Being neuroatypical with ADHD can be extremely challenging sometimes. Doing simple tasks that bring me joy can feel like a huge battle for my brain, either because it’s not engaging enough or it’s far too much stimulation and I suffer from an overload of sorts. Toss in some other mental health conditions and quirks, then I’ve got myself a party that is killer for focusing and concentrating on anything that isn’t toxic ruminations. As such, there are a couple of things that I absolutely cannot stand to be without. The most important and prominent of those things is background noise. Silence is extremely uncomfortable for me. It can trigger dissociative thoughts which can then lead to PTSD or schizophrenic triggers/episodes, which then cycles onwards towards anxiety. It’s like an ouroboros; constantly eating its own tail but never actually being able to consume itself entirely. It just goes on and on and on.
Because silence is so awfully debilitating to my life, there are three things you will always find running in the background—one to two at a time depending on the level of difficulties I’m having that day—that help me stay grounded and more able to “normalise” my brain functions. These include my favourite familiar and comforting TV shows/films, the sounds of rain, and cinematic musical scores for media that I consume. If I’m having a particularly tough ADHD day, then, I shall have rain sounds on in the background softly while I watch TV/films, play video games, and even listen to music, and occasionally I’ll even read while doing most of these activities simultaneously. The multiple activities are an excellent exercise for my special brand of conditions, helping to maintain them without chaos. I suppose this is why I can be such a wonderful multitasker when my mind is up for it.
Musical scores are my favourite genre of music. Instrumental and classical sounds are my go-to sanctuary for virtually every single bout of stress that comes my way. The comfort in the notes and the melodies are akin to a combination of meditation and the soothing effects of a hug from someone who brings me the most peace in my life. Even so, there are very few that I can listen to over and over again without getting bored or terribly restless.
Today, rather than focusing on the all the negative things that I tend to feel with respect to my conditions and quirks, I wanted to celebrate it. Yes, I’m very different and quite the epitome of “abnormal” in how I approach virtually everything that I do in my personal life, including coping with mental health, but that doesn’t make me less of a person. It just makes me a different one. So, I wanted to share with you six video game soundtracks that I never seem to tire of listening to; the compilations listed herein are ones that I trust most whenever I’m feeling the über frustrated with my brain’s tantrums and know that within a few minutes to a half-hour, I shall find a balance of comfort again.
Usually when people think about music, they name off big artists and bands, or all of the complex classical intellects. While I could totally do that, I have found that there is beauty and grace in the simple sophistication of masterful video game musical scores. Not only do they have the capacity to calm my mind, emotions, and physical body with their sounds, but they are also such artistically stunning creations in their own right that are far too often neglected or bemoaned merely for being “video game music.”
Today, I’m celebrating my neurodivergence self along with appreciating and bringing some light to a category of music that definitely needs more love; something that I’m sure will help many folx out there (especially if you’re someone that turns to music to help soothe yourself, like me) when they may be struggling in their own ways.
GOD OF WAR III
The original God of Trilogy of games is one of favourite gaming franchises in existence. It introduced me to a whole new style of gaming and storytelling that helped to mould me into the sort of gamer that I am today. God of War III is a game that I sat down and played from start-to-finish as soon as I brought it home on release night (I even have the Collector’s Edition of it). The soundtrack was so epic for me and one of the first video game OSTs that I fell in love with. I never expected it to become a tool on my musical utility belt for mental health, but it did and I’m so grateful for it.
God of War III is something I listen to when I’m having very strong and uncontrollable feelings and thoughts that are incredibly negative or hefty. Because the vast majority of the soundtrack is loud and as epic as you can imagine it to be, it’s like I’m able to scream and shout all of my troubles via my ears. I just put on my headphones, hit play, and turn the volume up. My heart will race and sometimes my brows will scrunch up because I’m feeling such a strong plethora of emotions. But by its finale, I feel rejuvenated and free. It’s wonderfully cathartic.
