What if using a specific song or songs in your game would make players perform better when they play it? It’s an interesting question, don’t you think?
As a music supervisor for Stereobot, I’m fascinated by music application: from passive background listening during everyday menial tasks to purposeful and deliberate listening for perceived specific response.
Music is often used in countless forms of media to set mood and tone, and direct a subject to a specific emotional state or level. Film has done this for decades, even before the advent of sound dialogue in film; music was used to help tell the story where dialogue could not. Early years of gaming too, saw this with the simplistic songs embedded in games used to reflect the current state of the “situation” you were in at a particular moment or level.
Numbers of studies have been done on the effects of music and the brain in context of physical performance in athletics. During the last two summer Olympics many stories circulated around swimmer Michael Phelps pre race playlist he would listen to, and its possible enhancement of his performance.
Brunel University’s music in sport research department head, Dr Costas Karageorghis calls music sport’s “legal drug”, capable of reducing an athlete’s perception of effort by 10 per cent while increasing performance by 20 per cent. Over the course of a 20-year study, the scientists at Brunel University consistently observed the positive effects of music and documented up to a 15-percent performance gain based solely on listening to the right song during a workout. While gaming is not necessarily a physical sport, there’s no doubt to the argument of games being the sports of the mind, thus the concept of this performance gain rolling over into gaming is an interesting concept.
As well as the world of Athletics, scholastics has received some highly publicized musical research with the publishing of the early 90’s study of what has been deemed “The Mozart Effect”. Drawling a correlation between listening to Mozart and improving your mental development in spatial temporal reasoning, leading to better grades, and improved test scores for students. It’s a study that is still remains highly cited, and has, over the last few years, led to as to the validity of music in the work place, with some claiming higher productivity amongst music listeners.
With all this science of music being studied, when will games enter the fold, and start garnering some music studies on your gaming brain? It’s hard to say really. However, with sites like Luminosity.com, a site of scientifically backed passive games you use to train and exercise you brain, helping give some validity to games ability to be used as a positive tool, the time may be inching closer.
Specific situations requite specific music. As a music supervisor, this is the key element to my job. However, I’m endlessly fascinated by the concept of being able help select the specific song for the specific situation, which would also garner the highest performance from gamers. Could music game directors one day be working side by side with scientists to create gaming music that is not only appealing, and enjoyable, but also helps enhance your performance? Because I for one would love to work on a project like that! So how about it science?
Zachary is the music supervisor for www.stereobot.com, a leading licensing platform for video games and mobile apps’. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he loves playing Blades Of Steel with headphones on.