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wintermadness

VGM = Best music out there?

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I listen to metal, punk, rock, and other genres but I've noticed I listen to videogame music the most out of my musical tastes. Such as my fav. type of music being metal, I get sick of listening to it, and that goes to all other genres of music. With vgm though, I can listen to it all day and not get sick of it.

Whenever I pick up my guitar, instead of playing some metal or other types of music, here I am playing some 8-bit themes or the modern videogame themes.

On the computer, vgm is playing. It seems my love for vgm is thickening. Am I becoming even more of a nerd?

Anyone else prefer vgm to your average standard music?

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There's really no point in arguing what is "better."

Although I believe that a lot of vg music appreciation is gained from nostalgia. When you hear or play a song from a video game you are reminded of the events happening while the song was playing in the game. These effects can be even greater if you enjoy the song.

As for practicing guitar with 8-bit game music, more power to ya! I find playing the tetris theme on keyboard is much more fun practice than playing the monotonous folks songs from the piano book.

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I listen to more VGM than mainstream music, but VGM encompasses all genres. Video games are just a medium for music; VGM is not any particular style.

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I listen to more VGM than mainstream music, but VGM encompasses all genres. Video games are just a medium for music; VGM is not any particular style.

This, and some additional characters

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I listen to more VGM than mainstream music, but VGM encompasses all genres. Video games are just a medium for music; VGM is not any particular style.

True. I guess I'm trying to say vgm specifically broadens my music which makes it the majority of music I listen to. If that makes sense.

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I listen to more VGM than mainstream music, but VGM encompasses all genres. Video games are just a medium for music; VGM is not any particular style.

Is it just me though, or is it possible to differentiate between VGM and a mainstream song of the same genre?

I don't know. In some cases, maybe not. But I feel like VGM does have an overall "feel," regardless of genre.

Of course, I might think differently if forced to take some kind of test. It's possible that being aware that a song is from a video game triggers associations that lead me to perceive the music as more video-gamey. But that kind of relates to what AmazinJason said, which I agree with. Part of what makes video game music different is the fact that we more frequently associate specific memories with them.

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Anyone else prefer vgm to your average standard music?

Me, I don't care. Music is music, but variety is the spice of life. I tried listening to metal all day but couldn't last an hour. I do like metal, but really, it's just too loud, and I like to think about the music I'm hearing, and my mind goes into ADD after listening to too much metal or punk. I've spent 6 hours listening to underground hip-hop and feel refreshed because I learn from hearing people talk about different things without screaming or singing (if they rap), but when I listen to mainstream poppy crunky stuff, I get bored from the repetition sooooo easily.

Game music? I listen to alot of it and love it, but take breaks inbetween. I could listen to it all day because yes, it does work with my emotions, but I just have to listen to something with lyrics because sometimes the power of words can superceed tones of a non-verbal or electronic nature.

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Is it just me though, or is it possible to differentiate between VGM and a mainstream song of the same genre?

I don't know. In some cases, maybe not. But I feel like VGM does have an overall "feel," regardless of genre.

Of course, I might think differently if forced to take some kind of test. It's possible that being aware that a song is from a video game triggers associations that lead me to perceive the music as more video-gamey. But that kind of relates to what AmazinJason said, which I agree with. Part of what makes video game music different is the fact that we more frequently associate specific memories with them.

This.

Most video game music (and film music, for that matter) is crafted for a different purpose than other music. It's meant to support some main action or story and add to it. It is meant for the associations and memories we hold so dear. As such, I'd argue that most VGM readily evokes a specific emotion: tension (for a battle), relaxing (for a town), beauty (for an emotional/love scene), etc. This could be true with regular music as well (especially since every other song has a music video to pretty much explain it), but the song itself is the centerpiece. So while it's not a genre in the way metal or rock is a genre, VGM has defining characteristics nonetheless.

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There's really no point in arguing what is "better."

Although I believe that a lot of vg music appreciation is gained from nostalgia. When you hear or play a song from a video game you are reminded of the events happening while the song was playing in the game. These effects can be even greater if you enjoy the song.

This is true to some extent, how ever, I find that a lot of my favorite remixes are from games I've never played. I loved the Chrono Trigger soundtrack long before I played the game, and I love FF7's music even though I got bored with the game after a couple hours. So at least for me, nostalgia is only a small part of it.

