Obviously what pops out to many (including the most hardcore player whether they admit it or not) is the visual aspect of a game. The graphics. It's what defines a generation of hardware....and makes people feel satisfied for buying that expensive new machine.
But what about what we listen to while playing? Putting pure sound effects aside as possibly a future article, the music in interactive entertainment has grown exponentially right along with it's flashy and more popular graphics brother.
Nintendo was not the innovator of game music, but I don't think anyone can argue that they weren't the first to have memorable game music. No one will ever forget the first time they heard the simplistic but magical themes to Super Mario Bros or The Legend of Zelda. Many people who don't even play videogames know them.
After the move to disc format in the early-mid the cap was taken off what was possible before on cartridges. So of course most/all games since then have taken advantage of things such as spoken lyrics and full instrumental.
Speaking of full instrumental...I was fortunate enough to attend Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds in Pittsburgh in February. A traveling symphonic orchestra that plays memorable pieces from every Final Fantasy game. Including ones that were made in the early Nintendo days. Here are two of my favs from the night...the first one being adapted beautifully from SNES midi format. And the second being well, just watch.
In these videos not an empty seat in the house and at my concert. A venue of about 5000 where I attended. Final Fantasy and other Square Enix games such as Chrono Trigger are the only ones to even garner this kind of representation culturally.
But back on subjest, have developers REALLY done all that they can do as far as truly modernizing game music? Of course the music in games such as Mass Effect 3, Skyrim and others is impressive in the instrumental sense. When will game soundtracks be on par with movies when it comes to real world artist representaion?
When will we see Metallica maybe write and perform an entire score for a game? Or Bruce Springsteen to do an original song for a game? Right now, those people might scoff at the idea..because the status quo is still to think that games are "beneath" the kind of music they do. But how long until that isn't the status quo anymore?