Hey everybody! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips. Every year, between working in my studio creating music for some awesome games, I like to take a little time to gather together some of the top online resources and guidance available for newbies in the field of video game music. What follows in this article is an updated and expanded collection of links on a variety of topics pertinent to our profession. We begin with the concert tours and events where we can get inspired by seeing game music performed live. Then we’ll move on to a discussion of online communities that can help us out when we’re trying to solve a problem. Next, we’ll see a collection of software tools that are commonplace in our field. Finally, we’ll check out some conferences and academic organizations where we can absorb new ideas and skills.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Concerts and Tours
Let’s check out some of the great concert events and tours that are circling the globe, offering famous video game music performed live to audiences ranging from sedate symphony halls to screaming mosh pits. There are tons of ways in which we game composers can find inspiration in these performances, and there’s a wealth of options from which to choose. If our tastes lean towards the more classical side of things, we can check out the big orchestral concerts like the Video Games Live and Distant Worlds tours, or we can opt for the subtler pleasures of a chamber ensemble approach with the intimate music of A New World. Then again, some of us would rather head for the mosh pits and get ourselves some head-banging good times. These folks may want to opt for events like MagFest and Bit Gen Gamer Fest. There’s something for everyone in the collection of links below. I’ve also included video clips that show notable performances from past shows.
I’d like to start with a concert tour that was just announced last week, and that means a lot to me personally:
Assassin’s Creed Symphony World Tour
Kicking off its world tour in June 2019, the Assassin’s Creed Symphony will feature the most popular music selections from the entire Assassin’s Creed game franchise, including music from the score I composed for Assassin’s Creed Liberation. I’m very excited that selections of my Assassin’s Creed Liberation music will be performed by an 80-piece orchestra and choir as a part of the world tour. The concert tour will premiere in the famous Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, best known for hosting the Oscars ceremonies each year. This is a brand-new concert tour that hasn’t premiered yet. Since there aren’t any videos from past shows, here is the official trailer from Assassin’s Creed Liberation, featuring three of the tracks from my Liberation score: “Stealth,” “In the Service of Humanity,” and “The Hunt.”
A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy
This concert tour of video game music from the Final Fantasy repertoire takes a unique approach. Instead of opting for large-scale orchestral ensembles and choirs, A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy uses small chamber ensembles and special arrangements designed to accommodate them. The result is a complete reimagining of Final Fantasy music, allowing well-worn tracks to feel more fresh and personal. Three concerts are currently set to take place in small venues during 2019, including performances in Los Angeles, Seattle and Atlanta. Here is a performance of the “Chocobo Medley” from a 2017 show that took place in Vancouver.
Bit Gen Gamer Fest
The Bit Gen Gamer Fest is an annual event celebrating game soundtracks during one jam-packed day of music and mayhem. Feeling like a cross between a rock festival and a video game arcade, the July 2018 edition of Bit Gen Gamer Fest included 18 musical acts performing video game cover songs at the Ottobar in Baltimore. Here’s an extended video of the X-Hunters full set during Bit Gen XIII.
Distant Worlds: Music of Final Fantasy
Launching into its twelfth year of touring the world, the Distant Worlds: Music of Final Fantasy concert tour continues its quest to spread the music of Nobuo Uematsu to video game fans everywhere. The performances include the large-scale Distant Worlds Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Grammy Award-winning conductor Arnie Roth. Here’s a video of their performance of the Final Fantasy VII Main Theme during a 2014 performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Game Music Festival
This is a brand-new game concert series, planned to be a yearly event. The concert took place this past October at the National Forum of Music in Wroclaw Poland. Sponsored by GameMusic.pl, the Game Music Festival concert featured musical selections from Heroes of Might and Magic, Grim Fandango, Ori and the Blind Forest, and three Blizzard properties: Diablo, World of Warcraft, and Starcraft. Here’s a trailer produced by the concert series for their first annual event:
Joystick with the Malmo Symphony Orchestra
Like the Game Music Festival in Poland, the Joystick concerts in Sweden are intended as an annual event. Joystick is now entering its eleventh year of offering video game music as performed by the Malmo Symphony Orchestra. The program for this year’s concert includes selections from The Witcher 3, Hitman 2, Horizon Zero Dawn and Final Fantasy VII, among others. Here is a performance of “The Dragonborn Comes” track from Skyrim, as performed during the Joystick concert in 2013.