VG music can encompass all musical styles, but what I think sets it apart and makes it "video game music" rather than just "soundtrack music", is the fact that it is HIGHLY melodic (read: very, very catchy) and intended to be looped ad nauseam with making you feel... nauseam. Even without the nostalgia factor, a well written VG song strives for many of the same things a pop song does: to be played over and over until you actually start to associate good memories with it. I mean, does anyone here actually have nostalgic memories of bad VG songs?

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A quick word in advance- sorry for the wall of text! Couldn't help myself.

--

Just for fun I feel like playing devil's advocate. So get ready for this- I'm going to argue that VGMusic is actually = the worst form of music!

Seriously though, there are a couple things to consider here and I'm going to lay them out plainly.

1) Videogame music isn't meant to be listened to out-of-context. It isn't even really intended to be listened to at all, it is only intended to enhance the experience while you focus your attention on the gameplay. Video game music is like music for commercials, short jingles meant to direct your attention without actually containing any particular raw musical emotion. Because this is the nature of the purpose for video game music, it means that vgmusic composers have to dial-back their personal ideas and inspirations in order to write something appropriate for the overall vision. In other words, video game music isn't an art unto itself, but is part of the greater artistic collaboration of video game design.

Aside from soundtrack music, every other genre is meant to represent the peak of the musician's talent, the pinnacle of their vision, and the ideals of the arranger's style. Videogame music is the only genre of music where musicianship (in the performance-oriented sense) doesn't actually come in to play. You could almost argue that video game music isn't even music at all.

2) Videogame music is like pop music. It's meant to have a catchy, memorable riff or melody without deviating very much so as not to confuse the listener. It's meant to be listened to over and over and over again and is meant to be very easily digested. It isn't meant to be experimental, it isn't meant to "push things forward", it is really, really simple music. It's just a combination of what's popular and what game designers know will work.

In order for me to appreciate music as art (and not just disposable pop) I need to be able to hear that the composer has a new idea, a new angle, their own interpretation. This isn't what game designers want. Game designers want music that will have broad general appeal and they choose to stick to the basics. As video game music doesn't strive to exceed itself, I would have to say it's a pretty stale genre and it has a lot of room to grow.

3) Generally speaking, art (in it's many forms) is meant only for one purpose- expression. A poem expresses an idea. A picture expresses a vision. A song expresses an emotion. When an artist sits down to create, they do this because they have to share what they're feeling with others in the only way they know how. True art is the byproduct of blood, sweat and tears. However, at the same time art can be compromised when money enters the picture. Someone approaches an artist with money and says "Make this for me," and suddenly the artist isn't relating his vision anymore, but merely creating something "good enough" to satisfy the client. Commissioned art doesn't express itself, it simply meets requirements.

Hypothetically, in an ideal situation where a videogame music composer has been tasked with writing a song that he feels really enthusiastic about writing and actually puts himself into the music, what will inevitably happen (and it is inevitable) is that the game director will hear it, and say something along the lines of "I like this and this, but this and this won't work, can you make that more like this?" The musical idea is compromised to make it more palettable with the overall gameplay idea. If the composer wants his money, he'll make the changes, and sacrifice his vision.

So, to summarize my three points, video game music is part of a collaboration of several kinds of art who's purpose is to draw attention away from itself. Music, on the other hand, is meant to be expressive, push boundaries and summarize the composer's musical ideals. Real music doesn't hold itself back to gel better with someone else's vision. Real music grabs you by the teeth and doesn't let go until it's said what it has to say.

Now before people blow this out of proportion (I must be crazy posting something like this, here of all places), I want to remind everyone that I'm just playing devil's advocate :) This isn't how I really feel, just an exageration.. being a (vastly underrated) remixer I'm actually keen on this genre of music and appreciate the artistic collaboration required to make it happen. However at the same time, I feel that the commercialization of music and the success of the thriving video game industry has resulted in some rather unfavorable "trends" in videogame music of late. Every other soundtrack sounds the same, and if it doesn't sound the same it's because the whole soundtrack contains liscensed music. With the exception of a handful of vg composers, I think the quality of video game music of late is at an all time low. (This might explain why all the stuff getting remixed on OCR is mostly from retro RPGs)

Just my two cents. Please don't hurt me!

