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Gaming Music, Focus, and Productivity in Remote Work

It’s a typical Monday morning. Ava, a seasoned remote worker, starts her day by setting up her workspace at home. With a steaming cup of coffee at hand, she boots up her laptop, ready to dive into a long list of tasks for the day. Her workspace is silent; all she can hear is the low hum of her computer and the occasional distant noises from her neighborhood. She starts working but quickly finds her attention drifting away. Distractions seem to appear out of nowhere – the ticking of a clock, a bird chirping outside, even the silence itself feels distracting.

Recognizing that she needs a change, Ava decides to experiment with adding some background music. She pulls up a playlist of instrumental game soundtracks, remembering reading about how such music can aid focus and productivity. As the music begins to play softly in the background, Ava notices an immediate change. The melodies are engaging yet unobtrusive, perfectly designed to blend into the background while still holding her attention.

Remote worker focusing with headphones and music.

The rhythm of the music seems to drive her work pace, helping her maintain a steady workflow. Slowly, she feels herself sinking into a state of ‘flow,’ completely immersed in her tasks, distractions fading away. The silence that once felt oppressive is now filled with purposeful sound that guides her focus rather than scattering it.

This scenario illustrates the potential impact of music, specifically gaming music, on focus and productivity in a remote work environment. Whether it’s the enveloping silence or a melodic soundtrack playing in the background, finding the right auditory environment can be a game-changer for remote professionals.

While these points provide a rationale for why gaming music might improve focus, it’s essential to remember that individual experiences and preferences play a significant role. What works for one person might not work for another. These are strategies not rules!

Music in a Remote Work Environment

Have you ever had a day where you just didn’t feel like you could focus and work? Sometimes music can be a tool to help enhance concentration efforts. Some people choose their favorite songs, classical music, and other genre’s, but have you ever considered gaming music?

In this article, we will explore research on the use of music and focus specifically on the use of gaming music, for both gamers and non-gamers, to increase the focus on remote tasks. The sound or beat of gaming music plays a critical role in influencing how players interact with the game, react to events within the game, and how long they are willing or eager to play.

Remote worker focusing with headphones and music.

What is Gaming Music?

Gaming music is often specially composed to serve several specific functions within a game, including driving the narrative, setting the atmosphere, creating immersion, and enhancing the gaming experience.

Think of it from a marketing perspective:

Gaming Company: We’ve found the longer they play, the more potions, scrolls, armor, weapons, and other gaming rations they buy.

Marketing Company: The solution is to make it easy for players to play longer in order to buy more in the in-game store.There is abundant research on music affecting player concentration. If we use the right background music, we can extend their play time.

Gaming Company: Perfect! Let’s do that! We want them to play for hours and focus on the game content.

In other words, gaming music is designed to facilitate focus and maintain engagement without distracting the player from gameplay. It’s often instrumental or minimally vocal, as lyrics can pull attention away from the game. The composition of the music, including its beat, rhythm, and tone, can significantly impact the player’s engagement, performance, and even their willingness to continue playing.

Remote worker focusing with headphones and music.

The Soundtrack to Your Productivity

Video game music is a broad field, and each genre of game often has its own style of music. Each game genre has a unique musical approach, designed to enhance the specific gaming experience it offers. This diversity makes game soundtracks a rich field to explore for background music in various contexts, including boosting focus and productivity in remote work settings.

Remote workers can use gaming music or other types of music to help them focus on work and become more productive in the following ways. The most critical factor is personal preference. What works for one person may not work for another, so it’s essential to experiment with different types of music and soundscapes to find what helps you focus best.

Following are just three soundtrack categories so you can explore what works for you.

Strategy games often involve complex gameplay, with the player needing to manage resources, plan attacks, or solve puzzles. As a result, the soundtracks for these games are typically designed to be unobtrusive and conducive to deep thinking.

The music for strategy games is often slower-paced, complex, and immersive. It is generally non-lyrical and might include soothing ambient sounds, classical music-inspired pieces, or even subtly energetic electronic tracks. The key is that the music helps to maintain a state of focused calm, aiding players in making strategic decisions without becoming a distraction.

Soundtracks from strategy-focused games can be particularly useful for
work, as they’re designed to aid strategic thinking and maintain focus over extended periods.

