Glad you’re here! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips, and every year I compile a “big list” of the top online resources available for game audio folks. It’s an evolving list that expands each year as more awesome professional tools and great networking opportunities become available. However, before we begin, it’s important to acknowledge what the Covid-19 pandemic has done to our industry this year. While the games themselves are as popular as ever, those of us making assets for these games are working under extraordinary circumstances. It’s harder than ever to meet face-to-face, and our community can feel a bit fractured and distant. With that in mind, let’s kick off this list with a look at how we’re connecting with each other in the time of the coronavirus, exploring how conferences and events have adapted to our socially-distant world this year. In doing so, I’ll be sharing some videos from conferences that took place entirely online, including the full-length video of the talk I gave in 2020 at the Game Developer Conference (pictured above). After that, we’ll once again explore the best available resources in the form of online community groups, software applications, and academic institutions with wellsprings of expert knowledge to share.
My conference badge for the North American Conference on Video Game Music. This was my first time as a keynote speaker, and I couldn’t have hoped for a more positive experience.
J.M. Moudy Hall on the beautiful campus of TCU served as the site of the North American Conference on Video Game Music, and as you can see, we were enjoying ideal weather throughout the conference weekend!
Here’s a portion of the audience for my keynote address.
My keynote address was titled, “The Role of Music in Video Game Immersion.” I explored some topics related to the effects of music on the brain, and how these can facilitate more intense and involving gameplay. These ideas are also found in chapter three of my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music.
After my keynote address, the conference organizer Will Gibbons graciously arranged for me to sign copies of my book for the conference attendees. The signing took place in the beautiful TCU Barnes & Noble bookstore.
The bookstore was festooned with purple everywhere, and all the TCU merchandize featured the celebrated TCU mascot – the horned frog. Fun fact: the horned frog is also the official reptile of Texas.
In this photo, I’d just arrived at the bookstore, and you can see that one of the conference presenters, Enoch Jacobus, jumped in for an excellent photobomb! 🙂 Keep an eye out for Enoch later on.
Here are some more photos from the book signing:
There was a really nice display of my book at the book signing table.
Here’s conference attendee Daniel Braunstein, a student at the University of Michigan.
It was great meeting Michael Austin, an assistant professor of Media, Journalism & Film at Howard University. At the conference, he presented the talk, “Old Categories for New Media: Rethinking Music Videogame Organology.”
Kathleen Kuo is a doctoral candidate studying ethnomusicology and Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. She presented the talk, “Hitting Reset: Reception, Replay Value, and the Creative Process of Video Game Cover Music.”
And here again is the charismatic Enoch Jacobus, a musicologist who holds a Ph.D. in Music Theory from the University of Kentucky and was just named the new associate editor of Analytical Approaches to World Music. At this year’s conference, Enoch gave a talk about the music of Bioshock Infinite entitled, “Lighter Than Air: A Return to Columbia.”
Will Ayers teaches at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. At the conference he presented the talk, “Analyzing Narrative in Video Game Music: Topic Theory and Modular Design.”
Great to meet Neil Lerner, a professor at Davidson College and one of the conference chairs. He also presented a talk at the conference entitled, “Teaching the Soundtrack in a Video Game Music Class.”
What a pleasure to meet David Abad, a student at TCU who wasn’t attending the conference but came over to get a signed copy of my book. Thanks for your support, David!
Dominic Arsenault is an assistant professor of video game design and history at the University of Montreal, Canada. His talk at the conference was “From Atunement to Interference: A Typology of Musical Intertextuality in Video Games.” Also – check out the great Pac-Man tote! 🙂
The next day, I was the subject of a Q&A session moderated by Professor Martin Blessinger and sponsored by the TCU Society of Composers.
Martin Blessinger is an accomplished composer and teaches music theory and composition at TCU. It was great talking with Martin and the great Q&A audience about such topics as game music production, career building, live performance and issues related to game music study. Fascinating questions from both Martin and lots of audience members!
