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Why New Age piano jazz was the perfect soundtrack for The Sims

The soundtrack of our lives

Clayton Ashley , senior video editor, has been producing and editing videos for Polygon since 2016. He is the lead producer of the tabletop gaming series Overboard.

The Sims is one of the most successful video game series ever, having sold nearly 200 million copies over its lifetime. When the original Sims was released back in 2000, it was never guaranteed to be a success. A simple household simulator was an odd sell in an era of edgy attitude and epic adventures. So the choice to go with a soundtrack of quasi-improvisational New Age solo piano jazz seems even stranger in retrospect.

Luckily, it was the perfect choice.

Composed by Jerry Martin, with help from jazz pianist John R. Burr and Marc Russo, The Sims’ soundtrack is iconic. The New Age jazz piano that scores the game’s build mode is particularly memorable to a generation that spent countless hours designing and redesigning their Sims’ houses. Somehow, these songs could stimulate the mind without becoming annoying or boring, even when playing for eight hours straight.

We spoke to Martin about his creative process, which you can learn all about in the video at the top of this post. We look at not just how he blended improvisational jazz with optimistic New Age music, but why these genres worked so well in The Sims. And if you’re already a fan of his work, be sure to checkout Martin’s website, where you can download MP3s and even piano sheet music for all the build music.

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