RPGs are known for their immersive storytelling and character development. Their soundtracks often reflect this emphasis on narrative, with different music for different locations, plot developments, and character themes. These can range from grand orchestral pieces to atmospheric ambient music.

These games tend to have fast-paced, energetic music that matches the intensity of the gameplay. The music can dynamically change based on the game’s action, with different themes for exploration, combat, or suspenseful moments.

Racing Game Soundtracks: Racing games often feature high-energy, upbeat music to match the speed and excitement of the gameplay. These soundtracks often include electronic or rock music.

Each game genre has a unique musical approach, designed to enhance the specific gaming experience it offers. This diversity makes game soundtracks a rich field to explore for background music in various contexts, including boosting focus and productivity in remote work settings.

Remote worker focusing with headphones and music.

An Unconventional Productivity Booster

For over 3 decades, numerous studies suggest that background music can enhance focus and productivity for some people. A study by Lesiuk (2005) found that people who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and had better ideas overall than those who didn’t.

Video game music, with its specific composition, serves to facilitate focus and immersion. Composers of this genre strategically craft non-distracting, atmospheric, and repetitive ambient tracks, all aimed at sustaining a player’s focus on the in-game tasks (Adams, Rollings, & Morris, 2006). Let’s explore some practical strategies for using music to increase focus and productivity:

Right Music for the Task

When choosing music, it’s important to consider the nature of the task at hand and your personal preferences. Some remote workers report that intelligible chatter, such as listening to music with lyrics, can significantly reduce task performance for complex or linguistic tasks. So instrumental or ambient music might be more beneficial for tasks requiring intense focus. Other remote professionals report that background music  impair their ability to complete complex tasks, but enhances their concentration for mundane or repetitive tasks.

Complex tasks requiring high cognitive load might be better performed in silence or with simple, non-lyrical music. Repetitive or well-known tasks might benefit from more energetic or lyrical music. It might take some experimentation to find out what works best for you.

Game Music Design

Gaming music is composed to immerse the player in the game’s environment, reflecting the pacing of the game to emotionally engage the player. This can range from epic, fast-paced tunes during intense gaming moments to calming melodies during periods of respite (Collins, 2008).  Rauscher et al. (1993), suggested that listening to Mozart’s music might induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as “spatial-temporal reasoning”.

Game composers aim to create music that doesn’t distract players from tasks within the game. This often results in atmospheric, repetitive, and ambient tracks, designed not to demand the listener’s active attention, thus potentially helping people maintain focus on their work.

Flow State Inducement

The rhythmic beats and harmonious melodies of gaming music can potentially induce a ‘flow state’ where an individual experiences heightened focus and a sense of energetic immersion in their task, a phenomenon that might extend beyond gaming to improve focus during work or mundane tasks (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

The concept of “flow” — being fully immersed and feeling energized focus in what you’re doing — also applies here.  By listening to gaming music while working or performing mundane tasks, it’s possible that individuals might enter a similar flow state, thereby improving focus.

Regulation of Player’s Emotional State

The use of music on emotional states has been known for years. Thoma et al. (2013) explained that listening to self-selected or classical music, after exposure to a stressor, significantly reduces anxiety. Listening to music can instill calmness and relaxation, as indicated by reduced cortisol levels and lowered heart rate (de Witte et al., 2020). Heshmat (2020) revealed ways that music can be used to improve mood. Turchet et al. (2021) provided a literature review of over 260 publications realated to the use of music and the onset of extended realities.

Music in gaming plays a vital role in regulating a player’s emotional state, increasing tension and excitement during long battles or invoking calm during strategic gameplay. This emotional tuning can enhance motivation and clear thinking respectively (Lipscomb & Tolchinsky, 2005). For instance, during long battles, music can be used to increase tension and excitement, making the player more motivated to win. In more strategic or puzzle-based parts of a game, the music might be calming, helping the player to think more clearly. Try experimenting with different types of gaming music for various tasks when working remote and evaluate your results.

Reduction of Fatigue

In long sessions (which can be several hours for avid gamers), the right type of music can decrease the perception of effort and potentially increase endurance. This effect can make players more resistant to fatigue, encouraging prolonged play (Bishop, Karageorghis, & Loizou, 2007). During this writer’s time as an avid online gamer, it was not uncommon to spend 6-8 hours at play! Imagine the productivity if used for accomplishing tasks when working remote! Be sure to set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and stretch each hour, for your focus might be so enhanced you forget lunch.