Well, that wraps up this photo blog of my adventure as a keynote speaker at the North American Conference on Video Game Music. It was a thoroughly fulfilling, rewarding journey, and I learned a ton! Plus, I met a lot of fascinating people, and I hope these newfound friendships will continue forward into the future.
If you’d like a taste of what it was like to attend, you can read the messages that were live-tweeted during the event at #VGMconference. Also, a partial transcript of my TCU Society of Composers Q&A is available on Gamasutra.com. Thanks to Will Gibbons, Martin Blessinger and everyone who made this event a fantastic success. It was a great conference!
The North American Conference on Video Game Music begins this Saturday, and I’m definitely looking forward to giving the keynote speech there! It will be great to talk about some of the concepts from my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, and I’m also very pleased that I’ll have the opportunity to meet such a wonderful collection of scholars in the field of game music study. Since not everyone will be able to travel to Fort Worth for the conference this weekend, I thought I’d provide you with some of the stimulating ideas that will be enlivening the forthcoming conference. Below you’ll find a collection of links to research papers, articles, essays, PowerPoint presentations and YouTube videos that some of the speakers from the upcoming event have previously created on the subject of video game music.
Dominic Arsenault is an assistant professor in the fields of video game design, history and musicology at the University of Montreal, Canada. This weekend he’ll be presenting a paper at the conference entitled “From Attunement to Interference: A Typology of Musical Intertextuality in Video Games.” Below you’ll find a link to his 2008 research paper from Loading… The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association. This article explores the mechanics of guitar playing in the music simulation videogame Guitar Hero, comparing this gameplay mechanic to the musicianship of playing a real-world guitar.
William Gibbons is the organizing chair of the North American Conference on Video Game Music, and teaches musicology at Texas Christian University. This weekend he’ll be presenting the paper “Navigating the Musical Uncanny Valley: Red Dead Redemption, Ni no Kuni, and the Dangers of Cinematic Game Scores” at the upcoming conference in Fort Worth. Below you’ll find a link to his research paper on the music of the video game Bioshock, as published in 2011 in Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research.
Julianne M. Grasso is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, pursuing her degree in music theory. She’ll be presenting the talk “Intersections of Musical Performance and Play in Video Games” this weekend in Fort Worth. What follows is a link to a fascinating and entertaining essay she wrote in 2009 about her experience writing her undergraduate thesis on the music of Zelda and Final Fantasy for her music degree from Princeton University.
Professor Robert Hamilton teaches in the Department of Music at Stanford University, and is also a lecturer at the California College of the Arts on Experimental Game Development. His presentation this weekend will be “Designing Game-Centric Academic Curricula for Procedural Audio and Music.” Below, you can read his 2007 paper exploring a new interactive music composition system triggered by a gamer’s position and actions within an in-game virtual space. This paper was presented at the International Computer Music Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Professor Christopher J. Hopkins researches chiptune music while teaching in the music department of Long Island University in New York. This weekend he’ll be presenting a paper entitled “Compositional Techniques of Chiptune Music.” Below, you can read an interesting PowerPoint presentation from a speech that Professor Hopkins gave about the discipline of video game sound and music at the 2013 Summer Teaching with Technology Institute.
There’s Always a Lighthouse: Commentary and Foreshadowing in the Diegetic Music of BioShock Infinite
Professor Enoch Jacobus’ fields of research include ludomusicology and music theory pedagogy. He teaches advanced musicianship and orchestration at Asbury University in Kentucky. At the upcoming Fort Worth conference he’ll be presenting a paper on BioShock Infinite entitled “Lighter Than Air: A Return to Columbia.” Happily, Professor Jacobus has previously given a speech on the music of BioShock Infinite at the inaugural North American Conference on Video Game Music that took place last year, and we can enjoy that speech via the YouTube video below:
The Origins of Musical Style in Video Games: 1977 – 1983 (Chapter 12 of The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies)
by Neil Lerner (Email at Davidson College: nelerner at davidson dot edu)
Neil Lerner teaches a wide assortment of music courses as a professor in the music department of Davidson College in North Carolina. At the conference in Fort Worth this weekend he’ll be giving a presentation entitled “Teaching the Soundtrack in a Video Game Music Class.” Neil Lerner has been active with several scholarly journals in the field of musicology. He has served on the editorial board of Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, and is currently the secretary for the Society for American Music. He also had the honor of holding the position of president of the American Musicological Society-Southeast Chapter. Below is a link to a chapter he contributed to The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies, as excerpted on Google Books.