PS: To the topic creator, good job on getting all this text out of me

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Video game music is generally more complex, and demonstrates more skill than punk music or standard thrash metal.

I think this, along with the fact that VGM really does encompass all genres, explains your question.

I skimmed the post above me, and in my humble opinion, think it is severely misguided, and in places, dead wrong. I'm convinced that, like you said in your post, you really did not listen to the music at all.

If you say video game music is not intended to be listened to, and that it's like pop music, I apologize; your opinion is worthless to me.

Deriving emotion is part of the process of "guiding" the player.. a point you touched upon.

There are other places to tear your post apart, but I don't feel like it today.

I think you need to quit playing the devil's advocate solely to do so, and instead, really give your stance some thought.

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I skimmed the post above me, and in my humble opinion, think it is severely misguided, and in places, dead wrong.

[words words words]

I think you need to quit playing the devil's advocate solely to do so, and instead, really give your stance some thought.

Pretty much, yep. Likewise, I could tear into your post, but in so few words, Slygen's pretty much said all that really needs to be said.

Nothing personal. I know you were only playing DA "just for fun" so I don't feel like you deserve a full reaming anyway :<

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VG music have this particularity of recreating a bond between emotions and memories, associated with the event of actually doing something in the game.

Whereas on the other hand, you're only spectator of an anime or a movie (even if you feel something about it).

I agree with the fact that you can totally love an OST without having ever played the game.

But in this case, you associate the feeling with memories of something that took place outside off the game context.

Personnaly, I listen to VG music a lot. And since I'm new at remixing, "study" would be the most appropriate term to qualify my approach.

I'm more in the process of learning than enjoying, cause I see the music differently now . But in general I got pretty eclectic taste.

I believe a lot of the people from this community are more open-minded, when it comes to music, than the vast majority of the population.

That, IMO is due to the fact that more and more, video game music is widening, mixing genres and references, getting better and better.

And people are starting to realize that VGM is not just 8bit sounds that makes your ears bleed.

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Part of what makes video game music different is the fact that we more frequently associate specific memories with them.

A vast chunk of the video game music I listen to is from games I have never heard of nor played.

Maybe I'm just really really weird and most people like music for nostalgia so I guess take that as you will.

All that said, if I could afford it I would probably have way more non-video game music. But I think that's more attributed to the fact that I have been listening to the same bunch of music for a few years now and just need something fresh.

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I can see how what I'm saying would come across as pretty confusing and rash so please let me explain what I'm saying more clearly so that the idea I was trying to express is properly understood.

The stance I'm coming from isn't neccessarily against video game music, but rather an observation about soundtrack music as a whole. What I am proposing is that there is a distinction between soundtrack music, and every other kind of music. I think everyone here will agree that soundtrack music has a distinct feel. Earlier in this thread other users have already offered up some observations on videogame soundtrack music in particular, noting that for example it loops every minute or so.

Now to really understand where I'm coming from, you need to contemplate the artistic prcoess of creation, and I mean this in the most specific way. When someone sets out on an artistic endeavour, they are essentially bringing into reality what otherwise would never have existed. Creating something from nothing as they see fit. As I said previously, a poet writes what he feels he must, and an artist draws what he wishes to see. The value of art is that is pure, natural expression. Relating this to music, a musician plays what he wants to hear, and an arranger composes what he feels will sound most natural. There are very many ways of expressing oneself with music. North American music tends to have certain characteristics, as does music in the rest of the world. This is interesting to contemplate because these styles reveal a lot to us about the countries they are from.

Art, in whichever form it renders itself, lets us in the world of its creator. It is one of the most powerful things in human nature, and it is all around us. The room you're in is full of things that required someone to excercise some level of artistry to create it. It's kind of strange to think about, but everything in your room was designed by someone. But, here's where the line is hazy... would you consider it art?

Probably not, but if we take a step back from the haze we can approach the subject of video game music with a new perspective. You see, the reason the idea of your furniture as art being uncomfortable is because it's not specifically an expression of pure artistic creation. Clearly, most of the things around us are created because someone wanted to make money selling them to us. While some music is the true, unobstructed and natural expression of the artist(s), other music is analyzed under more scrutiny. When financial stakes are on the line, the people trusted to be in charge have to make certain decisions. Record labels only sign artists they think they can cash on. Its generally understood that in North America, the music we hear the most that is on the biggest labels, is carefully controlled and bands are chosen and crafted to fit the current mainstream trend. Video games, too, are a product of this game of financial gain. The people who have invested all of their money into the production of all of these video games have analyzed current market trends and want to make intelligent investments. Therefore, the people in charge of the staff making the games are going to make sure the games meet certain requirements.

