I’ve recently been enjoying the new Guild Wars 2 MMORPG, with its fantastic graphics, overdue revision of the mechanics of RPG combat, thrilling tasks, quests and dungeons and of course the amazing soundtrack by the unrealistically talented Jeremy Soule (once described as the “John Williams of video game music”). His list of credits is immense, covering not only the Guild Wars games but also World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls and Harry Potter.
When I purchased the original Guild Wars, the copy I bought came with a bonus CD of the video game’s soundtrack. This time around, that option wasn’t something I could afford – and now I’m regretting it. The older game’s CD is something I’ve enjoyed regularly over the years, thanks to its combination of vast sweeping musical vistas and the suggestion of conflict and drama. Indeed, I regularly listened to it while working!
But what if I wanted to listen to the soundtracks from other games? Would I need to rely on a specially released CD, perhaps download the music from iTunes, or is there another way in which video game soundtracks can be enjoyed outside of the game?
The Great Thing About Video Game Soundtracks
One of the great unsung aspects of video games is the effort that goes into producing their soundtracks. Whether it is a collection of popular hits brought together under the theme of the game (as happens in the Grand Theft Auto series) or original music composed especially, these soundtracks are selected or composed in order to add an extra dimension to gameplay.
As effective and evocative as a movie soundtrack, game scores and themes make great entertainment in their own right. Fortunately we don’t have to limit ourselves to loading up a game in order to enjoy the theme tune. There are plenty of ways in which these files – usually in MP3 format – can be enjoyed.
Find The MP3 In The Game Directory
The most obvious method of listening to a video game theme tune without loading the game is browsing your computer to find the soundtrack in your game directory.
In some cases this might not be possible – many games these days restrict access to the game data by packaging it up into a single massive file, which might be tricky to open and harder to extract the audio tracks from. However there are still plenty of games that include MP3s within the game directory.
In order to find the audio, navigate to the folder where the game is installed (for instance, C:\ Program Files (x86)\Games\Your Game Title) and enter “MP3” into the Windows Explorer search tool in the top right corner (of course, if you suspect other audio file formats are being used, feel free to search for these as well – but MP3 is most common in games).
A few moments later you should be provided with a list of the MP3s stored in that directory. You might want to play a couple of them to ensure they’re the right ones. All you need to do then is add the game directory to your media player and enjoy the tracks whenever you want.
Record The Soundtrack With Audacity
If the soundtrack cannot be found by browsing or search Windows Explorer, you might prefer a different approach. Thanks to applications such as Audacity it is possible to record the audio output on your PC, enabling you to make a copy of the soundtrack in question and listen to it outside of the game.
This would be done by loading Audacity and configuring the application to record the audio being output to your speakers, then loading the game and playing.
An obvious downside here is that there might be some dialogue and sound effects picked up in the recording, so it might be a better idea not to engage in any combat or game-changing decisions while you’re recording.
Recording PC audio with Audacity will require that you select the computer speakers as output and set the Stereo Mix option as your microphone option, as per the illustration above. Also, check Edit > Preferences > Recording to ensure that Software Playthrough is disabled.
Find Video game Themes Online
If you’ve been reading this article thinking I’m a bit obsessive about video game soundtracks, prepare yourself for a shock – I am. However, I’m nowhere near as passionate and dedicated as the guys at Ocremix, where talented people admire and remix existing soundtracks and theme tunes. The site is described as being “dedicated to the appreciation and promotion of video game music as an art form” and they certainly take their aim seriously.
However, if your tastes are more “classic” (by which I mean 8-bit, not 18th century) you might be far more interested in VG music, where video game soundtracks from the 1980’s to date can be found, from across virtually every gaming platform that you can think of.
Remember, you should already own a copy of the game concerned before downloading the tracks from these websites.
Make The Music From Your Games The Soundtrack Of Your Life!
In the end, if you can’t find the video game soundtrack on your PC or via any of the websites above, you will really only have one other option available to you – put your hand in your pocket and pay.
But whichever method you use, appreciation of video game soundtracks is something that should really be much more widespread than it is. Awards are given to the composers of the best soundtracks, many of whom make much more than the average pop stars; similarly, the games sell more than any album, and in some cases have better returns than many movies.
The fact is, video game soundtracks are almost always awesome, and they deserve to be enjoyed. If you have any alternative ideas to those suggested above, let us know.