Creativity In The Background
The music you’re hearing while reading about my life is from a video game called Ori and the Blind Forest. Within the first 3 minutes of the game I was crying, and I knew it would be one of my favorite experiences of my life. I wasn’t even playing it - I was just watching a walkthrough online. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and the game was expertly designed. I highly recommend playing it, if you’re one of those gamer people.
There’s a subtle science that some of you may not know about video game music.
It’s the reason I, and many others, have entire playlists on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora AND YouTube dedicated to the genre.
Classical music is great for studying because it engages your brain, keeps it active, and has patterns in it that are similar to studying and learning patterns. Movie scores are great for atmosphere - they evoke memory, feeling, and are often inspiring in many ways. I use movie scores when I’m running, driving, or trying to access a feeling that’s hiding in my chest.
But video games are composed with a specific purpose in mind: background support. It’s designed to keep your brain engaged without pulling it away from the task at hand. You can’t successfully navigate the asteroid field with oompah music blaring, you can’t sneak up and assassinate the templars while Aladdin belts “A Whole New World!”, and as amazing as she is, Carly Rae won’t help you win that boss fight against Dodongo inside the Great Deku Tree.
Video game scores are meant to support the scenery, to support the mood, to support the action. They are designed to keep you moving forward, without pulling you to the side.
When I’m found in my studio either drawing, creating, or working on my computer, you can usually hear some kind of video game score pumped in for atmosphere. From town music to traveling scores, from boss fights to death scenes - video game scores will give you a range of sounds ebbing and flowing in a way that keeps your brain moving with it.
No, you do not have to be a video game freak to be able to glean the benefits of video game scores. And no, you don’t have to jump right into Battlefield or Skyrim to get started if you’ve never tried this out.
I’ve found that some of my favorite creativity booster video game scores come from small or indy (“independent”) games - shorter games, or games not usually published by some of the large publishing companies. I’ve curated some of my all time favorite indy scores which I’ll share below.
Indy Game Score Starter Pack:
Mystical, foresty, and full of fairy magic. It makes me feel like I’m exploring a warm, familiar woodland. This score puts me in a mood to find and create.
Reflective, contemplative, and a little sad. This score is an inward feeling, and puts me in a mood to think and learn.
Whimsical, flowy, and bright. For this entire game, you’re a flower petal floating across a meadow. This is the most relaxing score of the bunch and puts me in a mood to meditate and paint lovely things.
Old world, floaty, and strong. This score has a very Irish feel, and reminds me of being near rivers and trees. It puts me in a mood to invent and move.
Dark, moody, and soft. Child of Light is easily the heaviest of all of, it’s full of cello, flute, and piano, with a deep drum base. This score puts me in a mood to finish large projects for that sigh of relief at the end.
Most of these scores last around an hour, and I find that they’ll each get me through projects, even if they loop a few times. On YouTube, I’ve set them up to where the next one will autoplay if I know I’m going to need a lot of music in my background. Just because they’re not published by large publishing companies, doesn’t mean they work any less than the big games will. However, if you’re looking for scores that may take you half or all day to listen to, I’ll list some of my all-time favorite “biggies” to work to below.
Scores To Take You Through The Day:
This is a shorter one, but it’s got good energy, a good balance of ups and downs, and keeps my heart and brain awake.
Again, another shorter one, but this one also has some good energy. It’s similar to Morrowind, but gets a little richer.
Are you noticing a theme yet? Skyrim is significantly longer (3.5 hours) and has much more atmosphere to it. There are times where I’ll feel amped up, and times where I’ll feel very relaxed.
If you’re looking for a score to take you all day, this 7 hour baby will do it. GuildWars is an open world RPG game, and the music is the same - very open world, with a great variety of sounds.
GuildWars 2 continues the feel of GuildWars, but shortens it into about 3 hours of open world feel music.
This is an older game with absolutely beautiful music. It’s ethereal and soft, with haunting voices and other-worldly music. Another shorty at just over an hour.
Again with the crying - this game hit me in the feels, and the music carries a soft emotional curiosity to it. Just over an hour.
Despite the name, this score, while my newest, is on the top of my list for focus. Actually, pieces of it are even on my meditation playlist. It’s full of rich world sounds that put you in lots of interesting and calm atmospheres, but can get your heart pumping when you need it. About 3.5 hours long.
What music do you listen to when you work, study, or focus?
Share your favorites with everyone, and feel free share a little bit about what you like about those specific songs/genres/pieces.