Emotion Engine: Video game music to motivate or relax you during lockdown

Thomas Quillfeldt is community manager for Laced Records – one of the world’s biggest providers of licensing and commercial releases for video game music.

Background music. Underscore. Ambience.

These are things that people who make or play video games value perhaps more than others, as even the most subtle shift in audio can affect their immersion in an experience. At Laced Records, we celebrate the video game composers creating original scores (as well as the creatives picking licensed tracks) who have collectively spent decades honing the art of managing players’ emotions — and they’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Millions of gamers have fallen in love with all kinds of soundtrack music down the years. Looping chiptune favourites. Sweeping, emotive orchestral cues. Tastefully curated radio station playlists in open-world games. Understated ambient music that keeps players immersed while exploring labyrinthine dungeons.

If you’re too busy to do much gaming at the moment, you can still enter those worlds and summon those emotions through soundtracks. Call it ‘emotional management’ (or an ‘Emotion Engine 2.0’ so to speak…) During lockdown, you can mentally dial into different gaming experiences without picking up a pad — whether listening through streaming services or enjoying the tactile experience of physical media by setting a vinyl disc spinning.

We’ve worked with composers, music artists, developers and publishers on some of the industry’s most iconic scores and soundtrack releases – including for Hotline Miami, No Man’s Sky and DOOM (2016.) We’d like to think we can tell a great OST when we hear it at Laced Records, so here are a few suggestions of video game albums to soothe you, inspire you, or help you focus.

Want to wake up relaxed and face the day with a sunny attitude? Might I recommend Grant Kirkhope’s lush Viva Piñata score, or Eric Barone’s homely tunes for Stardew Valley.

Need to rouse yourself to get to your computer or put the washing on? Geoff Knorr, assisted by Roland Rizzo, Griffin Cohen, and Phill Boucher, composed some stirring music for Sid Meier’s Civilization VI; while the Merregnon Studios team created some thunderous arrangements of favourite JRPG scores for Final Symphony and Symphonic Fantasies.

If a motivational kick-up-the-butt is required to get you through the post-lunch slump, the four-to-floor bangers that make up the soundtracks to Furi (Carpenter Brut, Danger, The Toxic Avenger, Lorn, Scattle, Waveshaper, and Kn1ght) and Crypt of the Necrodancer (Danny Baranowsky) will undoubtedly have you tapping along in time.

Do you have a task that requires deep, concentrated thought? Ben Lukas Boysen and Sebastian Plano’s electronica score for Everything or Damjan Mravunac’s OST for The Talos Principle will help you tune in.

For zen relaxation, try to think of your favourite outdoor environment in a game. Chances are that someone has posted a 30-minute to 10-hour YouTube video of the ambient sound and music that you can chill out to. Search for “Breath of the Wild ambience” or “Fallout 4 ambience” in YouTube for some soothing examples.

You don’t need to dig out old gaming hardware to enjoy the comfort blanket of gaming nostalgia. Those of you currently reliving the late ‘90s through various remakes might be pleased to know that scores for several beloved gaming series, including Final Fantasy, Castlevania, and Resident Evil, are now available on Spotify et al. Soundtrack music can anchor you to your favourite game worlds, which can be a real comfort if you want to forget about the real world for a short while.

Whether you’d like to feel more upbeat, relaxed, focused or even heroic, there is a giant catalogue of wonderful game music you can draw upon to manage your mood throughout these lockdown days.

Thomas Quillfeldt is community manager for Laced Records – one of the world’s biggest providers of licensing and commercial releases for video game music – as well as a freelance writer and marketer across the music and video games industries. The Laced Records label is part of Keywords Studios, an international technical and creative services provider to the global video games industry, with 50+ operational studios across 21 countries and four continents.

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