The “Music And Gaming Festival” known as MAGFest takes place over the course of four intense days each year in which massive gaming tournaments run 24 hours a day and banging video game music concerts play loud and long into the night. In addition to the big yearly bash (coming to National Harbor Maryland in January 2019), the nonprofit MAGFest organization also sponsors a touring concert series called Game Over, and several smaller music/gaming events that take place around the country. Here’s a cover version of the Mega Man 3 Intro music as performed by The Advantage during MAGFest VI:
Metal Gear in Concert
The Metal Gear in Concert tour began with two performances in Japan before coming to Paris in October 2018. This coming year, the Metal Gear in Concert tour will stage two concerts in the United States, including its stateside premiere in March 2019 at the United Palace in New York City, and a Los Angeles performance in April at the Wellshire Ebell Theatre. The tour features a 70-piece orchestra and performances by vocalist Donna Burke, best known for singing the themes for both Peacewalker and The Phantom Pain. Here is a video of Donna Burke performing the Snake Eater theme during the Metal Gear in Concert performance in Paris:
Video Games Live
Finally, we have the granddaddy of them all – the Video Games Live concert tour. Since its debut in 2005 at the Hollywood Bowl in LA, the Video Games Live concert tour has pursued a rigorous schedule involving hundreds of performance dates around the world. The Video Games Live series eschews its own orchestral ensemble in favor of recruiting local symphony orchestras and musicians in each of the touring cities and towns it visits. The result is a touch of local flavor influencing the character and size of every Video Games Live performance. Here is a clip of Video Games Live performing music from the Overwatch game during a 2018 concert in Germany:
So now that we’ve looked at the concert tours that can get us inspired to make great game music, let’s look at other resources that can help us to stay energized and improve our skills.
Communities / Discussion Forums
Need help? Expert advice? A shoulder to lean on? These are some of the most popular online communities where you just might find the answers you’re looking for.
The game audio community is tremendously friendly and approachable.
Some of these communities listed below are focused on specific topics (such as a software application).
Other communities have a broader mandate to discuss any and all issues pertaining to game music composition and sound design. Feel free to explore the below links and find a community that’s a good fit for you!
- Audiokinetic Wwise Community Q&A
- The Composer’s Forum – Film/TV & Game Composing
- Facebook Group: FMOD Community
- Facebook Group: Video Game – Composers & Sound Designers
- Firelight Fmod Studio Community Q&A
- Game Audio Network Guild Public Forums
- GameDev.net Music and Sound
- GearSlutz Music for Games Forum
- IndieDB.com – Sound Design & Composition
- Linked In: Game Audio Group
- Linked In: Game Audio Network Guild Group
- Reddit: Game Audio Subreddit
- TIGForums – Audio
- Twitter: The GameAudio Hashtag
- Twitter: The GameComposer Hashtag
- VGMDB Game Music Forum
- Young Composers: Incidental Music & Soundtracks
There are a wide variety of audio middleware solutions available for implementing audio and music into games, and I’ve listed some of the more high-profile software packages below.
Some of these middleware solutions are designed specifically with video game music composers in mind, to provide a user-friendly way for us to have the best control over the music implementation process. These include Elias, FMOD, Nuendo, and Wwise.
The rest are more general-purpose audio implementation tools, with the exception of the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation (designed with Virtual Reality and 360 video applications in mind) and PureData (designed specifically for generative music uses).
- Miles Sound System
- Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation
Game Music Academia & Conferences
When we’re in the mood to broaden our minds and think about our discipline in a new way, there are lots of scholarly organizations and conferences ready to offer us some inspiration and enlightenment! First we’ll check out a list of academic and scholarly groups dedicated to studying the history and practice of music creation for video games. After that, we’ll see a list of the yearly conferences that focus on audio and music creation. Most of the list consists of conferences exclusively dedicated to the video game industry, but one of the conferences (Music & the Moving Image) offers a more general “music for media” event that includes video games in its offered content.
- Film and Multimedia Interest Group of the Society for Music Theory
- The Ludomusicology Society of Australia
- Ludomusicology Videogame Music Research Group
- Musicology Now – Video Game Music
- The Society for the Study of Sound and Music in Games
- AES Conference on Immersive and Interactive Audio
- Game Developers Conference Audio Track
- Music & The Moving Image Conference
- North American Conference on Video Game Music
I hope you find some good resources and helpful information in this list! Please let me know if you think I should add anything else to this collection, and let me know what you think of the article in the comments section below!
Popular music from composer Winifred Phillips’ award-winning Assassin’s Creed Liberation score will be performed live by a top 80-piece orchestra and choir as part of the Assassin’s Creed Symphony World Tour, which kicks off in 2019 with its Los Angeles premiere at the famous Dolby Theatre. As an accomplished video game composer, Phillips is best known for composing music for games in five of the most famous and popular franchises in gaming: Assassin’s Creed, LittleBigPlanet, Total War, God of War, and The Sims. Phillips’ other notable projects include the triple-A first person shooter Homefront: The Revolution, and numerous virtual reality games, including Scraper: First Strike, Dragon Front, and many more. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the MIT Press. As a VR game music expert, she writes frequently on the future of music in virtual reality games. Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.