Minimizing Distractions & Setting Boundaries

Especially in a noisy environment, listening to music with noise-canceling headphones can help block out distractions, helping you concentrate on the task at hand. A 2012 study found that moderate noise levels (70 decibels) promote abstract processing, leading to higher creativity (Mehta et al., 2012). This could mean that having music in the background may improve focus on tasks that require creative thinking.

Using music as a work cue could also help define the boundary between work time and personal time. Starting a specific playlist can signal to your brain that it’s time to work, which can help initiate focus.

Remote worker focusing with headphones and music.

Final Thoughts

The auditory environment plays a crucial role in determining focus, productivity, and overall work satisfaction in a remote setting. Just as Ava found, trading silence for a purposeful gaming soundtrack can shift the dynamics of work, easing one into a state of ‘flow’ and facilitating deep focus.

While silence may be golden for some, it can lead to distraction and restlessness for others.  Individual responses to music can vary widely, and what helps one person focus may distract another. The impact of music on concentration and productivity often depends on the nature of the task, the listener’s personality, and their musical preference.

So, if  incorporating background music is right for you, consider the well-structured harmonies of gaming music, specifically those from strategy games. Introducing the right kind of music that enhances focus, such as gaming soundtracks, can dramatically shift the work dynamics, inducing a state of ‘flow’ and facilitating deep focus. The carefully crafted melodies, designed to enhance gameplay without causing distraction, can do wonders in enhancing focus and productivity when working remote.

Thinking ahead on furthering the field of remote, there is a fascinating interplay between music and cognitive function which hints at vast, largely unexplored potential for improving remote work practices. As remote professionals, it’s essential to recognize and harness the potential of tools like music to create an optimal work environment.

Whether you’re an experienced remote worker or just embarking on your remote work journey, consider tuning in to some gaming soundtracks. Your perfect productivity rhythm might be just a play button away.

 For more about using music to focus, check out our Podcast: How Do You Remote? (Brandon Spivey). For more productivity strategies, read our Article: Productivity Strategies to Help Remote Workers.

red headphones and musical notes representing listening to music to improve productivity for remote work

Boost Your Remote Work Performance

Looking to boost your focus, motivation, and productivity in a remote work setting? Dive deeper into the world of remote work best practices with Enroll in our Remote Professional Certificate program, where you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge and practical strategies designed to enhance your remote work experience. The time to empower your remote working skills is now!


Adams, E., Rollings, A., & Morris, D. (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall.

Bishop, D. T., Karageorghis, C. I., & Loizou, G. (2007). A grounded theory of young tennis players’ use of music to manipulate emotional state. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 29(5), 584-607.

Collins, K. (2008). Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design. MIT Press.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row.

deWitte, M. et al. (2020). Music therapy for stress reduction: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Healthy Psychology Review 16 (1). 

Gick, M. L. (2016). A Comparison of the Effects of Artwork and Music on Mood and Creativity. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 52(2), 123-134.

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Lesiuk, T. (2005). The effect of music listening on work performance. Psychology of Music, 33(2), 173-191.

Mehta, R., Zhu, R., & Cheema, A. (2012). Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(4), 784-799.

Lipscomb, S. D., & Tolchinsky, D. E. (2005). The Role of Music Communication in Cinema. In D. Miell, R. MacDonald, & D. Hargreaves (Eds.), Musical Communication (pp. 383-404). Oxford University Press.

Mehta, R., Zhu, R., & Cheema, A. (2012). Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(4), 784-799.

Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G. L., & Ky, K. N. (1993). Music and Spatial Task Performance. Nature, 365(6447), 611.

Schellenberg, E. G., Peretz, I., & Vieillard, S. (2008). Liking for happy- and sad-sounding music: Effects of exposure. Cognition and Emotion, 22(2), 218-237.

Schlittmeier, S., Hellbrück, J., Thaden, R., & Vorländer, M. (2008). The impact of background speech varying in intelligibility: Effects on cognitive performance and perceived disturbance. Ergonomics, 51(5), 719-736.

Thoma, M. V., La Marca, R., Brönnimann, R., Finkel, L., Ehlert, U., & Nater, U. M. (2013). The effect of music on the human stress response. PLoS ONE, 8(8), e70156

Turchet, L., Hamilton, R., & Camci, A. (2021). Music in extended realities. Ieee Access, 9.