Music Video Games

Diggin’ In the Carts: A Sound Test for Your Childhood

I love video game music. Ever since I started playing them back in the NES/Famicom days, I have always appreciated the catchy tunes from various games. This never went away as games evolved; if anything, my love for them only expanded. I would say at least 50% of my iPod library contains music from video games ranging from the 80s to the present day.

Nowadays, accessing the music you wanted to hear is pretty easy; usually a search on YouTube will do it. But back in the day, you had to either go to that specific part of the game or record it yourself. Props to my dad who had the fantastic idea of using an audio recorder to record Magic Sword through the SNES by going through each song in the sound test for a couple of minutes and recording it onto a cassette for me to jam to while on the move.

But now? I can just type that on YouTube and voila!

It’s pretty easy to see who composed the music for games that came out in the late 90s to today. Before that though, you would be lucky to see a non-abbreviated credited name during the credit roll. Because of that, I didn’t even know who the people behind the music of 8 bit/16-bit era were for the longest time.

Red Bull’s Music Academy is trying to change that though with their documentary series, Diggin’ In The Carts. The main goal of this series is to introduce viewers to the composers behind the games that we adored back when we were kids. We get to see what process they had to go through while composing music as well the impact it left on various music artists today.

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Each episode focuses on a certain part of video game history, from early arcade games to the Super Nintendo/Genesis era. If you like video games at all, I highly recommend giving Diggin’ In The Carts a watch. Odds are you will encounter a game that you enjoyed back in the day and get to hear more about its musical history. It’s really fascinating to see how much creativity each composer had when they were severely limited to only a few sounds.

Here are some of my favorite highlights. In Episode 3, Yoko Shimomura, the composer of Street Fighter II, talks about the process of making the game music as well as how she came up with Blanka’s theme. Episode 4 also features an interview with Yuzo Koshiro (one of my favorite game music composers) and how his clubbing days influenced his approach to making the music of the Streets of Rage series.

The man behind some of my favorite game music.
The man behind some of my favorite game music.
I always kept on coming back for not only the gameplay, but the terrific music.
I always kept on coming back for not only the gameplay, but the terrific music.

If you’re really into the video game music, you’ll probably know a few of these people already. Episode 5’s focus on legend Nobuo Uematsu and his role in the Final Fantasy series comes to mind. However, there are so many composers that I don’t know yet and Diggin’ In The Carts is a great way to introduce yourself to the people that were a part of many people’s childhood. It’s also great to see various music artists of all genres rave about the game music they adored when they were kids and how it influenced their own music. So if you have 15-20 minutes to spare, I highly recommend going to their site and giving it a watch. At the very least, you’ll learn something new to brag to your nerdy friends.

You can watch all six episodes and some bonus interviews on their website. (Note: You may have to fiddle with the subtitle option for them to show up properly.)