The Minibosses are a cult band whose specialty is performing covers of songs from 1980s era Nintendo games, such as Mega Man or Super Mario Brothers. Salon recently ran a profile of the group, discussing the generational appeal of those particular tunes.
They performed several years running at Steer Roast – the end of year party at MIT’s Senior House, the dormitory where I am housemaster. It was fascinating to watch a generation who had grown up playing these games try to guess which game and which level a particular patch of music came from. As a parent of a kid that age, I used to get so annoyed listening the same simple musical compositions play again and again in the background, but I found myself also waxing nostalgically as they played themes I remembered, perhaps more vaguely than my son did, from some long forgotten video game. Video game music has particular qualities – simplicity and repetition – which allowed players to time their movements around the leaping flames or buzz saws or swinging pendulums that characterized the games of that era. They also were perhaps – alongside the electrical light parade at Disneyworld – some of the first electronic pop many of us heard. Some have argued that the current appeal of techno for college age students stems from their early exposure to such soundscapes through their game play.
In Japan, soundtracks for these games were common but it has only been recently that you could buy video game soundtracks in the U.S. Yet, the cult following of the Minibosses suggests that this music speaks to the current generation perhaps the same way that the reissues of Saturday morning cartoon themes or old Disney songs spoke to the late Baby Boomers.