METAL GEAR SOLID V: PHANTOM PAIN
My third favourite Metal Gear Solid game out there, Phantom Pain was such a fucking brilliant ride. My first memory of it occurs shortly after we adopted Shinobi. She was young and wary of humans. But when we put this into the console and started it up, she crawled between me and my room-mate and literally watched the entire opening cutscene with us, never taking her mango-coloured eyes off the screen. Besides that absolutely adorable association, there’s also the mind-fuckery of it, which was excellent. I’m both simultaneously happy yet sad that this shall be the final MGS game in the franchise. Happy because it was phenomenal in so many ways, but sad because this franchise still had so much more to offer its fans and it sucks it won’t be able to deliver on it.
The music for Phantom Pain was so good. There’s all the infamous retro songs of the 1980s to geek over, such as “Maneater,” “The Man Who Sold the World,” and “Take Me On,” just to name a tiny few of them. They really put the player into the zone for the particular era this game takes place in. But the true beauty of the music is the musical score. A variety of songs are composed to be such a fantastic complement to the suspense, tension, and badassry (along with the more heart-breaking elements), and I found that I can listen to the Phantom Pain OST whenever I’m not sure of what I’m feeling. I just know that my mind and body are completely out of sync, so I put this in, lay down on the floor of my office and bask in the compositions. It’s possibly the only time I ever truly “relax.” Plus, it also helps me focus magnificently when I’m writing stories with lots of violence.
ASSASSIN’S CREED: ODYSSEY
Confession time: I have not played through Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. I did, however, watch my room-mate play through most of it. This entire franchise is on my Need To Play list, as I’ve watched other folx play various instalments of it, but I have yet to pick it up for myself. Considering how much I tend to love the musical scores for most Assassin’s Creed games, it’s a shame that I haven’t gotten a chance to experience the actual gameplay for myself yet (mostly due to laziness, not gonna lie).
That being said, Odyssey has one of those musical scores to it that is such a super perfect accompaniment to my reading sessions. Whenever I cannot concentrate on my book at all, but I’m in that head space where all I want to do is read, I will turn on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The music just helps to transport my brain into a fantastic universe so easily. If I’m reading a fantasy book, especially, then I can focus on the writing, the story, the settings—everything for the duration of my listening. Once I turn it off though, I do tend to lose the vibes that helped me to get into the reading element. That is the only downside. However, if I couple it with rain sounds in the background then I can read for some lengthy sessions (at least an hour, if not more). Plus, every time I listen to the music, I get a strong feeling to play Titan’s Quest, which is my favourite action RPG game of all-time (and my favourite game to play to cope with depression!).
It was difficult narrowing down my favourites songs, but the ones I tend to put on repeat during specific fight scene or other dramatic occurrences the most include “Assassin’s Creed,” “A Spartan Fight,” “Athenian Fighters,” “Pirates, Thugs, and Bandits,” and “Conflict on the Seas.” (Notice a trend there?)
The roguelike that got me into roguelikes, Rogue Legacy is one of my favourite games ever. It’s such an addictive platformer with a cool and pretty creepy story to go with it. Recently, I’ve been playing through the sequel game, Rogue Legacy 2, which hasn’t released a full soundtrack yet. Nevertheless, one of the main aspects that made Rogue Legacy so easy to spend hours upon hours playing through was the music.
To match the game, there is a distinct retro allure to a lot of songs from Rogue Legacy. It’s cool and catchy and quite comfortable to listen to for extended periods of time, especially if you grew up with consoles such as the NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis. Additionally, whenever I am having an extremely difficult time putting blog posts together (my hands can’t string words together in a way my brain would like), I will listen to a few RL songs on repeat, and it significantly helps with my mental processes and functionality. It helps me to better compartmentalise and organise my thoughts in a manner that allows for me to complete the posts in mostly cohesive structure.
