If you think of the home video games in the 90’s like Super Mario, what you remember is beyond the plumber guy. It is the epic ‘taen na na na nae” opening music (excuse me while I hum) that comes back to the ears. The “ting-tong” of the Tennis Ball in Nintendo’s Game Boy are sounds that help us create a recollection. And even till today, the importance of game audio cannot be overlooked. It has grown so much to have become an independent industry.
Bathroom Producers, Orchestral Leads one and all create sounds that become the recollective of today’s video games.
Have you considered becoming a game audio composer yourself?
To enter into an industry, you must first test the waters and have the basic know-how. Having heard a lot of common questions that aspiring game audio composers usually have for popular Video Game Audio Composers, we compiled the questions and answers to them with what experts from the Game Audio Industry have said in the regard over time.
FAQ 1: As a Video Game Music Composer, what exactly is your every day task?
Depending completely on what stage you are at in the project, on a given day, you’d be doing either of these activities-
- Spotting a Game– A Game Audio Composer has to have a keen eye, and certainly a keen ear. For someone aspiring for to be a game audio composer, you must have the potential to play a game in development and be able to think at all times what music would be relevant to it. A process simply called- Game Spotting, spotting the music for spots.
- Playing Games- Unlike Film Music, every minute detail has to be focused upon while creating the audio for a game. You could easily be seen playing a game over and over to confirm, affirm and reaffirm if every sound is in place. You have to be sure that the music does not conflict with the sound effects and that a certain section is not more sound heavy than the other.
- Composing, of course– The work doesn’t end with creating sounds for the game but also sequence, orchestrate and mix. To write and orchestrate, you have to block yourself out of all distraction- your phone, Facebook beeps, Whatsapp Pokes, everything.
- Research– Whatever it is that can be accomplished without research, I know none of. The game audio industry is a dynamic landscape that changes and grows each day. Research for this industry may be carried out by either playing other games or finding whatever new is there that the industry as to offer. Be it a new tool or a fresh technology, everything is out in the open for you to grab.
- Integration- Integration simply is the incorporation of music into your game. You might as well use sophisticated audio tools that help create an interactive game audio, to be incorporated in a game. The game’s scripting language and level editor allow you to do it yourself as well.
FAQ 2: Do I need to know how to read music to become a game music composer?
The question was asked to James Hannigan in an interview with Music Radar.
Hannigan is a Music Composer and Producer who has worked with huge franchises like The Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings RuneScape 3, Grand Prix, Sports Titles like for FIFA among a few. Here is what he said:
“It depends. If you’re in the business of recording musicians and need to prepare scores for them, then it’s very helpful. But if everything you are creating is coming out of a box, then I guess not. It’s good to be able to do both, in my humble opinion, as being a composer these days is probably one of the most inclusive roles in music there is. Composers need to write music, be pretty decent sound designers and they often have to wear the producer or mixer’s hat as well at times – they oversee pretty much every stage of music production.”
FAQ 3: What talents and personality are needed to succeed as a game music composer?
The question was asked to Brian Schmidt in an interview with Game Industry Career Guide. Schmidt is an expert of 30 years in the industry with over hundred shipped titles in his name. The Walking Dead is a name most have heard of, and guess who created the audio track? Yep, Schmidt.
Here’s what he had to say-
“You need to be curious. Curious about games. Curious about the latest tools and tech. Curious about music and orchestration and what else is out there.
And since a lot of game music work is freelance, you can’t be an introvert. Networking is incredibly important. This is all presuming you’ve got great composition, orchestrating, mixing and production skills, of course. “
To a similar question, Garry Schyman, the master composer of Bioshock and about 25 television shows, 10 films, and 13 video games answered the following-
“Additionally, you will need to develop people skills. If you’re not born with these you’ll need to work on it because you have to be able to work with people and people work with people they like. It is not possible to underestimate the value of being a people person who can get people to trust and like them.”
FAQ 4: What makes for a really good, powerful game score? What underwhelms you?
The question was asked to Winifred Philips, the mind behind Assassins Creed Liberation sounds and the author of A Composer’s Guide to Game Music. Here’s what she says:
“The best game scores are the ones in which the composer is able to express his or her best artistic inspiration. So those are the kind that take you by surprise and intrigue you with different uses of instruments or different textures, different ideas, unexpected choices. That’s the kind of music that I think is the best game music. If you’re asking me what I think underwhelms…when game music isn’t given a chance to participate in the whole experience. When it’s relegated to being very background, not as interacting with the rest of the video game. Sometimes game music can be extremely communicative to the player about what’s going on in the game, how they’re interacting with the mechanics, and the kind of goals that they have to pursue. Music can really have a conversation with the player.”
FAQ 5: How does one game’s music stand out among the others? How do you stand out?
Tomb Raider, Dead Space, Evolve, Star Trek Encounters and Conquest, Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War. Sounds familiar? Yep, thanks to the outstanding audio tracks that still ring in our ears. The outstanding audio of these games was given by Jason Graves, and thus making him the perfect person to answer this question.
“It is very, VERY competitive and you need to do the best you can to stand out from everyone else. This does not mean you need to listen to Hans Zimmer all day and write tracks that sound just like him. Listen to as much diverse music as you can, and not just film music! Listen to classical music. Buy the Dover scores and follow along. Start with Tchaikovskys Ballet Suites–very programmatic and cinematic with amazing melodies and wonderful orchestration. The written scores are your cookbooks for music. Music is essentially a language–if you don’t understand it, how can you possible speak it?”