Composing For Video Games 101

People working in the video game industries come with different skill sets. Drawing, programming, designing, directing – everyone has an important role to play. For the game to be good, every puzzle must find its place to make the perfect picture in the end. Without a single puzzle, the picture would not be complete and the observer will not get what he paid for. One of the most important puzzle pieces in this story is video game music.

There are several things one should know when composing for the video game industry. Firstly, the person in question should have basic musical knowledge. Constant listening, playing with melodies, and using the context of the game are just some of the things that we will cover in this article. 

Having Basic Music Knowledge

With the development of technology, musicians nowadays have more options when working on music for a video game. They can alter it every which way they want. However, understanding how to alter music is one thing and writing it another. 

For a good composer, it is necessary that he/she knows how to play an instrument, as this makes the best foundation for ear training. Knowing the basis of musical theory will help you the best possible music for the genre you are writing it for. 

Be Aware Of The Context

A crucial part of making music for a video game is that it fits the context. The main task of every video game soundtrack is to complement the game so that the player’s experience is enhanced in every way. 

There are several factors that every music compose has to consider when approaching video games. For example, music will vary depending on the genre (RPG, FPS, Arcade, etc.), on the event inside the game, and the overall mood that the designer wishes to convey. Another important thing is the in-game sound effects that need to be in accordance with the music.

Melody Is Important

With Michael Salvatori, Martin O’Donnell, and Michael Giacchino, there was a shift to more complex compositions in video games which included a full orchestra and eventually a choir. However, not so long ago games only had catchy melodies that would get stuck into our heads, and we would hum them involuntarily.

Some video games still use melodies over more serious compositions. One of the best references in the world that any composer making melodies for video games should turn to are Japanese composers Yoko Shimomura, Nobuo Uematsu, and Koji Kondo. 

Find Inspiration

Listening to classical music can be beneficial in many ways. You can listen to it in search of some inspiration. But you can also practice by analyzing and transcribing the composition you are listening to.