Music is a intricate part of the success of a game, it provides added atmosphere, rhythm, ambience, tension, navigation clues and resonance to the personality of key objects and characters. It is such a great media to create mood and feeling that its place in games has quickly evolved from early monophonic repetitive thumping's of the original space invaders (1978). The first game to have a continuous background track. Rally-X was the first game that featured background music and was released by Namco (1980). It became obvious at this point that the two media would be interwoven together from then on. Music did have original setbacks, analogue devices were expensive and prone to breakages, and new digital media was complicated and involved programmer writing large forms of code. The early Atari 2600 only had the means of producing two notes at a time, thusly limiting musical capabilities in games.
Early composers of games music included Yuriko Keino and Juventino Rosas a Mexican composer and violinist. Music quickly flourished from the 1980 and the beginning of sampled music and digital recording meant a boost in what could be distinguished and played through games. With this new ability to easily manipulate and reference music, through the establishment of computers, came new and exciting tunes that complimented the new games that were being developed. Music was now being produced for the sole purpose of video games and was equally as anticipated as the games themselves.
The mid to late 80's saw music composed with more people with more musical experience that before. However the need for programming skills postponed the complete intertwining of commercial and video game music and composers. Koji Kondo produced the music for super Mario bros and the legend of Zelda. There was a desire to hire people for the sole purpose of generating music for games and by the late 80's cassettes were being produced with games music, this showed their popularity and saw an increase in the importance of game music worldwide. It was seen as a money generating scheme and this tied in hand and hand with the composers who wanted a share of the profits. This invention of soundtrack albums reinforced games identities and made them more commercially accessible.
It wasn't in till the 1990's that game music became an easily transferrable skill for musical composers in general. With CD's music creation for games became more flexible and allowed common composers to create scores for games. An example is way of the warrior on the 3DO by White Zombie or a more popular example is Trent Reznor composition for Quake. This saw the completed merging of two musical genres and paved the way for composers to hop between games music and popular music easily.
Modern Games have benefitted from the creation of better recording and processing techniques. melodic tunes add to a games profile and identities and scores of music are quite often related to the game they were produced in. Games have benefited all sorts of composers from individual persons working from there bedrooms to masters of musical creation. An example of this is Nile Rodgers and Martin O'Donnell who created the musical scores for the multi-billion pound franchise called Halo. There music is so relatable to the game, that it is just as important as how the game looks and behaves. The music is composed into set pieces, as well as loops that react to what the player is doing and where they are. This music was in fact so popular that it shipped separately as soundtracks.
Music has become so interwoven with the games industry that the production of music is critical to a games financial success. By allowing the user to feel emotions and attachments has made gaming just as emotive as films or television. With the adaption of new technology meaning games will soon be able to select and produce music based on environmental decisions. It is becoming ever more imperative that games continue to harness the power of music. The limitations of the past will soon be gone and musical composers will no longer have to fit between tight constraints on the length and complexity of the music they create.
Personally I feel a deep connection with the ambient tracks of age of empires and SimCity's just because i grew up listening to them, as I got older and my musical tastes developed I have to say i am most keen on the work of Martin O'Donnell. He produces such emotive and powerful tracks that keep you suspended or frightened, empowered or focused. I particularly like the composer Johan Skugge & Jukka Rintamaki who produced the music for battlefield 3.