The Power Of Music In Gaming
Music is a wonderful and powerful thing. It can stir the emotions in ways even words cannot and it allows us to cast aside our worries or cares in such a way that we can become lost in its sound. It is a form of entertainment that can both stand on its own or act as an enhancer for others. Think of your favorite movie or television show. Did you notice the music that was playing in the background? Did it not enhance the experience? Imagine those same scenes without the ambient music playing. Not quite the same, is it? Just as music enhances visual media, it can also be used to enhance table-top gaming. Playing the right music at the right time in the background of a game can add a level of immersion to the game that might have been missing before.
Now, when I am talking about using music in a game, I am talking about using it properly. If used improperly (which often means too loudly or too often), it can often be little more than a distraction, with your players (or even your Gamemaster) paying more attention to the song than to what is actually happening at the game-table. Unfortunately, I have to admit that having a player joining you via Skype or other video-service makes it really hard to have music in a game. Not impossible, but really hard. Often, it is just better not to have the music playing for that player’s sake, as it usually just turns into white noise over their speakers. Now, if you can have it low enough on your end not to bother them and let them know what music to play (having preset play-lists via Spotify is a good way of doing this).
The best way (again, in my opinion) to use music is with using it as appropriate ambiance. Having something playing that is fast paced with strong beats in it is really good for combat scenes. Are your players entering a tavern, nightclub, or other social gathering? Have what music you want the characters to hear playing in the background. Are your characters traveling through a storm? Rainy mood, all the way.
You can also use music to set a scene. Taking the example of characters walking into a tavern, if you want them to notice the Bard performing in the back, play something similar to what you would like the Bard to sound like (Enya pops into my mind) and tell your players something like “an angelic voice can be heard above the din. It is absolutely beautiful. This (hitting play) is what you hear.” Doing so allows your players to experience something that their characters are experiencing, bridging the divide between them and allowing them to connect with their characters in a brand new way. Trust me when I say that it is an amazing experience.
What music you play at a game should vary based on the type of game you are running, and such we will be looking at various common gaming settings over the next few articles, examining what music works best (in my opinion) for each setting.
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