Bleeps & Bloops: A Look at Gaming's Influence on Electronic Music [PT 1]
Technology is everywhere, whether it’s your smartphone, your smartwatch, or even your refrigerator, we’re connected in more ways then we can even keep track of! Every day we see a new device, and every day another device becomes obsolete. Innovation keeps this continuous state of flux going, and music does not just sit idly by. Since EDM is some of the most technologically-forward music, it is not surprising to see how much technology affects it.
Enter Bleeps & Bloops, our journey in exploring the wonderful world of technology and how it influences our favorite genre of music! From video games to virtual reality, EDM is changing every day! Get ready to dive into the digital world like never before, and see just how your music is changing.
Grab your controller and find your Player 2, for our first feature we’ll be entering the wonderful world of video games!
It’s safe to say video games have taken over the world. What was once reserved for nerds, now is enjoyed by everyone. Whether it’s playing games on your cell phone, building a high-end gaming computer, waiting outside for the launch of the newest systems or games, or just having a few drinks and playing some Mario Kart, there’s something out there for everyone. Video games have influenced many mediums and EDM is no exception. We’ve compiled some of our favorite video game soundtracks and games, and explored this match made in heaven. Blow the dust off those old consoles, and dig out those old mix CDs and let’s take a look into video games and EDM!
Chiptune/Retro Influence (90’s- Early 00’s)
(Photo Courtesy of TinyCartridge via Chiptune Artist Bun)
Oh Chiptune, we barely got to know you…
This wouldn’t be a true look into video games and EDM if we didn’t include Chiptune. Although this genre never made it into the mainstream quite like dubstep or house, its impact on EDM as a whole is worth noting.
Chiptune started sometime in the early 1980’s. The name comes from how it is created. The artists use sound chips in old computers and arcade machines and synthesizers to make music. Most of the time the chips used are from obsolete/old computers and gaming systems, which gives it the classic retro sound. Some of the earliest house and electronic music used arcade/computer sounds in their work.
Despite never quite reaching mainstream success as a whole, some bands have broken through. The most notable band to do this is Crystal Castles. Sharing the same name as an Atari game, Crystal Castles incorporates glitched video game and computer sounds into their music. Despite starting out as an underground legend, they broke into the mainstream with their first album. Alice Glass and Ethan Kath would go on to create three critically and commercially acclaimed albums, and play some of the biggest music festivals in the world.
The MySpace era brought chiptune back to the masses for a little bit as well. Artists such as Unicorn Kid saw success on the then-popular social media website. He helped ignite a small spark that helped fellow chiptune artists get the attention they deserved. Starting out as just a teenager, Unicorn Kid worked his way up to major festival appearances and signing to the legendary Ministry of Sound label. The attention Unicorn Kid and others gathered helped artists like Anamanaguchi tour the world and even go on to play on national television.
The rise of indie games has been a breath of new life for this genre. Many indie games such as Fez and Undertale have been praised for their soundtracks. Indie games have been moving towards a retro style in recent times, and this is the perfect style for chiptune to accompany. Who knows what’s next for the little genre that could. We look forward to what the future holds!
Besides chiptune, one of the most iconic (and controversial!) video games in the world, Mortal Kombat, was a pioneer for EDM and video games. The first Mortal Kombat game hit the arcades in 1992, and changed gaming forever. A few years later, Mortal Kombat was released for home consoles. Techno group, The Immortals, released a techno album in 1994 to accompany the release. The album featured one techno song for every character, as well as that iconic theme song we all love! Mortal Kombat also gave the modern reboot the same treatment a few years ago! (see below) Hopefully Mortal Kombat continues this trend or inspires more to do the same, we’d love if all of our favorite games came with full EDM albums alongside them!
Dance Dance Revolution and the Rise of Rhythm Games (1998-2007)
(Photo Courtesy of Arcade Heroes)
If you’ve been to an arcade in the past 19 years, you’ve seen a Dance Dance Revolution machine. Japanese company Konami released Dance Dance Revolution in 1998 to the delight of 90’s ravers everywhere. The premise of the game was inspired by the popular style of dancing called shuffling, which was (and still is!) very common in the happy hardcore/hardstyle scenes.
DDR was a critical success, and is still a staple in most arcades to this day. DDR is considered the pioneer in rhythm and dance games, and is still influencing games 19 years later. From DDR, spawned the home-console rhythm games like Amplitude and Rez. Both feature electronic music from the early 2000’s, and their gameplay revolves around the beat of the songs. After the early rhythm games we saw an uprising of peripheral-based games. Games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band which feature some EDM stars like Skrillex, Zedd and The Glitch Mob and many more, are some of the stand-out peripheral games, and were released to critical acclaim.
