We can be Heroes.
Fans all over the world have been mourning the loss of David Bowie, who passed away last night after an 18-month battle with cancer. The versatile musician contributed much to the world of music, not to mention his work as an actor and impact on the fashion industry.
But while his talents in the music, film, theatre and fashion world are being widely discussed, we here at Twinfinite would be remiss if we did not take a moment to recognize his contributions to the world of video gaming.
Here are the top 5 uses of David Bowie’s songs in gaming.
Metal Gear Solid V, “The Man Who Sold The World”
Metal Gear Solid as a franchise has several nods to Bowie throughout the series. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, there are numerous references to “Major Tom”, with nods to both songs “Space Oddity” and “Ashes to Ashes” throughout the game. In MGSV, the name of the company “Diamond Dogs” is a direct reference to Bowie’s album and song of the same name.
But the most direct use is the use of “The Man Who Sold the World” in the opening credits for MGSV. While the version specifically used is a cover by Midge Ure, Bowie’s lyrics and music is the driving force here, and sets a fantastic tone for the rest of the game.
Grand Theft Auto IV, “Fascination”
GTA IV is a sprawling tale focused on the immigrant Niko Bellic, and his experience in coming to America and immediately falling into the crime-ridden world of Liberty City. As in previous GTA titles, the music choices for the various radio stations set the tone, and GTAIV is no exception.
Liberty Rock radio, in particular, features a number of songs that set a great mood – “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by the Stooges, and “The Seeker” by The Who come to mind – but it’s “Fascination” by David Bowie that really captures the wonder, temptation, and debauchery that make up the game’s setting and characters.
Omikron: The Nomad Soul, Various
Quantic Dream broke out in the gaming scene in 1999 with a title called Omikron: The Nomad Soul. The game was released for PC and Dreamcast, and featured original music, and a couple appearances in-game from Bowie himself. He also contributed to the game’s story.
This is his most direct involvement with a game, and his presence is felt throughout. The songs he wrote specifically for the game, along with Reeves Gabrels, fit the dystopian mood of the game, and were later repurposed for Bowie’s album, “Hours…”. Bowie’s first direct foray into the gaming world was in line with his willingness to experiment across all mediums. Given more time, who knows what we might have seen from him in the future?
Guitar Hero, “Ziggy Stardust”
When Guitar Hero broke on to the scene in 2005, it was massively popular. While rhythm games were nothing new, the creation of a guitar-shaped controller gave even the least musically adept gamers the true feeling of being a rockstar, right in their living room.
Of course, none of this would have mattered if the game didn’t boast a killer soundtrack. Featuring covers (while the franchise would move on to licensed music in later iterations, the initial title could only afford to create their own cover versions) of songs from bands like Queen, Black Sabbath, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, perhaps one of the greater entries is Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”.
The song kicks off the fourth tier of difficulty. As players begin to get more challenged in their skills, failing a song can be common. When you have to replay a song over and over, it helps to be playing a good one – and Ziggy, with its chord progression and melody, is one of those songs you don’t mind repeating.
Alan Wake, “Space Oddity”
An ending credits song can be powerful if used properly. It can call back to a fond memory of earlier in the story, or it can tie up the theme of everything we just experienced in a way we hadn’t even considered, evoking an emotion we didn’t know we had about that story.
Such is the case with Alan Wake. The song’s Major Tom is lost in space, cut off from the world, whose last transmission is to tell his wife he loves her. With the ending of the series creating some divisive opinions, having a powerful song playing that draws parallels to the story can perhaps give some clarity, and if nothing else, invoke the desired emotion from the creators – with a little help from a master songwriter.
Thanks for everything, Mr. Bowie. The stars look very different today.
Which of these is your favorite moment? Did we miss one that you love? And what’s your favorite David Bowie song? Let us know in the comments below!