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Study Hack for Gamers

Written by
Abbigail Lewis-Maher
and
and
December 6, 2023
Study Hack for Gamers
Graphic by Allen Barnier

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect study music since I was in my first year. Listening to what I would play in the car during studying just doesn’t work—I find myself getting too lost in the lyrics and the guitar to be able to focus on whatever philosophical problem I’m trying to solve that day. 

“Man the drumming in that one is unbelievable!” I think to myself for the fifth time this study session as I’ve forbidden myself from touching my phone for the next forty-five minutes, instead letting the shuffle button dictate which song out of thousands I will be listening to. 

Next thing I know, I’m sitting in Bata Library reading the artist descriptions on Apple Music instead of working on my 4th research brief this week. 

I tried jumbling a bunch of different classical and instrumental songs that I enjoyed together into a playlist, again letting shuffle do the rest, but I found myself still losing motivation quickly.

There was one album that stood out among the rest, Super Mario Galaxy: Greatest Themes and Sounds by Arcade Player. I don’t know why I enjoyed this album so much, considering I had never played Super Mario Galaxy in my life. Nevertheless, my love for the album put me down a rabbit hole of trying to find the best composers of my favourite video game soundtracks for studying. 

The games I play, such as Stardew Valley and various versions of Pokémon include songs that correlate with certain areas of the game map, characters, or activities within the game. For example, if I am to stay on my farm for the duration of my time playing Stardew Valley, only one song is going to loop consistently and that specific song can only be heard in the game when my character is on their farm. The music never dies out, rather only switching back and forth from one scene to the next.

These songs are much shorter than we would initially anticipate, as the beginning and the end have been composed so that they perfectly sync together to create a song with no distinct end when played on loop. In the game developing world, these are called “looped compositions.” 

Looped compositions and other aspects of video game soundtracks are designed to keep the players concentration on the game, while also making them feel immersed within whatever fantasy world is on the screen. Distractions do not come easily once you have become immersed within the game, only putting the controller down momentarily. 

Hell, I’ve known people who have gotten bladder infections from not getting up to use the bathroom while gaming. Once I noticed this particular detail, there was no doubt in my mind that this could work with studying too.

So I completely changed the way I study. I now only listen to gaming soundtracks while doing anything school related in which I am reading or writing. I’ve found that I spend significantly less time on my phone during my designated homework time, as I am no longer searching for and switching music, meaning I am no longer getting swept away by notifications and text messages. My concentration and focus has skyrocketed, making my work easier to complete. Now that I am no longer being bombarded by sick guitar riffs and emotional lyrics, my comprehension and understanding has progressed as well. 

It’s becoming easier to sit down to do schoolwork, as I find myself becoming more immersed with what's on the page as opposed to when I would listen to whatever I want. I find now that I can study for longer with less distractions, similar to what it's like to play a game I really love. 

While I may not be playing one specific song from one game over and over again, I feel as though listening to a video game soundtrack provides similar effects to a looped composition. We find the songs of our favourite video games to be familiar and comforting, already associating them with becoming lost in the game and loosing the sense of time in the real world. 

It may not work for everybody, but if you’re in a productivity rut, looking up the soundtrack to your favourite video game wouldn’t hurt to try. As music has become such a large part of our lives, finding the right study music could be a small change that makes a big difference in your academics.

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