Music and your video game mojo

Music and your video game mojo

Five minutes left and you’re on the losing side, again. You feel like you’ve done all you can and your back is close to breaking after carrying your whole team for 15 minutes straight.

Here we go again, everyone’s waiting on a respawn timer except you and “Rando WhatsHisFace”: who’s either lost on the other side of the map or moments away from gank city. You see your overly confident opponents on the horizon and begin to think of which phrase they’ll use on your tombstone, “Here lies floor mat, he went out living up to his name, and getting stomped or maybe “the greatest chef that ever lived”, he always loved feeding the other team.” Suddenly the song you’re always looking forward to comes blaring into your ear canals, the sirens are singing and for once you’re the sturdy rock hidden beneath the waves and not the unsuspecting ship. DMX wants you to “give it to ’em” and you’ll be damned if you’re going to let DMX down. Within moments you’ve played out a perfect killing montage to one of your favorite songs and clutched the entire game. You’re not a gamer, you’re a God and your teammates are already drafting up blueprints for your giant statue.

Whether I’m destroying my fellow guardians in Destiny, slaughtering enemy champs in League of Legends or obliterating the opposing heroes in Overwatch, I’m always doing it while listening to my favorite music. Everything from DMX to Metallica ensures I’m playing at my best, or at least having the most fun.

Just replace most of the destroying, slaughtering and obliterating with being carried by, feeding and at the mercy of and you’ve got a great description of me playing video games competitively. It’s always a roller coaster when it comes to multiplayer games and I always wonder if the music I listen to inspires me to be better by “getting me in the zone” or if it just highlights the times I actually do well and makes them more memorable. So lets see what the experts have to say about your favorite slaying songs and how it affects your gaming.

You guessed it, a whole lotta nadda. It seems there’s not a lot of studies or information on whether or not jock jams influences your gameplay. But that’s fine with us; we’ll figure this one out together. First we’ll take a look at what we do know about music and its influence in our lives.

What’s more, listening to the angry music actually improved performance…

Music and the losing streak

A large-scale review of 400 research papers in the neurochemistry of music found that music can improve the function of the body’s immune system and even reduce levels of stress. There’s even studies showing that music can actually lower levels of Cortisol, aka the stress hormone.

I’m sure you can relate when I say, fun and stress go hand in hand with video games and that the latter is a sure fire way to lose every time. Whether it’s your last rocket or you’re about to tango with the same player that’s wiped the floor with you numerous times before, you’re going to be stressed when gaming and it’s not going to help you.

Personally, this is a big one for me. It seems I do my best when I don’t care about winning. If I’m having fun and playing with as little stress as possible, I always play better. Plus, it saves a lot of money in broken controllers and makes my comebacks to all the toxic mom jokes even wittier.

Music and your attention span

According to a research team from the Stanford University School of Medicine, peak brain activity occurred during a short period of silence between musical movements when seemingly nothing was happening. What’s even more interesting is that if you have ADHD, the right amount of noise can actually help you focus.

This one seems to be a heavily debated topic. Most studies suggest that music interferes with your attention but instead makes you happier during your task. Whether or not you have ADHD could make a big difference in whether it helps.

I myself find that just the right amount of noise helps me concentrate. It’s almost necessary for some things but when it comes to gaming I don’t really notice a difference. With the rise of eye trackers, we now have a really cool way to see where our attention is in the middle of gameplay and it might be interesting to see if there’s any changes when listening to music. Sign me up!

Angry music and performance

What Tamir and her colleagues found was that people preferred to listen to the angry music before playing Soldier of Fortune. Faced with a task in which anger might serve a useful function, facilitating the shooting of enemies, participants opted for an anger boost. What’s more, listening to the angry music actually improved performance… [The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You)]

Actual research about listening to music and whether or not it improves performance?  Yup, we found it and it couldn’t be more fitting. When the object of the game is to kill as many of the other players as possible, as many times as possible, Hatebreed will get you there!

I sort of feel like I found the holy grail with this one, and it makes complete sense. I for one, always use W.W.J.S.D (What Would Jason Statham Do) when I play video games and it hasn’t failed me yet. He always has intense angry music when he’s kicking ass and I plan to do the same. I’m all about this one.

Music gets physical

“Recent research suggests that a ceiling effect occurs around 145 bpm; anything higher does not seem to contribute much additional motivation,” the Scientific American wrote. “On occasion, the speed and flow of the lyrics supersede the underlying beat; some people work out to rap songs, for example, with dense, swiftly spoken lyrics overlaid on a relatively mellow melody.”

There’s a nearly endless amount of research done on music and physical performance, whether it be at the workout room or even professional cyclists, it only seems to help. A 2012 study called “Effect of Music-Movement Synchrony on Exercise Oxygen Consumption” found that cyclists who peddled with music used 7% less oxygen than those who didn’t.  Even the bpm of songs can affect your performance and Spotify caught on to this and released Spotify running which tracks a runner’s pace and curates a playlist of songs that match the pace.

So it’s pretty much official, music is incredibly helpful when it comes to just about anything physical and competitive video games are as close as we can get to virtual sports, so why the heck not? Ok, maybe I’m reaching a bit here. Sure the virtual character we are in control of is a representation of we as humans and how we move but there’s not much physical demand to it. I guess our thumbs hurt sometimes? Yea, it’s probably not the same.


On one end, music can certainly improve our mood and relieve stress and less stress means more fun for sure. We also have some pretty good research suggesting that the more angry the music, the better you might be at killing things in video games, which is typically the whole point. But it looks like unless you have ADHD, it can negatively impact your attention and that’s a huge deal to anyone playing video games competitively. There’s also not a whole lot of correlation between actually running a mile and making your video game character do the same.

I myself prefer to listen to my music and so far it seems like its made me a better gamer. I’m sure that doesn’t apply to everyone and not to mention that some games are heavily reliant on sound effects for footsteps and other giveaways of the enemy team waiting for you around the corner.

There’s certainly a lack of research in this field regardless, so lets change that. Do you listen to music when you play? What games? What music do you listen to? Leave a comment and let’s try and figure it out ourselves.

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