Over the years, research has shown that music can increase your heart beat, leading to a heightened awareness of environment. How can we harness this phenomenon to improve reaction time and gameplay?

In 1984 a study published in the Russian science journal Zh Vyssh Nerv Im I P Pavlova suggested that pop music was more effective than classical music in influencing our motor reaction time. However a more recent study by Wharton and Collins warns about the subconscious influence of lyrics. When gaming participants played a shooter game to the song ‘Mad World’ by Gary Jules, they reported feeling that they were going to die, an echo of the lyrics ‘the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.’

In 2009, Sport Psychologist published a report based on 54 tennis players and concluded that faster music prompted more positive responses in players, and recommended that playing music as a way to prepare for a game could improve performance. With that in mind, here’s five songs to get your game face on to:

1. Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff. OK, so it’s a classical piece which is against Pavlova’s theory. But with its thunderous cymbals, chants, and rising crescendos, this piece does make you feel like God. Give it a try and tell me the blood is not pumping through your veins by the end of it.

2. Mars Bringer of War, by Gustav Holst. In the 2011 study by Wharton and Collins, this piece was noted as highly influential on immersion and perceived gameplay. Gamers in the study favoured Mars for its intensity and militant nature, and one participant even commented that she could ‘hear the bullets more’ when it was playing. There’s only so much intensity one can take though, as another member of the study opted for something with a ‘slower heartbeat’  after a time.

3. In the Hall of the Mountain King, by Edward Grieg. If you want to be more stealthy and less all-out-guns-blazing, this might set the tone.

4. Run, Boy Run, by Woodkid. Something more modern, but with an amphemic mood which contains rapid-fire beats and subconsciously urges you to run. Perfect for gameplay.


5. To Be the Best, by Tenacious D. More positive reinforcement from the kickass falsetto that is Jack Black. This one doesn’t take itself too seriously, so you can enjoy all the glory and supremacy without the tension.

In addition to that, anything from the 80s should give you some good power cords! What are your favourite pulse amplifiers? If you drop hip hop beats, psych yourself up with intense prodigy or faithless, or get into a calm relaxing state with Bob Marley, we want to hear about it. Hit the forums to tell us your inspirational music.

(Special thanks to the International Journal of Computer Research for the Wharton and Collins study, and Livestrong.com for their summary of musical research linked above.)