Beautiful and scary: music for video games

Over on the classical side of MPR, Emily Reese has been having a bit of fun.

Reese has been interviewing composers about their work creating scores for video games. So far the series – called Top Score – has featured such games as Dragon Age II, Stacking, Dead Space and Bioshock.

Reese admits, she had a motivated self-interest in producing these interviews:

I love classical music, I’m a classically-trained musician with a masters in music theory – but I’m also a serious gamer. I began to notice an upward trend in the quality of video game scores and knew that if someone like ME loved the music in games that other people would too. I wanted to share the insights of composers with listeners, and give gamers who love game music the opportunity to hear a conversation between composers and someone who knows a bit about music.

Composers of game music are often also composers of other music, but Reese says composing for video games presents its own set of unique challenges:

Music in games is responsive, far more often than not, to what the player is doing in a particular environment, and since individual people control the player on the screen, the music will often respond differently for every player. Video game composers often are involved in the development process long before composers for film or television, simply because the music is one of many components of the interactivity of the game. What happens musically if I pick up this wrench? What will happen if I move toward the door? What will happen if I move toward the door, but then decide not to go inside? Music can change depending on the slightest action of a player, so composers spend a great deal of time thinking about how their music can achieve that type of interaction.

Here’s an excerpt from Bioshock that gives you a sense of just how the music is incorporated into game-play – it really comes to the fore at about four minutes in:

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