We've talked at length about the importance of graphics and art style in video games. They're in your face, they're realistic, and sometimes they're unique. They have a very large impact on whether or not you like a game. If you don't like the art style, it'll make it that much more difficult to enjoy the gameplay. If you love the art style, then it can sometimes make up or less than stellar gameplay. Let's take a moment to talk about a different sense. Let's talk about hearing.
Audio and in-game music are almost equally important as the game's graphics graphics. Or are they? Let's talk first about the music in general. Some games utilize already popularized music, like the Flock of Seagulls cameo in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. If you needed another reason to love/hate "I Ran (So Far Away)", that was your chance. Far lesser known, but oh so effective, was "Santa Monica Dream" by Angus & Julia Stone in Life is Strange. Some licensed songs can be used really effectively and unobtrusively in video games, some cannot. Does that mean we should across the board be upset when a well-known song is included in a video game? I'd wager to say it really depends on the game, the song, and how it is included.
The opposite side of this argument is to include only original music in video games. Plenty, and I mean plenty, of games have the perfect original soundtrack. Let's take The Last Guardian for example. The soundtrack was all original and suited the tone of the game incredibly well. When the music swelled, I knew something dramatic or dangerous was about to happen. Another really popular original soundtrack in recent years was Journey. I don't put a ton of stock in award shows, but it still stands that Journey was the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy. Journey deserved that nomination, and it proves that original in-game soundtracks can be wonderful.
Here's another side to this audiological adventure though. What about those that play games without listening to the in-game music? I'm sure we've all done it at some point. While playing MMOs especially it makes sense to listen to your own music. If you're grinding for experience by killing the same exact monster over and over again, sometimes you want to break up the monotony with something different. A personal example I can share of listening to external music is a silly one. One of my favorite games of all time is Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. There are some sequences with the typical little girl in a white dress with long black hair. She would call out for one of the main characters in the game — who happened to share my name, April. At the age that I was, around 16, I was still a pansy. It admittedly freaked me out, so I'd listen to James Blunt to distract myself during those scenes. I still equate "Wisemen" with Dreamfall: The Longest Journey...
No matter your experience, it's safe to say we've probably all listened to music of our own while playing games. Does that make us bad people? Does that lessen our game experience because we're not experiencing it in its intended way? Are we blasphemous? I think it really depends on your perspective. There is something to be said about playing games as they were intended by their creators. It's like reading a book and envisioning something similar to what the other intended. If they're a good writer you'll see something pretty close to what they did. That's their intention. With video games, the developers would like if you enjoy things they way they did.
That's not always going to happen though. And I'm here to say that listening to your own music while playing games (no matter what kind) is perfectly fine. What's your opinion though? What kinds of games to you listen to your own music while playing? MMOs, RPGs, simulations, strategy? I'd love to know!