There is an entire universe of beats out there on YouTube, low-fi or otherwise, that you can relax/study to, but I’m a big fan of “videogame ambience” videos. It’s not just a soundtrack rip, but long cuts of actual in game footage with all the other assorted sights and sounds adding to the experience.
One of my favorite channels for this sort of thing is Y2K Era PC Game Aesthetics, and for the holiday season, they’ve been sharing half-hour videos of PC gaming “yule logs.” We’re about three layers of playful riffing deep here.
In our alienated digital age people started making long videos of crackling hearths to satisfy apartment dwellers and the like who can’t stoke fires themselves, while Y2KE PCGA is taking the bit even further with footage of cozy fireplaces from videogames. Here are a few of my favorites:
Really, I don’t know if you could have picked a comfier city in all of Cyrodil. Bruma has the snow, but it always gave me more of a muddy, late January slush impression, while Cheydinhal is lovely but unfortunately plays host to a murder cult.
Chorrol’s Arborwatch is the second-most expensive house in the game, so I see this burg as having a real tony, fudge shop and gazebo small town kind of vibe. In a Tamrielic Hallmark movie, it’s where an uptight professional from the Imperial City would find themself trapped for the holidays, not yet realizing they’re ready to learn to love again.
All these years later and the Thief series still has some of the best audio I’ve ever heard in a game. The background music for the Rumford Manor is all spooky and atmospheric—maybe a good fit for being visited by mournful specters—but the crackle on that fireplace, it sounds just like the real thing.
Conversely, Ion Storm’s opus doesn’t have much sound coming off that there log. This is not a “roaring” fire, but I’ll be damned if the Paris Cathedral doesn’t have my favorite music in the Deus Ex soundtrack. It’s so regal and almost mournfully nostalgic, with that organ line still giving me shivers.
The Deus Ex and Oblivion logs also benefit from some ambient dialogue in the background as well. Some Breton guy has the same Radiant dialogue about Mudcrabs or the Fighters’ Guild in Oblivion, while here you can make out a security bot in the background while the two MJ12 guards cough and hum to themselves. Maybe in the spirit of the holidays you can go easy on them, just this once. Stick with the prod.