Whistling a Happy Tune…

Today I have a question rather than a vast screed for you to wade through. Do you listen to music while you game, and if so what is it?

When I play games I like to do so with a soundtrack. If the game is of a particular historical period then I’ll try to find something appropriate, and this is pretty easy for the last century. Before that you have to look about a bit more, though there are increasing numbers of little groups playing period pieces with period instruments who are worth looking out for.

I remember being given a tape to review once. It was music specifically written to role-play to (in 2 volumes). I never did write the review, but I did listen to it a few times. It was very strange. You’d hear the first few lines, but then the next thing you’d notice was the tape machine clicking off half an hour later. It was so perfect as background music that it was completely unnoticeable. I could never decide whether that was good or bad, but I didn’t really see much point in it.

So what do you listen to? Does it depend on where you are, what you’re playing or who you’re with?

I’m not thinking of starting a gamers’ record label here, just curious.

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37 Responses to Whistling a Happy Tune…

  1. osbad says:

    I’m afraid I’m a carmudgeon and just don’t listen to music much at all out of choice. I hate pubs (and elevators) with musak, and when you walk into a wargames store and get blasted with Death Metal I tend to walk right back out. I do still however have a certain 45rpm flexidisk that I acquired when it was stuck to the front cover of a certain fantasy gaming magazine I subscribed to back in the day… 😉

  2. Elromanozo says:

    I like listening to music when I paint miniatures… When I game, I don’t mind music, but I won’t spontaneously put some on.
    Tat said, the music has to be well chosen and not too obnoxious, otherwise my concentration is broken. It’s like a good soundtrack : Even when you’re in awe of that wonderful composition, it shouldn’t steal the show.

  3. Nazrat says:

    Occasionally when it’s just me and a couple of buddies whom I know like my collection I will put my iTunes on shuffle and have it playing while we game. But many of the guys who come over other times are older and don’t hear well to start with so the added noise is not helpful to good gaming.

    The music I do play is never game specific. My 13000 songs range from the Beatles, to the Buzzcocks, to Big Audio Dynamite, to Modest Mouse, and all points in between.

    No death metal, though! 8)=


  4. Brady Webb says:

    I always listen to atmosphere music whenever I paint figures, play a wargame or roleplaying game. I large collection of around 240+ soundtracks so I have music to fit the mood. For wargaming I find that King Arthur by Hans Zimmer or Kingdom of Heaven by Harry Gregson Williams is perfect and greatly enhances the experience.
    For roleplaying it varies, depending upon what is going on during the game, but Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Anton Coppola or Hellraiser by Christpher Young are superb for creating tension and fear, whereas, Pillars of the Earth by Trevor Morris is excellent for a general fantasy romp.
    Songs, however, I find completely distracting.

  5. Davey says:

    I always thought that metal and gaming were inextricably linked… It was always my choice ‘back in the day’ but now I don’t tend to have anything on during a game. This is not an age issue, rather it’s because in the olden days we used to spend far more time setting up and imagining the scenario that actually playing the game (I’m talking 40k and WFB here)

    I’d never imagine having music on during our current regular WFRP (1st ed that is) sessions, although I suppose it could be used in certain parts of the campaign when we’re in inns and markets and the like – but it would have to be the parallel-history-equivalient to renaissance minstrels (or similar).

  6. Heiki says:

    I have played Brian Eno, Clannad, singer-songwriter type music, Callisto (Finnish christian metal) and soundtracks while playing. Really anything if I have a music setup nearby.

  7. Laffe says:

    I tend to either use fitting film soundtracks (Conan the Barbarian, Gladiator or Lord of the Rings for example) or suitable period music, like medieval folk music. Corvus Corax has some suitable marches too for those big Warhammer battles.

    One time at a convention we were doing a WW2 participation game about Fall Gelb, or the 1940 invasion of France. We had prepared with a lot of french chansons, only to be drowned out by the techno beat being pumped out from the computer game stall next to us. We were not amused.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Corvus Corax look like they should be in a Warhammer battle, never mind playing along to one 🙂

      With the predominance of instrumental options, would it be fair to say that you see the game almost in a cinematic sense, and the music is the soundtrack (whether it was originally one or not)?

  8. Quirkworthy says:

    I meant to ask this generally, rather than just to Laffe:

    Would it be fair to say that you see the game almost in a cinematic sense, and the music is the soundtrack (whether it was originally one or not)?