Okay, now that you're with me, here's where it really gets interesting. It's where you have to consider how one approaches game design, specifically as a project director. You see, these people (that we'd probably consider something like "super lucky") are going to make sure their game has a specific character so that it sells well to a certain demographic. They'll make sure they use the right people for the right tasks, and hire specific artists and composers based on what they've heard (and what they can afford). A deciding factor in the careers of aspiring video game music composers is their ability to adapt to specific requirements. Now, maybe some of the brilliant video game music composers can sit down and get the theme right on the first try in one inspired sitting, but in most cases there will be rewrites. This isn't because the music isn't "good enough", it's because it doesn't quite fit the vision the director has of all the elements of the game working in harmony. I'm not saying this makes it worse music, what I'm saying is that the music is adjusted to make for a better game.

Earlier in this post I said that the value of art is that it is pure, natural expression. The value of music is that it is the creative expression of someone with an instrument. There is undeniably an art to video games too. I think a lot of people see the artistic value of games as being how "good" the visuals are and how "good" the music is. But the true artistic vision behind the game is that of the lead game designer! Ultimately behind the creation of all the games we play is one guy in charge, and he has very specific ideas about what will make for fun video games. Ideally the lead designer has mastered the art of video game design. In my opinion, the most important aspect of a video game is the overall direction. How the sum of the parts work together to create for a unique and memorable gaming experience. The way the entire experience unfolds is ultimately the art of game design.

Now here's where it becomes relevant to the topic at hand. What I'm saying is that video game direction is the most important artistic component of a video game, and that to this everything else is secondary. All of the "art" components of a game (graphics, music, story) are created by people who will have to be adaptable and make changes, holding back and adjusting their vision to keep it in line with the game director's vision. Ideally these creative forces will be very collaborative and it the entire game design process will be a natural and creative process. I think a lot of people at these forums will acknowledge the "glory" days of retro gaming... in terms of video game music especially the SNES-PS1 era is remembered and celebrated (and probably most remixes on this site are from that period). It's interesting to consider because up until 16 bit systems, the old gaming consoles weren't capable of much more than bleeps and bloops. But with the Sega and SNES, suddenly the consoles had a large range of sounds they could produce, and game designers were obviously very enthusiastic about getting the coolest music possible on their video games. Especially with some of the much loved role-playing games, video game music composers like Nobuo are oft celebrated because they strove to push video game music forward as a genre and push the SNES (and later, the PS1) to the max to make the most immersive and emotional music.

However, obviously not every game design team had this natural creative synergy. In a lot of cases it's simply a case of the director requesting changes to the music (usually, in the vaguest terms possible due to their limited understanding of art or music) so that their game will sell better. What this results in is a disjointed creative effort that, as I'm sure most adamant gamers will note, results in an obvious poorer quality of game. During the PS2-XBOX era something started to happen... video gaming really started to catch on and there came more and more money into the industry, and right now it's pretty exciting to be alive while the gaming industry is obviously the biggest it's ever been. But as with the mass commercialization of video games comes lots and lots of people who want to cash in on it. It has gotten to the point where we have companies like EA who have basically turned video game design into production line work. Game programmers work under strict deadlines and are expected to do lots of overtime. The creative process of game design has been, what some might call "refined", but really it's been somewhat dehumanized.

Obviously not every case is that bad, but there are only so many Todd Howards and Gabe Newells out there. The true gems of game design that shine in all areas are few and far between. A dozen games come out every week and most of them were made to meet deadlines. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. But clearly all of these games coming out can't be considered "art"?

So, if the value of art is truely as I described, its pure, unaltered expression of someone's idea, then I think I've clearly established that in the current world of video game music (and ultimately soundtrack music as a whole), where the composer's idea will inevitably be modified, altered and rearranged some more, the artistic vision of the composer has ultimately been comprised. Although the music will fit the game better, it will be less representative of what the composer's musical ideals are... it is not neccessarily what he would have chosen to create. Some film scorers completely disappear into this role (John Williams, Hanz Zimmer) and capture the true art of scoring for movies, but most scorers don't have as much say as we might like to think.

