This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
I think I'm cheating.
For this Bitmob Challenge I should've picked a song. Instead, like the renegade master I am, who plays by his own damn rules, I picked the Valve ident.
There's nothing magnificent to the ident itself. It's creepy, and memorable enough, but by association it has become iconic. It reminds me of good times playing Portal, Left 4 Dead and Portal 2, but mainly it reminds me of the sheer joy that is the Half-Life 2 universe.
Entries for this challenge will mention a lot of good songs. But there will also be a few otherwise average songs that players consider great. Why? Because of association, because the tune is linked with a fond memory of gameplay. No one ever mentions a good song from a bad game. Are we really to believe that only good games have good music? Or is it more likely that, without a positive gaming association, these songs have nothing to make them memorable?
Good and fitting music can enhance the fun of gaming. But surely that works both ways—good gaming increases enjoyment of a song. Once a tune has been the soundtrack to a great moment of play it becomes tagged with those positive feelings, and those feelings will come flooding back when the song is heard again, regardless of context.
My love for the Valve ident works in a slightly different way. It was never the soundtrack to me playing Half-Life 2, it only preceded it. But it preceded everything—whenever my 360 booted up with the Orange Box in the tray, that iconic noise notified me that what was soon to come would be joyous. I loved playing Half-Life 2 from my first shot. So the second time I played, that ident said remember how much fun you had the last time?. It was the bell that had me salivating at the thought of another journey into Gordon Freeman's universe, the same way the screams of my victims signify the removal of another delicious adrenaline gland.
Because the Valve ident wasn't the soundtrack to any one moment of gameplay, it has come to represent a number of good Half-Life 2 memories. A crazed priest preaching from above a doomed city, big bloody tripod things destroying buildings, a super-powered gravity gun, "wake up and smell the ashes", headcrabs, zombies, horrible things with sticky tongues—all these wonderful gaming memories come flooding back as soon as that ident starts.
Even now, having not played Half-Life 2 for years, hearing that ident still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Thanks, Valve.