Sunday, February 2, 2014

Video Game Music

I talk about this a lot, but oh well. Have another post about video games and/or their music.

Last night I was having a serious bout of nostalgia over video game music. Some people say smells bring back the strongest memories, but for me it's always been music. I used to listen to Enya while falling asleep after my dad would read Lord of the Rings to me every night, and so I've always associated Enya's Shepherd Moons with those books. I always listen to music when I read, so I have a very long list of books that go with specific albums or songs.

But when I associate music with a specific period in my life, that evokes such strong emotion that I feel like I'm almost traveling back in time, feeling the exact emotions I felt when I was listening to a certain song or artist, months or years in the past. Florence + the Machine's Ceremonials will always bring me back to London, riding the bus on dark rainy nights, watching the blurred lights of the city pass me by as I lean against the fogged-up windows.

When I listen to music from video games, though, it's powerful in a different sense. It's bringing me back, not to a time or place in my own life, but in another world altogether. I've never been a realist, and I much prefer escaping into fantasy worlds to doing whatever it is other people do (read crime novels? Eat cereal? I don't know). Video games are so important to me in that respect. They're not a waste of time or a distraction, as many people would see them. Last year while I was in Utah, I was trying to figure out what I could do to make myself happier, so I made this thing Greg suggested -- a value map. I had to write down my most important life values, and then gauge how my life was staying true to those values. One of mine was "escapism". It's a term with negative connotations, but it's always been of incredible importance to me. Ever since I was a kid, my dad and I escaped into magical worlds together. We both longed so much to eat at the tables of Rivendell, to lie on our backs in the grass of the Shire and gaze up into the sun-dappled trees. We ached to open up a wardrobe and find ourselves in Narnia. It was such a huge part of my childhood, and I wouldn't be who I am today without that desire to go somewhere new, and magical, and full of adventure.

I never stopped yearning for those worlds. When I started playing WoW it was for a boyfriend, but I hadn't expected to be so drawn to that world. It was beautiful. There were skies with northern lights that you would never see on this earth, mountains that disappeared into the clouds, fjords guarded by dragons, islands that drifted in the sky. Sometimes it took my breath away. It felt like I was really there, in that world, a world that would never exist in this reality. And there was always music. 

It's silly, but I remember the day the Wrath of the Lich King expansion came out, and I boarded the zeppelin that would take me from Orgrimmar to the Howling Fjord. That music, the music you can only hear on the zeppelin for some tragic reason, made me cry. Which was the first in a series of Meg-crying-in-Northrend moments, but as silly as it sounds, it really meant something to me. And it still does.

So when I listen to music from a video game that I love, it not only reminds me of the fun I had playing that game, but it brings me fully into the world again. Listening to music from Fable II takes me to the shores of a lake, gazing across dark water to the distant lights of the city, and above them, Fairfax Castle. Last night I spent a long time listening to music from games I used to play ages ago on the N64, and was instantly in those worlds again. It's comforting being able to get so close to reliving past moments that way, if sad in its own way. But you know me. I love a bit of melancholy.

And if you're really bored, here are some of my favorite songs from video games.

That song on the Northrend zeppelin:

Bower Lake, from Fable 2:

People have been known to say that video games aren't art, but I can't see how one could possibly think that. Just look at the music, guys. I could listen to video game music all day every day and be happy. It's some of the most beautiful music I've come across. Not to mention amazing concept art, as showcased above, from Fable and World of Warcraft.

And okay I've never actually played Skyrim (I know I know, shame), but you should really check out this arrangement of the theme. It's incredible. You're welcome.

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