  9. Lord Samulus of the Cooper dynasty says:

    Music, for me at least, improves the gaming experience.

    My favorite battles are those that spawn an unexpected narrative. The captain that takes down a mighty hero, the unit that holds when it should flee, etc etc. Enjoying the game in this way, I find, enables me to enjoy a game regardless of the outcome and dramatic, mood music really adds too this.

    I often listen to the LOTR rings soundtrack on loop and shuffled, I don’t consciously notice it for the most part but at least once a battle the randomly selected music will fit whats happening, or about to, perfectly.

    I’ll give you a short example, just two days ago my remaining unit of Lothern sea guard were holed up in a tower with my Archmage. The ominous music of Mordor was playing as no less than 3 units of 40 clanrats were advancing on my position. It was a dire situation, but just as my magic phase began ‘the white wizzard’ shuffled itself on and inspired my Archmage into a dazzling display of magic. I actually felt hope, not for me, but for my little plastic elves who were about to sell their imaginary lives as expensively as possible.

    So, in conclusion, YES I would definitely agree that it is fair to say that the game is cinematic and well chosen music provides the soundtrack.

    Or at least it’s true for me…

  10. I like period music at background volume. If the volume is to loud it is a big negative. In model railroading we now have locomotives with sound. A lot of people run their locomotive sound way to loud so in effect their locomotives are shouting not cool from my point of view.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Real locos shout a lot too, which can also be kind of annoying.

      • True about the real thing but in scale it looks like we are looking at something far away so it should be a distant shout. Now that I am thinking about it I wonder if battle sounds (in scale of course) coming from the game table would add that extra something.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        You could try it and let us know. Someone once gave me the BBC special effects tape for combat, but all their battle sounds just reminded me of someone rummaging in a cutlery drawer. Perhaps you can find something more convincing.

  11. osbad says:

    To try and add something more constructive than my first comment to the discussion, I am in process of (slowly) getting together some games of Strange Aeons for a far future date. Some eirie horror-film spooky music could add something to that kind of experience I think. I also did (cheesy I know) often play the soundtracks to the LotR films when playing that game.

  12. JP says:

    Like a few others here I too listen to soundtracks when I paint or game, just as when I write. I have playlists created for fantasy, scifi and horror that all help ‘shut the door’ and immerse myself (and others if gaming) in the worlds we explore.

    The music helps sets the tone and heightens the games, I’ve found, creating a great cinematic feel to the ebb and flow of battle. Other times I put on a suitably themed dvd on the laptop, cram a set of headphones on and listen to the film while I paint – music is a great aid to focusing concentration, again, at least for me.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      When I used to work in a busy open plan office I used to put one record on repeat and listen to the same thing for days on end. I found that the repetition was easier for my brain to ignore than the random background noise it blotted out. However, now I have a fairly quiet study to work in I find that the best sound for real concentration and focus is silence.

  13. I still have on tape (somewhere hidden nice and safe…..yeah right!) the original D-Rok album that was produced. It has songs like ‘Get out of my Way’ and ‘Turn this ship around’ all inspired by the big sci-fi game from the Nottingham boys. I bought that years and years ago, and we used to listen to it while playing and painting.

  14. Sam Dale says:

    On topic, I’m not a fan of music while wargaming. In theory, it’s a great idea, but I find it distracting both from “I’m a miserable, deaf old bastard” point of view, as well as when you need to switch discs, which disrupts the flow of the game. Even worse if there’s multiple games happening in the room. The only reason Warhammer World gets away with it is the huge ceiling giving the sound space to not echo.

    When I’m modelling or painting, it’s a whole different story. Anything from Circulus (medaeval folk) to Circle of Dead Children (very much not medaeval folk) keeps me happy.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I can see that one coming out in court. So, the circle of dead children was there to keep you happy?

      • fiend says:

        They’re really bizarre. You’ve got this pummelling grindcore with really ugly vocals that switch from death metal roar, to goregrind gurgling, to witch screams without missing a beat, and while you don’t stand a chance of understanding them by listening to the music, the lyrics are really good (if a smidgeon harsh) poetry.


        Dead babies on spikes! *thunk* *squeaksqueaksqueak*

      • fiend says:

        (In case you don’t get the latter reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNJnFn1jQmw )

      • Quirkworthy says:

        The lyrics do have some intriguing bits in them, but I can’t say the finished article does anything for me except to think that it can’t be comfortable to make noises like that (unless you’re a Deep One).

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