Even more relevant to our EDM music obsession was the DJ Hero games. Although some fans were skeptical of the announcement of the game, the series was well received and featured some of the biggest DJs and producers in the world. It included hundreds of songs, and remixes, and let you play as some of the world’s biggest DJs like, Tiësto, Daft Punk, deadmau5, DJ Shadow, and Grandmaster Flash. With EDM being bigger than ever, it’s only a matter of time before another spin off or new series is developed.
Modern Day appearances (2007-Present)
(Photo Courtesy of Rockstar Games)
More and more we see EDM invading our favorite games, and we do not expect this to stop anytime soon!
It’s almost natural to include EDM in a trailer for a game, they’re like peanut butter and jelly. Aside from using EDM in the marketing material for the games, we notice it being integrated into the virtual worlds. The fourth-highest selling game of all time, with 75 million copies sold, Grand Theft Auto V had several radio stations in the game featuring EDM stars as hosts and artists. Artist such as Flying Lotus, Soulwax and Twin Shadow, had their own channels featuring over 20 songs each, and also provided their voices for in-game fictional commercials, interviews, track commentary and more! A similar title, Saints Row 4 also featured an in-game radio station Mad Decent 106.9 hosted by the neon icon himself, Riff Raff. It featured a long list of Mad Decent artists and collaborators, such as Dillon Francis, Diplo, GTA, and DJ Snake.
On the flip-side of an in-game radio station, we notice game developers recruiting artists to make original tracks for use in the games. Skrillex’s skull-smashing hit “Reptile’s Theme” was created in support of 2011 reboot Mortal Kombat. This song was used in the advertising for the game, and also enjoyed commercial success and has become a fan-favorite and staple in Skrillex’s live sets.
One of the most popular games in the world, League of Legends, took a similar route in the release of their 2016 compilation album Warsongs. Warsongs is an album of original songs created for League of Legends, remixed by some of the biggest EDM stars in the world. Superstars like, Jauz, Marshmello, and Arty provided their spin on some of the game’s songs, along with many more artists!
This isn’t the first time League of Legends crossed-over into the EDM world. One of the biggest producers in the world, Zedd, created the soundtrack for their 2016 World Championship tournament, in the form of an original track called “Ignite”. The Grammy-winning producer, also performed live at the League of Legends World Championship at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. But wait, there's more! For our headier and basshead friends Bassnectar, and Pretty Lights, provided original in-game songs for one of the characters! Riot Games, the team behind League of Legends definitely have infiltrated the EDM world and we are excited to see what they have up their sleeves for the future!
Bonus Level: Deadmau5
(Photo courtesy of Rukes)
The biggest challenge while writing this feature was to make sure this didn’t turn into a whole article about the mau5. Deadmau5 is and has been a huge supporter of the video game industry and frequently joins in on projects. We just had to give him his own category because he is the epitome of video games and EDM colliding, so deadmau5 will be our Bonus Level for this feature! If you are still skeptical about that claim consider the fact that he has a Space Invaders alien tattooed on his neck, The Legend of Zelda hearts on his arm, and the signature of Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Zelda, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, and many other of our favorite games) also on his arm.
Deadmau5 has been a longtime supporter of the popular game Minecraft, and frequently uses images from the games in his live performances. He even named a couple songs in reference to the game. (See: "Fn Pig" & "Infra Turbo Pigcart Racer")
The popular game Overwatch has a nice little nod to our favorite deceased mouse. They have a character named Lucio who is a DJ who uses a gun that shoots sound waves to damage enemies and heal his teammates. One of the costumes you can get for the character gives him a frog helmet with light-up eyes that looks strikingly similar to deadmau5’s helmet.
Alongside from these appearances, deadmau5 has made cameos in more games than we can list. Some notable ones include Diablo 3; (which deadmau5 is a big fan of) there is an in-game item that is a mau5head that the player can wear. Along with the mainstream hits deadmau5 makes some appearances in indie games like Goat Simulator and Rocket League. Besides all these cameos, his music is seen in a variety of games, from big-budget to indie. Maybe one day he’ll make his own game? We can only dream!
We can’t wait to see what’s next with video games and EDM! We definitely expect this trend to continue, and be bigger than ever! What are some of your favorite game soundtracks? Be sure to let us know!