Karltorp has found that music from games he used to play as a kid, such as StarCraft, Street Fighter, and Final Fantasy, work best. Because the music is designed to foster achievement and help players get to the next level, it activates a similar “in it to win it” mentality while working, argues Karltorp. At the same time, it’s not too disruptive to your concentration. “It’s there in the background,” said Karltorp. “It doesn’t get too intrusive, it keeps you going, and usually stays on a positive tone, too, which I found is important.”
I do the same thing at work – but to say that video game music is designed to help you get to the next level simplifies what’s really going on. In many instances, I think the music was there to stop you from giving up. Consider EVERY Mega Man game.
I haven’t found a good way to articulate what I think most people mean when they say “video game music.” I think they’re talking about music from the ’80s and ’90s (and the indie games of today) when games had catchy, upbeat, driving melodies instead of the orchestral music of a Halo game.
In a Halo game, the music often served the game by withdrawing its presence from the moment, only playing to further plot points. But in a Mega Man game, and in many games on the NES back in the ’80s and ’90s, there wasn’t that same care – the music was IN YOUR FACE all the time. But those games were better for it.
Although both are technically “video game” music – one feels more like video game music and another feels more like a movie soundtrack for a video game.