Music (not) to play MMOs by.

If one were to believe my brief survey of fan-made videos posted to YouTube, the Venn diagram of music most often associated with MMOs is a bizarre subset consisting of Death Metal and J-pop; two categories which, if mixed together, would probably produce a soundtrack akin to something normally heard on some of the more imaginative of hentai films.

“Grunt grunt urrrrgh urrrgghh urrrghhh yarrrrrrrrrrrr YARR hurrrrk-n-hurrrrk rarrr”

“Aiii Aiii Aii! Naiii aii aii! Aii! Naii! Aii! Naii! AiieeeEEaiieeee!”

I tend not to listen to other music when playing MMOs, preferring to let the music specifically created for the game massage my immersion, but I will sometimes pop on a favourite appropriate podcast if I know I’m heading in for a bit of a grind session, listening to A Casual Stroll to Mordor‘s excellent easy-going show when I’m slogging my way through a deed or ‘epic’ book content in Lord of the Rings Online, for example.

I do sometimes forget to turn Spotify off however, the music possibly being ambient enough not to register with me for a while, and so I find myself playing away at an MMO only to eventually have something strange and jarring pop onto the random play-list and yank me out of the Immersion Zone – sounds a bit like something from the Outer Limits: “You are now entering… the Immersion Zone! Welcome to a strange reality, where time has no meaning and money mysteriously disappears from your bank account on a monthly basis”.

Last night this happened to me, and it was Christopher Cross’s Ride Like the Wind that struck, right while I was in the middle of a scenario in Warhammer Online; nothing like the soothing nasal crooning of Mr Cross to accompany me having my head caved in by an angry Warrior Priest. I left it running, in part because I didn’t have time to Alt-Tab out and stop the thing, but also because I was perversely enjoying the soothing soft-rock sound jarringly contrasted against the blood-thirsty battles being enacted on my screen. As the scenario continued to drag on, with Order’s long and drawn out victory through attrition crawling its way to an inevitable conclusion, the lyrics began to change in my mind, with “And I’ve got such a long way to go, To make it to the border of Mexico” becoming “And I’ve got such a long way to go, To make it to the end of this scenario”. It actually quite calmed my fraying nerves as I desperately tried to keep my random scenario group healed, a task very much akin to chasing any number of cats around a large house in order to give them all their worming tablets.

I thought back as to whether I’d had any other such moments, and the only one I could recall as striking me as a touch bizarre and having pulled me out of the game momentarily was a case of the Flash Gordon theme tune blasting out of my headphones while I was in the middle of improving my Guardian’s tailoring skill in Lord of the Rings Online. I can’t remember what I was making, gloves or hats or thongs I imagine, or something equally likely to be sold to the vendor at half the price of the materials that she sold me to make it in the first place; either way, there’s nothing like that initial thumping drum crescendo followed by “FLASH! AH! AHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” to get you really excited about darning socks, and at that moment in time those were possibly the most epic foot warmers I had ever knitted.

I’m half tempted to turn game music off in my MMOs now and see what wonders the random play-list can produce, a little bit of Skunk Anansie’s Weak while wandering the leafy paths of Rivendell in LotRO, perhaps? Barbra Streisand’s Woman in Love during a keep siege in Warhammer Online, maybe. Or Monty Python’s rendition of The Liberty Bell during the cutscene at the Battle of the Wrath Gate in WoW. The possibilities are as endless as they are curious.

But now this post is drawing to a close, so I’m off to make a cup of tea.



“AH! AHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

“He’s ma-king a cup of tea!”


Oh stop that.

12 thoughts on “Music (not) to play MMOs by.

  1. Zoso

    Squadron 40! KNNNIIIIITTTTT!

    I find film scores (with some notable exceptions like the aforementioned Flash (ah ahhhhhhh)) usually fade into the background quite nicely. I do sometimes like to stick on The Random Playlist, though, just to see what turns up…

  2. Eliot

    Variants upon the Flash Gordon theme can inject a little unnecessary drama into almost every household action. I also recommend Kenny Loggins’ “Highway to the Danger Zone” for performing mundane actions, such as running about gathering flowers or knitting socks.

    I only turn the in-game music off if I’m bored near to death of it. Other than having a particular soundtrack used for roleplaying, I’m generally content to let the game decide on the best music. Frequently I find the association works in reverse – I’ve got a copy of FFXI’s soundtrack that makes me think of the game no matter what I’m doing at the time.

  3. Melmoth Post author

    @Zoso: Which reminds me, the theme to 633 Squadron is one of those tunes that utterly breaks immersion, but in an enjoyable fashion, especially when mounted and zerging a keep in Warhammer, for example.

    @Eliot: I think an epic musical score to everyday mundane chores is a must. Nothing like the introductory build-up to Star Wars as accompaniment to changing the bed.

    Indeed, there are some games where I find the music detracts from the ambient noise of the game and so I turn the music off. But yes, on the other hand, the Guild Wars theme is one such tune that sends shivers down my spine and always elicits fond memories whenever I hear it.

  4. XyzzySqrl

    I personally am in the “Loud Metal” area of music when it comes to gaming music-overs. In fact I… Ah, yes. Posted back in 2009 on my journal:

    “Playing Dragonforce and Dark Moor MP3s over crafting and such in Everquest 2 has made this the MOST EPIC INTERIOR DECORATING EXPERIENCE EVER.

    “On the wings of our FIRE! We drive down the hammer!
    Slamming down the splintered boards of hope and our soul!
    In the corner a rug! Drenched with the ashes!
    Of dragons and the manly tears that run through our veins!


    …etc, etc.”

    I suppose I’m terribly unoriginal.

  5. Melmoth Post author

    Clearly Loud Metal was made for MMO crafting, who knew? The lyrics are definitely splendidly apt, I just wish I could understand them well enough while listening to know it was so.

    I think I’m now supposed to tell you damn kids to get of my lawn, or something.

    (For the record, I believe m’colleague is very much into all that shouty grunty thrashy music)

  6. Zoso

    Now you come to mention it, Lawnmower Deth’s “Fascist And Tubby” works quite well in LotRO’s pie-eating contests…

    “Is that your gut or the front of a bus?
    You should be ashamed of yourself
    You look like a balloon ‘cos you’re so full of lard
    It’s no good for none of our health”

  7. nugget


    As someone who, for 99% of the games she plays, turns off the music almost the moment the game is installed, this whole enjoying the appropriately-written music thing is quite alien to me.

    In fact, I think Jade Dynasty and Sacred Gold are the only ones whose music I have not immediately turned off. The former because it’s beautiful Wuxia music-crack, and the second because it’s so low-key yet atmospheric I actually… didn’t notice it enough to be irritated by it, and so eventually grew to like it.

    That being said, I’m going to have to go play some Jpop and Death Metal together now. While drawing giant purple squids. Yeeeees!

    *runs off with glazed eyes, not that nuggets have eyes*

  8. welshtroll

    Ooooooooooooooooh Crikey!

    My music choices have to match the mood of the game.
    For the loneliness of EVE it’s industrial sounds, while shooting up an enemy base needs something more suitable.
    Strapping young lad for instance :)

  9. Melmoth Post author

    @Merric: It’s a good job there are fantastic podcasts to listen to!

    @welshtroll: It’s been a good long while since I played EVE, but I do remember that it had quite a splendid range of selectable background tracks at the time, though I think I found a favourite and stuck it on loop in the end.

  10. nugget

    Um. Yes.

    I have turned it on on two occasions (yes, exactly two!) after people raved to me about it and…

    …turned it right back off again 5 minutes later.

    A tittling Philistine is me. :(

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