The Big Index 2023: Articles for Game Music Composers

 

Video game composer Winifred Phillips was nominated for a 2023 Society of Composers & Lyricists Award for her music for the video game Jurassic World Primal Ops.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Welcome!  I’m game music composer Winifred Phillips, and just before the holidays I was ecstatic to learn that my music for the Jurassic World Primal Ops video game was nominated for a Society of Composers & Lyricists Award!  In all the excitement following the announcement of the SCL Awards nominees, many budding game composers reached out to me for advice regarding their own career trajectories.  I found myself referring many of them to articles I’ve written in this space over the years – articles covering the widely diverse topics that interest us as game composers.

Since 2014, this series of articles has explored the evolving state of our industry and the tools and techniques that can help us make great game music.  Over time, these articles have become a fairly deep repository of information. After referring so many budding composers to articles in this lengthy series, it has occurred to me that this sizable collection has become quite difficult to navigate – partially due to the many topics that have been explored over the years.

Discussions have included many of the creative challenges that make our profession unique.  Through an examination of the structure of interactive music systems, numerous dynamic composition techniques have been investigated.  Along the way, we’ve pondered how game music composition has been accomplished in the past, and where it might be going in the future.  A profusion of resources have been collated in these articles – including the best methods to find gigs, and awesome networking opportunities that can benefit a game composer’s career.  There have also been examinations of resources that can keep us inspired and creatively energized.

Together, these articles constitute a living document about game music composition.  However, they definitely need an index at this point.  With that in mind, I’m offering this ‘big index’ of articles I’ve shared over the years, organized by subject matter.  We can navigate around this index using the following menu:

Dynamic Music in Games | Game Music Business | Game Music And Cognition | Game Music Composition and Production | Game Music Events and Interviews | Game Music in Virtual Reality

Dynamic Music in Games

An illustration supporting a discussion of interactive music, as incorporated into the article by BAFTA-nominated game composer Winifred Phillips. This article offers a portal to over a hundred articles about video game music composition.

This is one of the most-discussed topics among experts in the game composer community: dynamic music.  These articles explore the various systems for dynamic music construction and implementation.  We’ll also find discussions of the relationship between game music and game players, including ways in which gamers influence the music as they play.  There are also a collection of case studies with real-world examples for discussion and analysis.

Dynamic Music Case Studies

Dynamic Music General Concepts

Dynamic Systems

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Game Music Business

A depiction of financial iconography, complementing a discussion of the business of video game music composition (as included in the article by game music composer Winifred Phillips).

When we’re not considering the creative and technical aspects of our work as game composers, we’re consumed with the demands of maintaining our business and finding work.  These articles focus on tips for keeping our business lives running smoothly.

Career Development

Resources

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Game Music and Cognition

This illustration depicts the intersection between game music and cognitive function, as discussed in an assortment of articles by BAFTA-nominated game composer Winifred Phillips.

One of the most intriguing topics of discussion has been the influence of game music on the psychology and intellectual performance of gamers.  These are the articles that investigated the relationship between game music and a gamer’s psyche.

Mental Processing

Virtual Presence

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Game Music Composition & Production

An image illustrating the concept of music composition in the field of video game development, as included in the article by BAFTA-nominated video game composer Winifred Phillips.

These are the articles directly relating to the nuts-and-bolts of our profession: the process of music composition.  Topics range from expressing a musical style, to creating a memorable theme, to effective production and implementation.

Music Composition: Themes and Variation

Music Composition: Thoughts on Style

Music Composition: Research and Technical

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Game Music Events and Interviews

An image supporting the concept of conferences, conventions and interviews - as included in the article by award-winning composer Winifred Phillips.

Live events featuring game music have proliferated over the years – from popular conferences and conventions, to famous concert tours.  In this section, we’ll find guides and overviews for in-person game audio gatherings.  This section also includes transcripts from interviews that took place during these events.

Events

Interviews

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Game Music in Virtual Reality

This image forms the heading for the article section about Virtual Reality, as included by video game music composer Winifred Phillips.

Virtual reality profoundly impacted our work as game audio professionals.  VR revitalized the disciplines of ambisonics and binaural sound.  In the process, VR became a wonderful opportunity for us to change our thinking about what game audio can accomplish, and how ambitious we can be in our work as game composers.  These are the articles that focused on Virtual Reality and its impact on our work in game audio and music.

VR Headphones

VR Physiology and Perception

VR Technology and Resources

VR Workflow

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Further Reading

A Composer's Guide to Game Music is published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, and is available in many university and public libraries. Written by game composer Winifred Phillips, the book is a resource for the technical and creative questions of aspiring game composers.

I wrote the book A Composer’s Guide to Game Music to explore the creative and technical issues facing video game composers, and this book remains a resource for more detailed discussions of many of the topics from the above index.  The book is published by The MIT Press.  It’s available in many university and public libraries, and is also available here.

Conclusion

That concludes this big index of articles!  I hope you’ll find it helpful!  Thanks so much for joining me as we explore the fascinating world of game music composition!

