Despite being pretty decent fans of video games, we have to admit they’re not productive, at least in the traditional sense. Yes, they have the potential to tell great stories and to be cinematic, as we’ve covered before, but you’re not playing those types of games all the time. The reputation for slacking remains.
But one aspect of gaming can actually significantly boost your productivity, it seems. The video game soundtrack is an under-utilized tool to help increase your creativity and problem-solving skills.
The Science Behind It
Next time you’re grinding away on some project whose deadline feels like it’s slowly sapping your life away, consider throwing on a soundtrack in the background. It’ll likely take some of that pressure and stress away, while keeping you concentrated on the task at hand.
We’ve known about the benefits of music while you work for some time. Musical melodies can help increase dopamine production in the brain, the same chemical that’s released when you do something you enjoy. Eating, spending time with friends, generally accomplishing something, hunting the most dangerous game, all that stuff contributes to keeping you happy and releases dopamine when you do them. Music can strengthen that production. It keeps you in a good mood, focused, and calm.
Now, that’s probably not news to you. In fact, you might already listen to music at work. Plenty of employees do, using jazz or classical music to keep themselves working. What you may not have considered is listening to video game soundtracks at work.
These are soundtracks designed with progress in mind, so this all makes more sense than you might think. Gaming’s a more interactive hobby than film, so the music has to establish just as much mood as in film, without distracting from the interactivity. Take the music from the incinerator level of Portal. It’s a tense moment and the player’s going to have to think on their feet in quick bursts to get out of it. The music absolutely conveys that. But it conveys that without ever getting in the way of figuring out how to not get fire-murdered by a psychotic AI.
In fact, the whole of the Portal soundtrack illustrates the point. It has some of the more difficult puzzles we’ve encountered in gaming, and the music enhances the atmospheric tension of the game without ever getting in the way of the puzzles. If anything, these songs help us focus on the puzzles and help us solve them.
That’s the way game soundtracks are designed. Portal keeps you focused on puzzles. Fallout moves the cautious but stubborn explorer in you. The Legend of Zelda keeps you in awe of the open and optimistic world waiting for you to conquer it. Most sidescrolling platformers (think early Sonic and Mario games) have energetic beats that keep you running right. They’re all there to help you accomplish whatever objective has been set for you.
With that, we’d like to suggest a few sources you can go to for gaming soundtracks that will make your workday the fastest and most efficient it can be.
The Sound of Gaming
The Sound of Gaming is a blog devoted to organizing all the video game music Spotify has in its library. The backlog is impressive, so you won’t even notice the blog hasn’t been updated since 2013. A quick scroll through the labels shows there isn’t a whole lot missing, so the only thing standing between you and endless video game soundtracks is a Spotify account. Link
One of Reddit’s strengths, as well as one of its significant weaknesses, is its userbase’s willingness to share information. So when tolberttrain made a post asking for people’s suggestions for good game music to listen to while studying, they delivered. A little more than 1300 comments rolled in, and tolberttrain sorted through and posted a good couple handfuls of picks from other users in his original post. Some of the suggestions are a little out there. We don’t know who’d be able to stay productive through 10 straight hours of the Mortal Kombat theme. But Skyrim, Dear Esther, Medal of Honor: Frontline, and The Legend of Zelda are all included, so take the good with the bad. They’re generally links to YouTube too, so there aren’t any hoops to jump through. Link
Pandora was not one of the first sources we thought of when we thought of video game music. It was actually the last. Not because it’s bad, just because we didn’t think of it. Nonetheless, you can indeed start a video game soundtrack station. Like other stations on Pandora, you can use the thumbs up and thumbs down to customize what you want to listen to. So if too much World of Warcraft and not enough Halo is coming up, you can fix that. Also, we’re not providing a link, because you can’t provide stations as hyperlinks, but if you have a Pandora account and are even vaguely interested in this, make the station.
There’s so much music on this website, we’re intimidated by the prospect of sorting through it all. Luckily everything is arranged alphabetically, so if you know what you’re looking for, you should find it. That’s actually the way we’d suggest using this site. Know what you want before you dig in, because it’s easy to see everything that’s on here and get a little overwhelmed. It also offers downloads, so while we can’t (and won’t) vouch for the legality of actually downloading anything from the site, know that it’s an option. Link
This site functions like Pandora in that it’s an Internet radio site, but it’s a lot closer to traditional radio than Pandora’s model. You can’t skip songs or tell it what to play next, but for some people, that might be a benefit. Sometimes you just want to sit back and listen to stuff you had no input on, and that’s totally fine. From the stuff we’ve listened to, there seems to be a bit of an RPG bias to the station (which makes sense in light of the site’s name), but we can’t really be sure. One cool feature this site has no other site did was the ability to change the skin of your player. It defaults to Link, but Batman, Mario, Metal Gear, Metroid, and Terraria are among the 19 gaming options. Link