Now that I've said aaaaalllllllllllllll that I can summarize and you'll understand perfectly (unless I lost you somewhere up there). When I'm listening to music, I'd rather listen to music that is the unaltered expression of the original artist who created it. This isn't the case with most soundtrack music... and unfortunately this isn't the case with most mainstream music on the radio either. The effect commercialization has had on the videogames and music industries is for me undeniably clear. I know when I'm listening to music that is mass produced.. it just has that feeling, a forced feeling that you don't get with anything else. I'm sure lots of people here who have a broad taste in music that have noted the obvious "commercial" sound of mainstream productions. The same is true of videogame music, and except for those diamonds in the rough (like from the SNES/PS1 era I mentioned) the control of the soundtrack is in some ways beyond the control of the composer, and that makes for I think noticeably worsened music.

In short, if you'd asked this 5 years ago I would have said best music = yes (or more likely maybe), but the way things are now I have to say best music = no.

Some final thoughts to perk up anyone who read all this: In spite of the effects of the commercialization of art that I discussed, I think that right now we're living in a very exciting time for music and pushing things forward. Thanks to the internet, anyone who wants to make music can share it with anyone they want online. Some of my favourite genres of music were born on the internet, and anyone can express and share any artistic musical idea they want so long as they have a webpage to put it on. We're seeing unconventional changes in the music industry, bands are releasing CDs online for free, more people are downloading than buying CDs at the store and we have access to sooooo many different kinds of music (many of which are beyond the lobotomizing effects of mass commercialization). There was a spirit and soul of exploration to music in the 70s that a lot of people miss, but I think it lives on in modern music that refuses to conform and strives to be... it's own (unfiltered) form of expression.

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The short version: the effects of commercialization have had a negative effect on this genre of music. Whereas it used to be more about free expression, now it is about fitting a mold that is shown to make money. The freedom of the video game composer is somewhat limited whereas the freedom of someone with a guitar and a microphone pretty much unlimited. I would rather listen to music that was composed naturally as a result of that person's experiences, than music that was forcibly composed in exchange for money.

It's really just a question of how money has a negative effect on art in general, as it forces ideas rather than allowing the artist to come to their own naturally.

Remember, I don't mean this all that seriously, it's all in good fun. Maybe I'll upset some people (hope not) but I think this stuff is interesting food for thought. I do enjoy soundtrack music in it's own way, but I do prefer music that is more free-form.

I do recommend reading the full post, it goes into this idea with a lot more depth ^

EDIT: Okay, you know I just realised that where I'm coming from ultimately leads to a discussion about something much larger and more important (and vague) than the subject of video game music. What it comes down to is whether or not the commercialization of art has lessened it's quality. Personally, I feel that the answer is "yes" but this discussion is way beyond the scope of a message board like this, so if anyone read everything I said and it hurt their heads, I sincerely apologize. If anyone wants to talk about it though, be my guest, as I find this subject completely fascinating and extremely important.

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standard thrash metal.

...

You might want to correct your definition of thrash metal because it's anything BUT simple. Thrash metal has 7+ minute songs, huge amounts of alternating riffs rather than a simple verse/chorus structure and often even time signature changes. How that's supposed to be simpler than some chiptune is beyond me.

VGM isn't 'better', VGM caters to the purpose of creating a mood that specifically works within the context it's placed in. This is why listening to VGM by itself without having heard it within the game before is something I'll only do if someone recommends it to me or wants me to remix it, and even then I probably won't enjoy it as much.

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a novel

TL:DR, although I did skim a sentence or three.

I realize you're only going at it "just for fun", and that's cool. But I will say you've likely over-thought this whole situation, and pretty much music/art in general. What it really all comes down it is personal preference. There have been countless discussions on what constitutes art, and whether or not the terms and conditions of its creation violates that status, but really, in the long run, it's all a bunch of over-analytical nerd talk, and it's all pointless. It's like telling someone who doesn't like bananas why they should like bananas and vice versa. And adding speculation only makes the argument sillier.

The proper answer to the question "Is video game music the best music out there?" is: There is no answer. It depends on one's personal preference.

