The Composition of Music in Video Games Shapes the Way We Play Them

by doli89 | Aug 1, 2022

Video games consist of three components. Two of them are visuals and interactivity, which form the core of a game, but the third component, sound, or rather music, makes a game into something that was previously just an activity. Music can make games an unforgettable experience.

Good video game music works well when accompanied by visuals and interactive elements to direct the mind to the room that composers and developers want. Like the song in the theme The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past over world theme composed by Koji Kondo, which really takes players to a completely different place.

The role of music in video games

Kirkhope is a composer known for his work on step classics such as Golden Eye 007, Donkey Kong 64, and Banjo-Kazooie. Prior to his foray into the world of game music, he was a classical trumpet player since childhood and later played in a pub band and several big-name British bands such as the Roost and Little Angels.

Kirkhope began writing music for games by sending Rare five cassette tapes in 1994 but received no response. Then one day he got a letter that his record was accepted, and at the age of thirty-three, he got his first job. He even thought that he would be working in pub rock forever.
And over the course of his 25-year career, he has composed music with a wide spectrum that influences his background.

Gameplay for a composer is a very important structure in creating music

Music in games or even in movies has a tendency to blend into the background and become an integral part of the whole. Sometimes you don’t really know what’s missing until you turn it off. In one video, Kirkhope mentions a YouTube video showing how a scene from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope looks without the music composed by John Williams.

Gameplay for composers is an important structure that makes up music. There is an inherent energy level and visual kinetic rhythm to the gameplay which as a composer is something to really pay attention to. “If done right, the music composed will blend into the overall visual rhythm of the gameplay, and it’s felt that the music mates well on energy levels and increases player engagement,” said Winifred Phillips.

Prior to his entry into the world of video game music composition, Phillips was the composer for radio dramas for National Public Radio where the main purpose of his music was to support the interaction of the action that the listener could not see. Music in both games and radio tells people how to feel something, sometimes without realizing it. But for video games, the music feels freer to support the fun of the gameplay.

Creating Moments

To create moments, video game music must stand out in terms of gameplay, story writing, and music. Not only does this mean that everything has to have an increased intensity in those moments, but the rest of the game has to be able to facilitate that increase. There’s the low end which is the usual gameplay, the medium space which includes mandatory battle sequences where the player must defeat an enemy or multiple enemies before continuing, and then the high end for chases and boss fights.

“When you play music in a video game, you’re telling the player something,” says composer Lena Raine. Music for video games can give a certain message that communicates a gameplay process in its own way.

The way video game music blends into these active experiences are only found in games, helping to build memories of moments or locations in games and in real life which is a very powerful thing.
Video game music is not tied to any popular music, and it has become a force that you can see all over the place.

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