the idle menu music or neutral zones are also designed to be catchy and care-free, signaling to your anticipation that this is a safe zone. If you’ve played Kingdom Hearts, you may remember the score for Traverse Town just as well as you remember the track for Hollow Bastion since you spent the idlest time in the former and the most stressful time in the latter.
It’s especially common for people to remember the background instrumental from their favorite childhood franchise, especially if it was a universe they frequently returned to or replayed. This is largely in part because no matter if the level was challenging and stressful or light and easy, you connect it with a nostalgic memory that brings you joy.
Developed to be memorable and mentally stimulating, video game music is so much more than additional background noise.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with MyTherapist.com.
With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.