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You're right, and we actually basically agree. What I attempted to do here was define what might potentially make some music better than other music, for the sake of the topic at hand, and this is really difficult to do (like you said, it's mostly a waste of time). Obviously it all does come down to personal preference and the real value is in the eye of the beholder.

That said, I think I raised an interesting point. Basically what I've shown is that while some music is created as a result of natural expression, other music is crafted to meet very specific requirements (usually to make it bankable). The former reveals more to us about the artist, while the latter reveals more to us about current trends (and it also tells us something about the corporation it represents). I don't mean to imply that one of these kinds of music is better than the other. I just don't like how the nature of modern video game music (and indeed the music industry in general) is such that the musicians with their own voice who do things their own way have to struggle to make an image for themselves and pray for their "big break", while the musicians who are like chameleons and jump from trend to trend without injecting their unique personality in their music manage to stay competitive and achieve some degree of mainstream success.

Obviously there are people who fall squarely in the middle of these two extremes, and these people are my heroes. These are the kind of composers we celebrate at communities like this. What I'm saying is that while those composers were a dime a dozen back in the 90s when video game music was still growing and evolving into what it is today, now that the industry has gotten bigger, we have all kinds of game designers who want to make games just like the ones they admired as a kid, and we have game artists who want to create the same kind of graphics that inspired them when they were younger, and we have lots and lots of game composers who want to sound like the greats that inspired them in their infancy. Whereas the people scoring games on NES and Sega had little to work from and had to infuse their own ideas into what video game music should sound like, today most of our composers are just sticking to what was established last decade because that just seems to be what works. The way I see it, the 90s of video game music are roughly equivalent to the 70s of rock and roll.

So basically what it comes down to is that I would prefer to listen to someone express their own ideas, rather than to listen to them try to sound like somebody else who did something well and achieved success with it. I'm sure many of us would agree on that :) Hmm.. I guess what I'm saying is really about music as a whole and not specifically video game music. I just see the compromises that happen when money comes in to the picture and I don't like it.

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...

You might want to correct your definition of thrash metal because it's anything BUT simple. Thrash metal has 7+ minute songs, huge amounts of alternating riffs rather than a simple verse/chorus structure and often even time signature changes. How that's supposed to be simpler than some chiptune is beyond me.

I said standard so nobody would take it as a personal attack to their music taste.

I'm not talking about Necrophagist, here. I'm talking about your run-of-the-mill death, black, or thrash.

I'm a metalhead. I know what I'm talking about. The same noisy Phrygian/Locrian power chords can get old, as unique as they are at first glance.

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Wow, ABG, it seems that this one thread has increased your post count by 11.1% and your word count by roughly 10,000%. Congrats, you've managed to out-word me (and that's no easy task :P).

I read your posts (Yes, all of them here), and I hear you... Commercialization has taken over the VGM business, and what can be done about it, nowadays? I say some savant comes out and pulls a 'Wagner' - writing the story, writing the program, making the graphics, balancing the game and writing the music all on his/her own! Bwah, that would give the person all artistic direction and allow for a perfectly complete game to come out!

Until then, though, we're screwed in the whole VGM business, as one artist (graphics designer) will disagree with the output of another artist (the music writer), who will both be hammered by their director (the non-artist-money-maker). It's not hopeless, but VGM isn't what it used to be, at the moment.

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I say some savant comes out and pulls a 'Wagner' - writing the story, writing the program, making the graphics, balancing the game and writing the music all on his/her own! Bwah, that would give the person all artistic direction and allow for a perfectly complete game to come out!

OH HAI

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I would argue that VGM takes more acuteness to one's own feelings and how to evoke those feelings via the medium of music.

I'm sorry if my incessant distaste for Major is getting old, but you see these punk bands trying to make a sorrowful song, and they're full of Major key progressions and chords, and it just doesn't do it for me. Same thing even happens in video games, reviewers will complain that the music just doesn't fit.. an example is Nanobreaker (although I disagree somewhat..)

I also think Mario RPG's standard battle music is out of place. (Major.. har.)

Final Fantasy does the music thing right. It's dark and Aeolian/Phrygian during most battles, and it's goofy and jap while you're in towns.

Chrono Trigger did the music thing pretty well, too. That whole game was melancholy, and I barely heard any bright Major tunes.

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