An Unexpected Influence: Gaming

The construction of the timeline with specific relation to the music I was listening to over the years has made some areas of study apparent that were unexpected.

My first assumption was that in my childhood my musical tastes were governed by the music to which I had immediate access, i.e. what my parents owned and had lying around the house. My next assumption was that my peer group through adolescence would have had more bearing on my ‘adult’ tastes.

Although both of these assumptions are partially true, what I did not expect was the significant effect that technological advances and participation in other cultural activities would have on my musical palette. This extraneous influence was to be found in gaming, even more specifically extreme sports games. I was a fan of the Tony Hawk Skateboarding and Dave Mirra BMX games, the soundtracks of which were significant contributors to my musical influences; Californian punk rock continues to form a large part of my audio agenda.

Despite being a fan of Californian punk bands like NoFX, Green Day and The Offspring, my connection with that culture was largely through the UK printed press because I didn’t have satellite TV and I was living in a small provincial town with no record store. Playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was like diving down the rabbit hole, arriving in a skate rock wonderland; I was immediately immersed in music by the likes of Rancid, Sublime, Goldfinger, Suicidal Tendencies, Cypress Hill, Primus, Dead Kennedys, Lagwagon, Social Distortion, and Pennywise.

Significantly, in the mid 90’s the games industry had, for the most part, moved on from cartridge games and onto CD, which allowed games developers to load music of CD quality onto the disc and into the games. Unlike the EA Sports franchises (FIFA, Madden, NBA, NHL) that only used ‘real’ music during their menu screens, the extreme sports games played the music during the gameplay allowing the user to experience the full song.

Another game that served to provide fresh influence (and reinforce existing musical ideals!) would enter the marketplace in 2002. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City had a multitude of in game radio stations, almost single handedly introducing and re-popularising the music of the 1980’s to a new generation.

My next observation was the impact music television had on my musical taste. Once we had satellite TV in the family home I had access to dozens of music channels. I naturally gravitated toward the  more ‘alternative’ channels. Initially, these channels promoted the ethos of their specific subculture, but, in my opinion, over time they were eroded by capitalism, playing ever more commercial forms of music until they were almost identical to the mainstream music channels. While the going was good I did manage to make a few fantastic finds, including the likes of In Flames and Mad Capsule Markets.

Online access to music also greatly improved with service provision (YouTube, VEVO, etc) and increasing broadband speeds. This, combined with social media, has expedited the process of sharing music amongst peer groups. I have noticed over the last few years that most, if not all, of my fresh influences have been suggestions made by fellow musicians.

To conclude, my initial assumption that my influences were predicated by my peer group through adolescence would be better served by acknowledging the inclusion of gaming as a direct (but important) extension of the punk rock subculture, and that my influences are continually being affected by ever changing social and technological environments.

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