March 21, 2014

Can video games help bridge the gap between tech and the arts? Credit: Sean Dreilinger / Flickr Creative Commons


When you play a video game, you’re on a mission. As you battle your way through various terrains, slaughtering aliens, beheading zombies, and reloading ammo, one key element is with you the entire time: the soundtrack. And what may seem computerized actually takes a lot of human ingenuity.

“The person needs to be able to hear these songs over and over and over again and not get annoyed, not overpower the gameplay,” says Jason Margaca, a video game composer at Owlchemy Labs, based outside Boston. “To be able to do that, you have to have a strong knowledge of music and technical aspects of mixing and producing music.”

The approach suggests that there’s a lot of overlap between two worlds that are often seen as completely separate – art and tech. Perhaps even more surprisingly, many scientists say our brains can get a workout by doing both creative and technical tasks while playing video games.

“It causes the hemispheres to talk to one another and coordinate their inputs,” says Kara Federmeier, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois. “You’re doing visual processing, you’re doing problem solving, you’re interacting with other users. As we make those environments really rich, then we’re really pushing the brain and getting the most benefit out of it.”

Reporter Cristina Quinn tried her hand at composing soundtrack music – listen to part of her masterpiece in our full interview, above.

Sci and Tech, Culture, video games, art, music

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