Videogames have always had a very symbiotic relationship with music, helping create mood and ambiance that can set the tone for the entire experience. Have a favourite title, then you’ll probably remember the theme tune – Nintendo had some classics – as music has a way of emotionally connecting you to the gameplay in a way visuals can’t. With the advent of consumer virtual reality (VR), music – and especially spatial audio – is just as important, if not more so, than ever before. Yet music exists in VR in various form factors, with a growing trend to interacting, visualising and creation.
For the majority of videogames and players, music exists as something in the background, maybe telling you when danger is nearby or when you’ve reached a safe place. On the other hand there are those titles like rhythm action videogames which get you properly involved, or for those musicians amongst you creation tools from the very basic to the professional.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular forms of musical videogame comes from the rhythm action genre, with titles like Guitar Hero and Rock Band two of the most synonymous. Oculus Rift owners got a taste of that with Rock Band VR, as the Oculus Touch controllers came with a little accessory to attach one of them to the head of a Rock Band guitar. This proved to be a successful match with VRFocus giving Rock Band VR a four star rating in its review.
But you don’t need an additional chunk of plastic to jam in VR. There are plenty of titles that make use of the motion controllers that come supplied with the various high end headsets. Audio Shield, Audio Beats, Thumper, Beat Saber and many more utilise some drumming rhythm, requiring well timed actions to build multipliers and score points. Such is the energy and physical output needed that some developers have harnessed this for fitness. BOXVR for example requires a player to preform punches, hooks and upper cuts to a beat, burning and calorie counting along the way.
If you’re not interesting in working up as sweat then what about making your own music? There are certainly one or two apps that can accommodate depending on your musical inclinations. Naturally dance music is and easy go to, where you can become a virtual DJ using TheWaveVR to create thumping electro beats for people to dance to. After something a little more traditional? How about The Music Room. Here you can play the guitar, strum a laser harp or unleash your inner Keith Moon or Lars Ulrich and drum away to your hearts content as drum companies such as Pearl, Ludwig, Sabian, Zildjian, DW and Gretsch have all helped in its creation. The app also serves as a midi controller for those who know what they’re doing.
At the top end, for those that really know what they’re doing and just want to play around in VR there’s always AliveInVR. All the apps and videogames previously mentioned work on their own, self-contained experiences to enjoy. AliveInVR is not. It works as a VR midi controller for Ableton Live, a very serious piece of software that musicians use to create tracks. Similar to TheWaveVR music can be controlled through a series of interactable objects, differing due to the shear amount of options and control Ableton offers – which is why it isn’t cheap.
When it comes down to it VR can literally put music in the hands of VR fans around the world no matter their skill level. Whether you just want to have some fun wildly flailing around to your favourite tune or want to get into the nitty gritty of music development there’s a VR app for you. One day there might even come a time when the latest club land summer smash comes from someone who wants to make music in a virtual world.