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More music artists should collaborate with video game publishers. (Op-Ed)

The most enticing thing about video games is the sheer amount of immersion. From constantly evolving graphics, haptic controls, decisions that affect the plot, characters that feel real, and storylines the length of massive epics, video games have a lot to offer. However, music is a way to connect with your favorite game when you’re too busy to play, on your morning commute, or just feeling nostalgic. Instrumental soundtracks are lovingly produced for AAA titles, but the true beauty lies in songs that feel as if they could be on the average playlist.

“Grand Theft Auto V,” released in 2013, was one of the first video games that had a “radio” system. When players drive their cars, they can choose a radio station and listen to an ever-revolving track list of music created by real music artists. “GTA V” has over 500 songs that players can listen to in-game that include popular artists like Maroon V, Gorillaz, Lorde, Lady Gaga, and many more. Rockstar Games paid for the rights to use these songs. After that massive success, publishers began working with real artists to create songs exclusive to their games.

In 2020, “Cyberpunk 2077” was released with Keanu Reeves providing the motion capture, visage, and voice of titular Rockerboy Johnny Silverhand. CD Projekt Red hired real life Swedish punk band Refused to write and record six tracks as the fictional band SAMURAI. These tracks were exclusive to “Cyberpunk 2077” and served as major plot points. The tracks were released on streaming services under the name SAMURAI, further adding to the immersion. Hip hop duo Run the Jewels provided “No Save Point” under the name Yankee and the Brave with lyrics that contain the main themes of the game, yet still a song that one can listen to with no context.

“Baldur’s Gate 3” developed by Larian Studios, won Game of the Year at the 2023 award ceremony of the same name. The main title theme of the game is “Down by the River,” written by Borislav Slavov and sung by Mariya Anastasova. It is a lilting, melodic track that sets the tone for the medieval Dungeons & Dragons style game as players create their unique characters. “BG3” contains several songs throughout the game with thematic lyrics.

Music artists should work with video game publishers to create exclusive songs, and potentially albums, for AAA games due to the pure magic and emotional association that players build with music as they play. Music is a huge part of the gaming experience; not only will well-known artists have an opportunity to explore a new creative process, but lesser-known and indie artists will grow their fanbase and receive more exposure. Gamers frequently return to the soundtracks of their favorite games, and we want more!

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