Rarely, a game will leave a mental imprint on me that lasts well beyond when I finish the game. Most of these games are classics, but there’s not always a perfect correlation between the quality of a game, whether it’ll leave an imprint and how strong that imprint becomes. I’m not going to delve deeply into the subject, but I wanted to briefly pose the question: what makes a game leave an imprint?
I’ll spare you all the long-winded monologue and instead I’ll focus on one highly subjective point: it’s in the music. The games that leave the strongest impressions on me almost always have a great soundtrack. Shadow Complex was probably a technically better game than Trine, but the latter is the one that left an imprint. I burned through both games, but I continue to play Trine through the music – the soundtrack contains the essence of the game. I can listen to it after I’ve played the game and I can observe how my memories are mapped to the individual tracks. Each song is linked to different experiences.
Normally, my memories are fleeting – they’re attached to any of dozens of simultaneously moving thoughts and they slip through my mind before I can get a solid grip on a particular thread. But the sounds of the game bring clarity to even the smallest details. Most of the games that have made an impression on me fit this bill, ranging from classics like Betrayal at Krondor and Xenogears to modern recent obscurities like Spirit Engine 2. In some cases, this extends beyond the soundtrack and to the effects and ambient noise in games like X-Com.
I have yet to play an MMO that evokes the same reaction, but the genre doesn’t give music the same role for obvious reasons. I can’t help but wonder what kind of MMO will leave an imprint on me.