Think of a game you played where the level was so intense that your heart rate increased as you gripped the controller tighter. The accompanying music within the scene likely had much to do with this elicited response.

Thematic and incidental music is a key piece to video games and helps to invoke a wide range of emotions from the player as they navigate through the storyline. Music can also help to establish the timeline for the storyline or foreshadow an event that is about to happen.

Adaptive music, or interactive music, is standard in video games. The music responds to specific events in a game through a tune, volume, and rhythm changes.

One challenge with creating musical pieces for video games is that each player will complete certain scenes, tasks, or levels at different speeds. Creating complementing blocks of music can help address this problem.

A well-developed composition will seamlessly loop some of these music blocks for players who require a bit more time to complete a level so that there is no awkward silence during that section of gameplay.

There are several types of musical blocks for a video game that can all vary in length and connect at various points:

  • Intro: This introduces and sets the mood for the game, level, or scene.
  • Loop: These blocks repeat a section of the music until an event happens, such as the character dying, an object that is found, or any other gameplay change occurs.
  • Transitional: This block represents transitional music from one scene to another that helps connect them seamlessly. Transitional music helps the game flow from interactive play to cut scenes.
  • Stinger: This indicates a momentous event that happens in a game and typically lasts only a few seconds. For example, if the character is climbing up a cliff and loses their grip, a clip of intense music may start here, increasing the intensity of the gameplay. There can also be location-specific stingers where a short music clip plays when the character enters a new location in the game.
  • Tag: This indicates the end of the scene or level and helps the player to know they have completed the level.

The sound clips and tracks for a game should all complement and flow with each other to provide a cohesive soundtrack.


Click through the slideshow for some examples of each musical composition type.

Move to the next exercise when ready.

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