Friday, August 22, 2008

Scoring a Game

When I troll around rpg message boards (which is unsettlingly often), I'll see a thread on music pop up every so often. Folks will ask for music recommendations for certain kinds of games, and the response will often be something like, "Check out this site or this video game soundtrack, because it has great ambient tavern sounds. Clink clink. The voice of an old man in the back ground offering 5 strangers a bag of gold to save a princess. Etc." And then there are those who like movie soundtracks (but always shy away from known songs, like the Indiana Jones theme, because that would be gauche).

I love music when I'm playing and actively scoring a game, but I don't like either of these strategies. Some of my best game experiences have involved the kind of music I actively listened to at the time. In a Star Wars game, our seedy crew of a dilapidated starship flew through space and descended through the atmosphere to the sounds of Beck - funky, spacey, zany, with a drop of cowboy music. In a pulpy game built around kinetic action and fighting Nazis (of course), the drum and bass of the Propellerheads drove the action. If you like hip hop, I can attest that it fits in a huge range of scenes beyond the club.

The point is that many of my most fun game moments include the bobbing of the head. No matter how elegant the rules are or how robust the setting is, it's about being social with a bunch of friends imagining the same thing. Good music is one of the most underrated game aids in this respect.

And beer doesn't hurt either.


Patrick W. Rollens said...
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Patrick W. Rollens said...

And here's where I'll disagree. I consider it a Bad Thing if I can actually remember a specific song from a game session.

Music should set the scene and evoke a particular mood, nothing more. I'd much rather remember the grandeur and cinema of a particular scene because of a confluence of factors -- masterful GMing, cool props, a rich setting...and yes, music. It's just one part of the equation for me.