Well, after deciding to take my GCSE Maths coursework by the horns and complete it well before it's due, I thought it was about time I blew the dust off my Xbox 360 controller and have a bash through a few games of N3. So there I was, slicing my way through goblin hordes at a considerable pace when I found myself thinking of the music. Now, by no means is the music in Ninety Nine Nights bad, but I still couldn't help thinking that it was missing something - some mixed emotion, some lyrics or even some nifty guitar solos. Booting up my spangly new PC that has a rather huge disliking for Windows Live Messenger, I hastily bang open iTunes and put my On-The-Go play list on. First song's something from the Matrix Soundtrack, and I find myself becoming more relaxed, enjoying the game more in the process as I wipe out my 2,000th enemy with a smack of the X button. As soon as the next song starts though, a whole 7 minutes later, I find myself become more tense, more agressive in my style of play and going for big damage shots over slick 12 hit combos.
Now, what I'm trying to get at here is the role of music in videogaming today. Back in the glorious days when the limit of gaming sound was the blip-blip-blip as you mashed a button on an arcade machine to a fine rhythm on Space Invaders, music didn't do anything to your gaming experience purely because it wasn't there. Now though, we've got custom soundtracks blaring out - or at least the music volume turned down on your game and your iPod beating your eardrums into a fine, purfirated mess. Sound is often overlooked in games in favour of graphics, story telling abilities and a user-friendly interface - so why does our entire experience change when we put Queen in Project Gotham Racing 3?
As anyone with half a soul knows, music triggers various emotions in our brains. Whether it's the sudden urge to cry our eyes out over our ex-partner or nod our heads more vigorously than the dog in the Churchill advert going over a speed bump, the subconsciousness is always hovering over us. Of course, there are some songs that just point blank don't fit into the world of the videogame - if you can find a game which could accommodate the likes of James Blunt, I want to hear about it. But there are other songs that just fit effortlessly into them as though the developers wanted you to listen to it while playing. A good example of this is The Last Samurai soundtrack - full of emotional variety - which intertwines seamlessly with the likes of N3. Ever stuck The Darkness on Perfect Dark Zero? I have, and I can honestly say I played better because of it.
It's the sudden rush of adrenaline as your favourite song comes on. It's the desire to push yourself to the limits because Bohemian Rhapsody's making you tap your foot more than a grandad at a wedding disco. It's the need to assist your mate in a fire fight, and you'll probably come out the winner thanks to the Arctic Monkeys. Yes, that's right - no matter how good a games soundtrack is, you'll find yourself doing things quicker, making better decisions and the like by putting your own music on instead.
Music also effects the way you approach the game too. If you've got some instrumental music on, you tend to appreciate the game alot more than you normally would. Rather than just use the same combo over and over again to guarantee a victory, certain pieces of music will make you want to try something new, look outside the box and add a little flair to your gaming. This can only be a good thing, because countless times on Xbox Live, I've either been victim to someone using repeated combos while I'm in a powerless situation or been complimented on something I've done that's visually arousing. Maybe if everyone listened to their own music, gaming would be a more enjoyable experience? I don't know - but I'm certainly listening to my own music more often as a result.
That's not to say that the music developers put into their game is bad and completely unecessary, because it isn't. Take a look at the Final Fantasies for example - why would you listen to your own music with gorgeous meloides like those? Speaking of the FF series, next time you're playing FFIX, try doing it with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack - I guarantee you'll be pleasantly suprised at the results. So does your taste in music affect the way you play your games? Yes. Does it make you play better? Quite possibly. But will it save you from dying in a 10 on 1 on Halo 2? No, only fingers of diamond and the luck of the Irish could do you that honour.