 

BAFTA-nominated composer Winifred Phillips is shown here in her music production studio. Phillips is the author of over a hundred articles on the art and craft of video game music composition. She is the author of the book A Composer's Guide to Game Music, published by the MIT Press.Winifred Phillips is a BAFTA-nominated video game composer.  The music she composed for her latest video game project Jurassic World Primal Ops is nominated for a Society of Composers & Lyricists Award for Outstanding Score for Interactive Media.  Other recent releases include the hit PlayStation 5 launch title Sackboy: A Big Adventure (soundtrack album now available).  Popular music from Phillips’ award-winning Assassin’s Creed Liberation score was featured in the performance repertoire of the Assassin’s Creed Symphony World Tour, which made its Paris debut in 2019 with an 80-piece orchestra and choir. As an accomplished video game composer, Phillips is best known for composing music for games in many of the most famous and popular franchises in gaming: the list includes Assassin’s Creed, God of War, Total War, The Sims, and Sackboy / LittleBigPlanet.  Phillips’ has received numerous awards, including an Interactive Achievement Award / D.I.C.E. Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, six Game Audio Network Guild Awards (including Music of the Year), and three Hollywood Music in Media Awards. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the MIT Press. As one of the foremost authorities on music for interactive entertainment, Winifred Phillips has given lectures at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Society of Composers and Lyricists, the Game Developers Conference, the Audio Engineering Society, and many more. Phillips’ enthusiastic fans showered her with questions during a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session that went viral, hit the Reddit front page, received 14.9 thousand upvotes, and became one of the most popular gaming AMAs ever hosted on Reddit. An interview with her has been published as a part of the Routledge text, Women’s Music for the Screen: Diverse Narratives in Sound, which collects the viewpoints of the most esteemed female composers in film, television, and games.  Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Narrative in trailers, cutscenes and cinematics (for the game music composer)

This photo includes the logo of the Spore Hero video game, and the game's composer Winifred Phillips. Phillips is the author of the book A Composer's Guide to Game Music, published by The MIT Press.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hey, everybody!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m happy to welcome you back to the last installment of our four-part discussion of “scoring-to-picture” techniques within video games.  In these articles we’ve considered how cutscenes, trailers, and cinematics can benefit from specific musical strategies.  As game composers, our jobs involve lots of complex music systems requiring expert knowledge of dynamic composition techniques.  However, we can still benefit from an examination of the goals that music can achieve during linear presentations within a game.  Such goals may include:

  1. Characterization
  2. Information
  3. Identity
  4. Narrative

Earlier in this series of articles, we’ve discussed the ways in which music can support believable and moving characterization.  We considered the ability of a musical score to emphasize details and enhance comprehension of information.  We’ve also considered how a game’s intrinsic identity can be reinforced using thoughtful choices of musical style, particularly in the case of custom music for game trailers.  So now let’s move on to the last item on our list, and the one most closely associated with linear music composition:

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Identity in trailers, cutscenes and cinematics (for the game music composer)

Image of video game composer Winifred Phillips in her music production studio, regarding images from the DC Dual Force project.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hello there!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’m glad you could join us for the continuation of our four-part discussion of traditional “scoring-to-picture” techniques within a video game project.  We’ve been examining the music needs of cinematics, cutscenes, and trailers, with an eye towards pinpointing specific goals that music can achieve. Those goals include:

  1. Characterization
  2. Information
  3. Identity
  4. Narrative

In our previous articles we thought about how music can accentuate the believability and importance of characters, and how music can help players absorb and digest information.  So let’s move on to the third item on our list of goals:

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Information in trailers, cutscenes and cinematics (for the game music composer)

Winifred Phillips is a BAFTA-nominated video game composer, and the author of the book A Composer's Guide to Game Music. This photo depicts Phillips at work in her music production studio.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hey, everyone!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’d like to welcome you back to our four-part discussion of traditional “scoring-to-picture” techniques within a video game project, and how these play into our work as game composers.  We’ve been looking at examples of cinematics, cutscenes and trailers to see how this kind of linear composition style accomplishes specific goals.  That list of goals includes:

  1. Characterization
  2. Information
  3. Identity
  4. Narrative

In our previous article, we took a look at how music can best emphasize and support characters during cutscenes and cinematics. By using linear music for the purposes of characterization, we can accentuate the distinct traits of important characters, or provide insight into their state of mind.

Now, let’s consider when our music composition goals are less emotional, and more utilitarian.  In this article, we’ll be moving on from characterization to take a look at how information is conveyed in linear cinematics and cutscenes.  When the primary goal of a cinematic is to provide players with important details, we can assist by composing music to support the way information is disseminated.  This can help players to better absorb all the facts presented.

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Characterization in trailers, cutscenes and cinematics (for the game music composer)

Photo of BAFTA-nominated composer Winifred Phillips at work in her music production studio. Phillips' projects include titles in six of gamings biggest franchises: God of War, Assassin's Creed, Total War, LittleBigPlanet, Lineage, and The Sims.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Glad you’re here!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips thanks for joining us!  As we all know, dynamic music has become a central focus of our craft as game composers. In our past articles here, we tend to focus on the awesome power of dynamic implementation to increase the utility of game music across lengthy gameplay sequences.  In-game music serves many purposes, so it must morph and change in order to best accommodate shifting circumstances.  However, no matter how interactive our in-game tracks may be, we inevitably run into situations in which dynamic music systems fall short.

