Here on the Dorico blog, we’ve discussed before how the rise of new forms of media, combined with the advent of technologies such as composing software, have created entirely unprecedented avenues of creative possibility for musicians and composers.

Here, we explore the emergence of video game scoring as a distinct form of composing, and outline its potential as a career path for aspiring musicians.

The Rise of the Video Game Composer

The emergence of video game scores as a classical medium treated with the same respect as film scores has largely occurred concurrently with the games themselves becoming more sophisticated.

During the earliest days of video games, the primitive nature of the technology meant that the only soundtrack you were likely to hear while gaming was a collection of digitised bleeps. As video games, and the technology behind them, have increased in complexity, quality and artistry, so too have the scores that accompany them.

After a contentious few years in which the recurring presence of video game scores in Classic FMs annual Hall of Fame prompted impassioned debate over their merit, the station now has a regular slot dedicated exclusively to game scores. It’s also become a significant live draw, with a 2007 performance of game scores by the LA Symphony Orchestra selling out the Royal Festival Hall.

Video Game Scoring as Career Path

In several key ways, carving out a path in video game scoring requires a similar approach to becoming a film composer. It’s equally important to maximise your chances of success by building up a strong portfolio of work, and by seeking out smaller, more easily manageable projects initially. It will also require a significant degree of self-promotion – an often overlooked aspect of a composer’s skill set that we’ve outlined the importance of before.

It will also be important to hone your tech skills, and develop a working knowledge of the major programs for composing music. The nature of the modern games industry means that, as a composer, you will most likely be working exclusively with your computer, music scoring software and tools for mixing and editing your own work. While game scores recorded with real musicians and full-scale live orchestras are becoming more common, they are primarily to be found in high profile games made by the larger studios, who have the budget to spare.

However, there are also certain factors that make the role of the game composer distinct from that of a composer for film. Game music requires a far greater degree of close integration into the game itself, to ensure that the correct sections of score occur during the relevant part of the game, or that it doesn’t clash with the high number of variable sound effects. Needless to say, a composer for video games should ideally be someone with a deep passion for the industry, who is prepared for the intricate task of mapping their score perfectly onto the completed game.

Video games, and their accompanying scores, have come a long way since their earliest, crudest incarnations – and creating their scores now stands as one of the most viable career paths open to many aspiring composers.

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