I never expected to like Fallout 4, but it was my first Fallout experience and I ended up fucking loving it with every ounce of my heart and soul. Not only does it get hard, but running for your life as you’re being chased by Super Mutants that also happen to be radioactive ghoul type things is… exhilarating. There is so much to do with respect to exploration and side quests. Plus, so many strange creatures and individuals to encounter to keep you thoroughly creeped out and intrigued.
The most iconic of things that stuck with my meat and bones long after playing? The music. There’s the hilariously cheesy romantic numbers from the 1920s-1940s that fills the player with a certain sense of glee while they’re engaged with a murderous robot ten levels too high to fight. Do I shoot? Do I dance? Do I romance it? Ah, decisions, decisions. But beyond those kooky tunes, there’s also the musical score. When you spend hours exploring a game, music becomes a key element because it’ll determine if one is going to go batty from frustration or feel engaged enough to continue playing until they forget to eat or drink water or pet their kitties (me).
The epicness of the music and excellent use of a diverse range of instruments is so beautifully distracting for my mind. Fallout 4 is one of two soundtracks that I can listen to no matter what my mental battles for the day consist of and I know I will be okay by the time it’s done. If I’m mad, or indescribably restless and unable to focus on anything at all, or super sad and contemplative. Usually I turn to Fallout 4 when I want a long writing session or if I’m having trouble battling anxiety. Whatever is going on, I can listen to these songs and find a way to ground myself in the present, which then helps me discover the hidden calmness within myself long enough for my mind to focus on certain vital tasks.
LEGEND OF ZELDA: TWILIGHT PRINCESS
I know a lot of people hated this game, and I can’t blame them. It was way too linear to be a proper Zelda game. But you know? There are still a lot of aspects about Twilight Princess that I loved personally with my whole heart. Wolfy Link was super adorable. Midna was kinda of scary, but her humour had a bit of appeal. The Zora were gorgeously designed. The boss fights were a lot of fun and I enjoyed the creativity that went into them. I liked collecting the heart pieces, and the musical score was absolutely spectacular.
When I first got my hands on the multi-disk OST, I remember listening to it on repeat for two weeks. Whether I was studying and doing homework, doing chores around the house, reading—anything and everything was done to the Twilight Princess soundtrack. In hindsight, it feels a bit cheesy, but that sense of nostalgia is what has made it stand the tests of time with respect to my mental health and my passion for musical scores. Twilight Princess is still one of the very few soundtracks I can listen to from beginning to end without skipping any songs. It’s also the one of the few I can listen to while supremely multitasking (i.e.: reading/writing/playing a video game/working while listening to the music, rain, and possibly a podcast in the background).
Similarly to Fallout 4, this is one OST that I can hit play on no matter what is going on in my mind and it automatically puts me into focus and concentration mode. While the others are useful in their own ways with helping me through specific bouts of mental challenges, this one always consistently kicks my ass into attention-mode, allowing me become extremely efficient and engrossed on whatever it is that I need to get done, usually relating to writing and working. Sometimes I’ll get so far into “the zone,” that I’ll work for fourteen to sixteen hours straight.
Since the track listing for this thing is monstrous, it was pretty hard to narrow it down to my favourites. But the songs that I seem to get most excited for when they hit my speakers (or headphones) are “Orchestra Piece 1” and “Orchestra Piece 2,” “Hyrule Castle Tower,” “Death Mountain,” “Ilia’s Theme,” and “Hidden Skill Training,” mostly because they remind me of some of my favourite parts of the game.
Video games are really fucking awesome things. From their storytelling and narrative styles to their various levels of interactive entertainment and artistry, to their glorious musical scores, there’s almost always something there to delight in, a new experience of sorts. I know that if I didn’t have video games in my life, especially the beauty of their music, I would be so lost and so utterly bored and lonely and terribly depressed… well, you get the picture. I’m glad I could share some of my favourite OSTs with you today!