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Segmentation for Modular Game Music (Composing for Lineage M: GDC 2022)

Pictured working in her music studio at Generations Productions, As a video game composer, Winifred Phillips' credits include games in the franchises The Sims, Total War, Assassin's Creed, LittleBigPlanet, and God of War. In this photo, Phillips is pictured at work in her music production studio.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

So happy you’ve joined us!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and this is the fourth article in my series based on my Game Developers Conference 2022 presentation, “Composing for Lineage M: Modular Construction in Game Music.”  I’ve included the content of my GDC lecture in these articles, along with the videos and some of the images I used in my Powerpoint presentation during the conference.

In the first three articles of this series, we discussed the port of the popular Lineage PC game from 1998 to mobile devices under the name Lineage M, and the subsequent launch of brand-new content for this world-famous game in the DLC release Lineage M: The Elmor.

This is an official promotional game image supporting a discussion of game music composition within a modular system, as described by video game music composer Winifred Phillips.

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Stemming for Modular Game Music (Composing for Lineage M: GDC 2022)

Video game composer Winifred Phillips was nominated for a BAFTA for her work composing music for the LittleBigPlanet franchise (other projects include games from the franchises Total War, The Sims, Assassin's Creed, and God of War). Phillips is pictured her working in her music production studio at Generations Productions LLC.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Welcome!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips.  I’m glad you’re here for this third article in my series based on my Game Developers Conference 2022 lecture, “Composing for Lineage M: Modular Construction in Game Music.” My GDC presentation explored the top creative and technical challenges of creating a flexible music system for a game with a retro design.  This article series shares most of the content of that GDC presentation, along with the videos I included in my presentation at the conference.

In the first two articles of this series, we explored the power and awesome popularity of retro gaming.  We reviewed the history of the world-famous Lineage video game franchise, including how the original Lineage PC game from 1998 found its way to modern mobile devices in 2017 under the name Lineage M.  I shared my experience as the chosen composer of the music for a new DLC release for Lineage M, and what it was like composing the first new gameplay music for the original Lineage MMORPG in over 24 years.

An official game logo and cover image, as included in the article written by video game composer Winifred Phillips.

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Structure for Modular Game Music (Composing for Lineage M: GDC 2022)

BAFTA-nominated video game composer Winifred Phillips is pictured here working in her music production studio at Generations Productions. Phillips' video game credits include music for games in the famous franchises Lineage, Total War, God of War, Assassin's Creed, LittleBigPlanet, and The Sims.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hey everybody!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips.  Thanks for joining me for this second article in my series based on my Game Developers Conference 2022 lecture, “Composing for Lineage M: Modular Construction in Game Music.”  In my GDC presentation, I discussed my work composing music for a recent installment in the famous Lineage franchise (one of the most popular MMORPG game series ever made).  This article series will share the content of that GDC talk, along with the audiovisual samples I included in my presentation at the conference.

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Techniques for Modular Game Music (Composing for Lineage M: GDC 2022)

In the Generations Productions music studio, video game music composer Winifred Phillips is pictured here working on projects. Phillips is best known for composing music for games in the franchises Assassin's Creed, Total War, God of War, Lineage, The Sims, and LittleBigPlanet.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hello there!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips.  At the most recent Game Developers Conference, I was pleased to present a lecture as part of the conference’s audio track.  GDC is a top video game industry conference, packed with expert sessions supplemented by an array of awesome opportunities to network and learn.  Whenever I give a GDC presentation, I like to include the content of my lecture in my articles here, so I’m now kicking off a five-part series of articles based on my presentation in March!  In these articles, I’ve included the substance of my GDC presentation, along with most of the multimedia materials I used to illustrate concepts during my lecture.  So let’s get started!

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Hybrid Linear-Dynamic Music for Game Composers (From Spyder to Sackboy: GDC 2021)

This captured image from the GDC 2021 lecture of video game composer Winifred Phillips includes details of a discussion of the music of the video game Spyder.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Glad you’re here!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and I’d like to welcome you to the sixth and final installment in my article series based on my GDC lecture – From Spyder to Sackboy: A Big Adventure in Interactive Music!  Last year I had the privilege of working with Sumo Sheffield on music composition for two projects in simultaneous development – Sackboy: A Big Adventure for PS5/PS4, and Spyder for Apple Arcade. (Above you’ll see a photo from one of the sections of my GDC lecture in which I’m discussing the Spyder project).  Both the Sackboy and Spyder projects incorporated highly interactive music into their design.  While both projects included the basic dynamic models of horizontal and vertical structure, they each brought new twists and quirks to these ever-popular music implementation methods.  Since I spent a lot of time bouncing back and forth between the two projects, I got a chance to see how malleable interactive music systems can be when employed creatively.  Now, I’m glad to share my best experiences and observations creating music for these two awesome projects!

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