Glad you’re here! I’m video game music composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m the author of the book A Composer’s Guide to Game Music. Recently my publisher The MIT Press requested that I host a question and answer session on Reddit’s famous Ask Me Anything forum, to share my knowledge about game music and spread the word about my book on that topic. I’d be answering questions from a community consisting of thousands of gamers, developers and aspiring composers. It sounded like fun, so last Thursday and Friday I logged onto Reddit and answered as many questions as I possibly could. It was an awesome experience! Over the course of those two days, my Reddit AMA went viral. It ascended to the Reddit front page, receiving 14.8 thousand upvotes and garnering Reddit’s gold and platinum awards. My AMA has now become one of the most engaged and popular Reddit gaming AMAs ever hosted on the Ask-Me-Anything subreddit. I’m so grateful to the Reddit community for their amazing support and enthusiasm!! During the course of those two days, the community posed some wonderful questions, and I thought it would be great to gather together some of those questions and answers that might interest us here. Below you’ll find a discussion focused on the art and craft of game music composition. The discussion covered the gamut of subjects, from elementary to expert, and I’ve arranged the discussion below under topic headings for the sake of convenience. I hope you enjoy this excerpted Q&A from my Reddit Ask-Me-Anything! If you’d like to read the entire AMA (which also includes lots of discussion of my past video game music projects), you’ll find the whole Reddit AMA here.
The Game Developers Conference is always an awesome opportunity for game audio experts to learn and share experiences. I’ve given presentations at GDC for a few years now, and I’m always excited to hear about what’s new and notable in game audio. This year, the hot topic was virtual reality. In fact, the subject received its own dedicated sub-conference that took place concurrently with the main GDC show. The VRDC (Virtual Reality Developers Conference) didn’t focus particularly on the audio and music side of VR, but there were a couple of notable talks on that subject. In this article, let’s take a look at some of the more intriguing VR game music takeaways from those two talks. Along the way, I’ll also share some of my related experience as the composer of the music of the Dragon Front VR game for the Oculus Rift (pictured above).
Where should video game music be in a VR game? Should it feel like it exists inside the VR world, weaving itself into the immersive 3D atmosphere surrounding the player? Or should it feel like it’s somehow outside of the VR environment and is instead coasting on top of the experience, being conveyed directly to the player? The former approach suggests a spacious and expansive musical soundscape, and the latter would feel much closer and more personal. Is one of these approaches more effective in VR than the other? Which choice is best?
Welcome to the fourth installment of my five-part article series discussing music composition techniques that heighten tension and suspense for video game projects. These articles are based on the presentation I gave at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, entitled Homefront to God of War: Using Music to Build Suspense. If you haven’t read the previous three articles, you’ll find them here:
Before we move on to the next music composition technique in our suspense-building arsenal, I’d like to briefly revisit a video game project we discussed in our last article; the popular Dragon Front VR game for the Oculus Rift, developed by High Voltage Software.
Welcome to the third (and final) article in this three-part discussion of how video game composers (like us) can make strategy gamers smarter! We’ve been exploring the best ways that the music of game composers can help strategy gamers to better concentrate while making more sound tactical decisions. During this discussion, I’ve shared my personal perspective as the composer for the popular Dragon Front strategy game for VR.
In part one, we discussed the concept of ‘music-message congruency,’ so if you haven’t read that article yet, you can read it here. In part two, we explored the meaning of ‘cognition-enhancing tempo’ – you can read that article here. Please make sure to read both those articles first and then come back.
Are you back? Awesome! Let’s launch into a discussion of the third technique for increasing the smarts of strategy gamers!
In psychology, the term ‘affect’ refers to emotion, particularly in terms of the way in which such emotional content is displayed. Whether by visual or aural means, an emotion can not be shared without some kind of ‘affect’ that serves as its mode of communication from one person to another. When we’re happy, we smile. When we’re angry, we frown.
Welcome back to our three-part discussion of how video game composers (such as ourselves) can make strategy gamers smarter! In these articles, we’re looking at ways in which our music can enhance concentration and tactical decision-making for players engrossed in strategic gameplay. Along the way, I’ve been sharing my personal experiences as the composer for the Dragon Front strategy game for virtual reality. Over the course of these articles we’ll be covering three of the top concepts that pertain to the relationship between music and concentration. In part one, we discussed the concept of ‘music-message congruency,’ so if you haven’t read that article yet, please go check it out and then come back.
Are you back now? Good! Let’s move on to the second big technique for increasing the smarts of strategy gamers!
As video game composers, we create music in a wide variety of tempos designed to support the energy of play and the pacing of the game’s overall design. From leisurely tracks that accompany unstructured exploration to frenetic pieces that support the most high-stakes combat, our music is planned with expert precision to shape the excitement level of players and keep them motivated as they progress.
Can video game composers make you smarter? Well, video gaming can be a pretty cerebral activity, requiring astute problem-solving skills and disciplined concentration in order to excel. That’s especially true for any game built around strategic and/or tactical gameplay, such as real-time or turn-based strategy, tactical shooters, multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs), and online collectible card strategy games. To succeed in these types of games, players must assess the current situation and formulate a plan that accounts for future developments and variables. Without this type of tactical forward-thinking gameplay, a gamer has little chance to win. So, can music enable gamers to think tactically, stay focused and make smart decisions? Over the next three articles, I’ll try to answer that question, while exploring the role of music in enhancing the concentration of strategic/tactical gamers.
Along the way, we’ll be taking a look at some scholarly research on the subject, consulting the opinions of experts, and I’ll be sharing my experiences creating the music for the recently released Dragon Front strategy game from High Voltage software. We’ll check out some music tracks I composed for the popular Dragon Front game (pictured at the top of this article), and we’ll discuss methods for supporting and enhancing concentration for strategic/tactical game players. But first, let’s take a closer look at the Dragon Front game.