Music To Play Games By • Page 2

Gaming’s leading composers explain how videogame music is reaching new levels of critical acclaim outside of the industry.


For Jacques and Beddow alike, those challenges that are unique to videogames are what makes it such a fascinating industry in which to work. "Videogames are an interactive medium, whereas TV and film are linear based media," explains Jacques. "So when creating music for videogames, I want to create an appropriate score that reacts to the on screen action in a completely musical and seamless way, utilizing the latest technology and middleware support to give the player a sense of total immersion."

"From a compositional standpoint linear media has the advantage of providing the composer with the structure to follow, to allow the music to punctuate, highlight and fit to the visual," says Beddow. "With video games generally there is no set structure: the game player controls the pace of progression and the musical score has to support this. As such, games require musical scores to change or adapt along with the games progression.

"The music must therefore be constructed in a way to allow it to adapt and move easily from piece to piece. The underlying system will have to provide a way to deliver the musical assets in a dynamic way, which can in some way adapt to how the game is progressing whether by cross-fading, layering or branching music tracks."


This use of dynamic soundtrack is unique to videogames. But not all of the techniques a game composer is called upon to use are that different as Marty O' Donnell, composer for the Halo series and Richard Jacques' favourite videogame composer, explains: "I've written soundtracks for all manner of things from soft drink advertisements through to videogame soundtracks for the likes of Riven. In every case my job is to invoke emotions that convince people to engage with the product.

Richard Beddow.

"The core difference with a contemporary console title is the technology; in videogames players can now control the action on screen and so there needs to be dynamic flexibility in the way my compositions are presented. But essentially the basics of my job are the same whether it's inviting people to buy children's vitamins or kill swathes of brutes. The job is always to write thoughtfully and in an interesting way."

Beddow agrees: "Generally speaking. I wouldn't actually say the core process of composing differs too much between interactive and linear media. The key difference is that the entertainment time of linear media is typically short, often 90-120 minute for a Film or less for TV productions.

"Due to its short time span, composers of linear media can afford to be both very thematic and re-use a lot of material littered throughout the programme thanks to the limited amount of time a viewer will experience it. With video games, where it's possible to have in excess of 20 hours game play, unless you have a mammoth budget to create countless music tracks for certain situations in a game, repetition will be a factor and as such you need to use techniques to combat this."

To avoid the problem of repetition, Beddow avoids writing melodically in areas where the likelihood of repetition is highest and, that most powerful trick in the compositional book: creative use of silence. "It's important to create space within the soundtrack and equally as valid a tool as others when used in the right places," he says. "The last thing you want is a wall to wall tapestry of music without a break."

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About the author

Simon Parkin

Simon Parkin


Simon Parkin is an award-winning writer and journalist from England, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian and a variety of other publications.


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