Why the Soundtracks to Games Like 'Mario' or 'The Sims' Can Help You Work

iStock
iStock

When I sat down to write this article, I was feeling a little distracted. My desk salad was calling me. I had new emails in my inbox to read. I had three different articles on my to-do list, and I couldn't decide which to start first. And then, I jumped over to Spotify and hit play on the theme to The Sims. As I listened to the upbeat, fast-paced, wordless music, my writing became faster and more fluid. I felt more “in the zone,” so to speak, than I had all morning. There's a perfectly good explanation: Video games provide the ideal productivity soundtrack. At Popular Science, Sara Chodosh explains why video game music can get you motivated and keep you focused while you work, especially if you're doing relatively menial tasks. It's baked into their composition.

There are several reasons to choose video game music over your favorite pop album. For one, they tend not to have lyrics. A 2012 study of more than 100 people found that playing background music with lyrics tended to distract participants while studying. The research suggested that lyric-less music would be more conducive to attention and performance in the workplace. Another study conducted in open-plan offices in Finland found that people were better at proofreading if there was some kind of continuous, speechless noise going on in the background. Video game music would fit that bill.

Plus, video game music is specifically made not to distract from the task at hand. The songs are meant to be listened to over and over again, fading into the background as you navigate Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom or help Link save Zelda. My friend Josie Brechner, a composer who has scored the music for video games like the recently released Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, says that game music is definitely written with this in mind.

"Basically, successful video game music straddles the balance between being engaging and exciting, but also not wanting to make you tear your ears off after the 10th or 100th listen," Brechner says. Game music often has a lot of repetition, along with variation on musical themes, to keep the player engaged but still focused on what they're playing, "and that translates well to doing other work that requires focus and concentration."

If you're a particularly high-strung worker, you might want to tune into some relaxing classical music or turn on a song specifically designed to calm you. But if you want to finish those expense reports on a Monday morning, you're better off choosing a fast-tempo ditty designed for seemingly pointless activities like making your Sims eat and go to the toilet regularly. (It can help you with more exciting work responsibilities, too: Other research has found that moderate background noise can increase performance on creative tasks.)

These types of songs work so well that there are entire playlists online devoted just to songs from video game soundtracks that work well for studying. One, for instance, includes songs written for The Legend of Zelda, Skyrim, Super Smash Bros., and other popular games.

The effect of certain theme songs on your productivity may, however, depend on your particular preferences. A 2010 study of elementary school students found that while calming music could improve performance on math and memory tests, music perceived as aggressive or unpleasant distracted them. I was distracted by the deep-voiced chanting of the "Dragonborn Theme" from Skyrim, but felt charged up by the theme from Street Fighter II. There's plenty of variety in video game scores—after all, a battle scene doesn't call for the same type of music as a puzzle game. Not all of them are going to work for you, but by their nature, you probably don't need a lot of variation in your work music if you're using video game soundtracks. If you can play a game for days on end, you can surely listen to the same game soundtrack over and over again.

[h/t Popular Science]

The 20 Best States for Singles

monkeybusinessimages, iStock via Getty Images
monkeybusinessimages, iStock via Getty Images

Being single on Valentine's Day means you don't have to worry about cards, gifts, or date ideas. But if you'd like to do something romantic on February 14, your chances of snagging a date in time may depend on where you live. WalletHub crunched the numbers to create a definitive list of the best states to be single and looking for love in America.

To come up with its rankings, the personal finance site analyzed numerous data points for each state, including the proportion of single adults, nightlife and entertainment opportunities, and economic factors like cost of living. Combined, these qualities paint of picture of where you're most likely to find, afford, and enjoy a date.

Florida secured the number one position with a total score of 69.21 out of 100. Though it comes in 33rd out of the 50 states for economics, it places third for dating opportunities and fourth for romance and fun, earning it the top slot. It's followed by California with a score of 67.41 and Texas with 66.77. You can check out the top 20 states below, and see how all 50 states ranked at WalletHub.

  1. Florida // 69.21
  1. California // 67.41
  1. Texas // 66.77
  1. New York // 65.29
  1. Pennsylvania // 64.61
  1. Ohio // 63.10
  1. Illinois // 62.61
  1. Wisconsin // 61.13
  1. Massachusetts // 59.11
  1. Michigan // 58.56
  1. Arizona // 57.22
  1. New Jersey // 56.71
  1. Georgia // 56.11
  1. Colorado // 56.01
  1. North Carolina // 55.58
  1. Minnesota // 55.42
  1. Virginia // 54.98
  1. Washington // 54.76
  1. Missouri // 54.29
  1. Nevada // 53.64

The world uses Valentine's Day to celebrate romance, but you can take it as an opportunity to embrace singledom in 2020. If that's your plan, here are some vintage tips for living alone to keep in mind.

Keep Your Food and Wine Fresh for Longer With These Vacuum Lids

Equilibric
Equilibric

Despite how carefully you try to store your leftovers, most plastic containers aren't airtight, and oxygen is often the culprit behind why food and wine lose their flavor or spoil so quickly. But Equilibric is looking to solve this issue with their Freshly! vacuum lids, which they say can keep food fresh for five times longer than standard plastic containers.

The company just launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Freshly!, which you can back starting at $69. With this pledge, you'll receive three lids of different sizes, a wine seal, and the handheld vacuum used to give your food a proper seal.

The product is easy to use: Simply put the lid on whichever container you wish to seal, attach the vacuum to the air valve, press the button on the vacuum, and your food is ready to store in a matter of seconds. When you’re ready to eat, open the air valve, remove the lid, and enjoy.

When air comes into contact with your food, it can promote the growth of both mold and bacteria. Similarly, when air comes into contact with your open bottle of wine, it can kick off a process called oxidation, which is why your vino can taste flat after it's been opened. But when you use a Freshly! lid, you’re storing your food or drink in "an oxygen-less environment."

The dishwasher-safe lids are universal, so they don’t need to perfectly match the dimensions of the container you are trying to seal. The largest size measures 10 inches in diameter and it's recommended for large salad bowls, pans, and skillets; the medium lid is 7.9 inches in diameter and is best for standard-sized bowls and lunchboxes; and the smallest lid is 5.7 inches in diameter and is recommended for cups.

Vacuum-seal lids for food
Equilibric

According to the campaign, Freshly! lids can keep dishes like cooked chicken fresh for up to 10 days, whereas it only keeps up to five days in regular plastic containers. On average, about 30 to 40 percent of food is thrown out in America, according to the USDA. So, not only will you keep leftovers longer, but the lids can help reduce your annual food waste.

This isn’t Equilibric’s first time making equipment that helps make life in the kitchen easier. They launched a Kickstarter campaign back in March 2019 for the balanced bowl-colander hybrid that helps cooks save time and water.

The campaign has already made more than $70,000, surpassing its original $7000 goal, but you can still help bring this project to life until February 23 by heading here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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