Video game music is catchy and memorable. Iconic tunes such as the Super Mario Bros. theme, composed by Koji Kondo, and Tetris’ fast-paced background music, based on the Russian folk song “Korobeiniki,” sound familiar to many gamers and non-games, alike. Hauntingly beautiful songs such as “Scars of Time” by Yasunori Mitsuda, the title theme from Chrono Cross, send chills up my spine. And in Final Fantasy VII, the heart-pounding “One-Winged Angel” by world-renowned composer Nobuo Uematsu—dubbed the John Williams of the video game industry—never ceases to amaze me (especially the orchestral version). But full songs aren’t necessary to bring me back to electronic gaming memories. Sometimes the simplest bleeps and bloops provoke the most visceral reactions of all.
My first experiences video gaming came in dedicated handhelds. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tiger Electronics produced a number of handheld games that captured my attention, including some based on my favorite animated Disney movies, such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. But Tiger’s Electronic Baseball became my undisputed favorite.
Published in 1988, this small game presented a LCD screen depicting a baseball diamond. The game seemed an odd choice for me, as I’ve never been a sports fan, and, though I played softball for a year, I spent more time practicing dance steps in the outfield than paying attention to who was at bat or when a ball came whizzing my way. Nevertheless, Electronic Baseball captivated me. Perhaps that simplicity attracted me to the game more than anything else. The gameplay required me to make the avatar hit the ball and run around bases. I spent hours playing it, mainly while I was with my family riding in the car. When I set it aside for a bit, my mother often picked the game right up. She’d grown just as addicted to the game as me.
So what does this have to do with music and sounds? Quite simply, I played the game so frequently that I eventually completed my objectives with my eyes closed. The game produced sharp beeps when the pitcher threw the ball, and softer bleeps when the player ran the bases. I knew exactly when to make the avatar swing the bat and how many bleeps it took for him to get from one base to another. When my mother played, I could mentally keep track of her score because I deciphered from the sounds when she struck out, when she failed to make it to bases on time, and when she hit home runs.
ICHEG Assistant Director Jeremy Saucier recently unpacked a box filled with Tiger Electronics games, acquired to support the extensive collections of dedicated handhelds. Our offices are adjacent to one another and one morning, when he began testing these new artifacts, I heard a series of familiar bleeps and bloops. I shot out of my chair and into his office, begging to test out my favorite baseball game. In all my years of gaming, no other video game sounds or songs have produced such a nostalgic feeling in me.
And yes, I discovered I can still play the game with my eyes closed.
What video game sounds or songs provoke the best memories for you?