[RE]Why Isn't There More Heavy Metal In Video Games?

This is an opinion piece. My own opinion, not my employers, etc...


I found an article, while it doesn't hurt that it mentions Killing Floor 2, it does bring up an interesting discussion.

"Why Isn't There More Heavy Metal In Video Games?" (MetalUnderground.com)

Personally I can come up with a good many reasons but even in a situation where metal in a soundtrack would be appropriate, even fitting, there's two major hurdles to overcome that most of the industry simply isn't capable of. Yes, there are fine examples of games with metal soundtracks but these are outliers. What we want is more metal and to get that we need the industry majority to get past these obstacles.


One: Putting it lightly, licensing music for games is a very costly legal nightmare. Two: Despite it being a massively competitive field, most musicians in or trying to get into the industry follow (by choice or instruction) the status quo.


When it comes to games licensing any kind of music it's often predictable which ones will based on the studio size and what kind of game it is. Small studios will almost never have a budget for this so we're looking at larger ones making GTA-alikes, skating, or racing games. Even within these the biggest determining factor on what kind of music to license is what period they're based in. Outside of these examples it's very uncommon to find a game that licenses any kind of music (from the consumer market) at all. Aside from a massive paradigmatic shift occurring in the record industry there's not much that can be done to make licensing more accessible for games. Studios can pursue lesser known bands on small or no labels but this defeats a major selling point to licensing music; attracting people to the game by having music from bands they know.


As far as original metal I already mentioned the status quo. Most musicians in the industry simply don't know how to write metal; they don't respect it. I've worked with amatuer composers who spent a week listening to metal non-stop as research to "master a new genre" and bit my tongue as an award winning professional implied a sample library of power chords and palm mutes would suffice. On the surface, compared to huge orchestrations, it's easy to take metal for granted. Despite this the few times games actually get original metal soundtracks it's very easy to tell who had to study up, who used a sample library, and who was at home with it. Since the majority of the industry follows trends in terms of success it's very uncommon to see a studio take the risk by doing something that has anything less than a proven success rate. Original metal soundtracks written by people unfamiliar with the genre don't tend to garner much critical acclaim, so you see where this is going. Very few that have taken that risk have been successful due to hiring someone familiar with metal. I have a lot or respect for people that write great soundtracks whatever the genre. These people are masters of their own realm and often pioneers. Too much of the time though the soundtrack direction is a game of follow the leader.


I believe over the next few years we stand a good chance of more games getting metal soundtracks, or at least the few that would have metal soundtracks being of higher quality. This has a lot to do with the younger talent not just writing and playing metal but producing it as well. Despite what you may think of the sub, djent has introduced a younger generation to metal and inspired them to not only write and perform it but to learn how to produce. We've seen it with other subs, grind for example, but never on such a scale. These kids, armed with a guitar and laptop, writing and producing metal in their bedrooms by themselves will very quickly surpass the skill of many composers instructed to write or incorporate metal into a soundtrack. Since the industry selects its talent based on merit we'll start to see a better quality of metal in composition and production as the pool of people familiar with it grows. Eventually something will make a splash and whether it's blocks, zombies, or metal, the industry's obsession with chasing success will lure more to follow suit.


zYntheticzYnthetic is the composer alias for Dan Nassick. With a 15 year record in games he has accumulated a wide variety of skills but is best known by the professional achievements of the past six years for voice acting and music. His latest work can be found along side other talented artists, Demon Hunter, Fit for a King, Impending Doom, Living Sacrifice, Bruce Fitzhugh, Jeremiah Scott, Rocky Gray, and Sam Hulick on the Killing Floor 2 soundtrack.