Steven Reale is a music theorist, ludomusicology researcher, and associate professor at Youngstown State University in Ohio. At the Fort Worth conference this weekend he’ll be serving as the program chair. Here’s a 2011 research paper he wrote on the music of the video game Katamari Damacy for the journal ACT, published by The Research Institute for Music Theater Studies in Thurnau, Germany.
I’m very pleased to share that I’ll be giving the keynote address at the North American Conference on Video Game Music! This conference brings together musicologists, music theorists and scholars to study a relatively-new genre in popular music during in an intensive two-day exploration of the art and science of video game scoring, the challenges facing the game composer, the unique characteristics as compared to scores for other entertainment media, and the relationship between the musical content and the mechanics of modern game design.
This year’s conference program includes many intriguing presentations. Some of the session titles include, “Immersion into what? The sound world of Sid Meier’s Civilization V,” “Navigating the Uncanny Musical Valley: Red Dead Redemption, Ni no Kuni, and the Dangers of Cinematic Game Scores,” “Music Appreciation and the Mario Bros.: The Pedagogy of Musical Hermeneutics,” and “Compositional Techniques of Chiptune Music,” among many others. The entire conference program can be found here.
Moudy Hall, site of the North American Conference on Video Game Music
A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, winner of the Global Music Award Gold Medal for an exceptional book in the field of music.
The conference will take place on January 17th and 18th in Moudy Hall on the TCU University campus in Fort Worth, Texas. I’ll be delivering my keynote address, “The Role of Music in Video Game Immersion,” at the end of the first day of the conference, and I’m looking forward to it!
Right after my keynote I’ll be signing my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music (The MIT Press), and it will be great to meet some more wonderful readers and hear about their experiences in the field of game music. Should be tremendous fun!
On the second day of the conference, I’ll be participating in a TCU Society of Composers Seminar entitled “Composing for Games Q&A with Winifred Phillips.” Really looking forward to meeting everyone and having a discussion about game music with such an impressive assembly of scholars and game music lovers!
The conference is organized this year by a committee of distinguished academics in the field of musicology:
William Gibbons, co-editor of Music in Video Games: Studying Play (Routledge),
Neil Lerner, editor of the book series Music and Screen Media (Routledge),
Steven Reale, winner of the Dean’s Innovation Award for Scholarship and Creativity from Youngstown State University and presenter of the Tedx talk, “Playing Games and Playing Music,”
Karen Collins, author of Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design (The MIT Press)
James Buhler, co-author of Hearing the Movies (Oxford University Press),
Daniel Goldmark, co-editor of The Cartoon Music Book (A Cappella).
Here’s a video that recaps last year’s highly successfully conference:
Thanks so much to the North American Conference on Video Game Music for creating such an outstanding event!
The kickstarter campaign for the documentary “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound” is entering its final six days. I’m pleased that the producers approached me to be interviewed for their film; I’ll be talking about my career as a game composer and my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music. The “Beep” documentary looks like it will be a fascinating project, and all indications are that the resulting documentary will be a wide-ranging discussion of the audio aspects of video game design and production. Two days ago, the kickstarter announced that its plans include coverage of GameSoundCon, the video game music and sound design conference founded and executive produced by the president of the Game Audio Network Guild, Brian Schmidt.
The conference is less than a couple of weeks away now, and I’m looking forward to giving my presentation, “Advanced Composition Techniques for Adaptive Systems.” The GameSoundCon crowd is one of the most enthusiastic and creatively-charged groups of people I’ve come across, and it will be great fun to meet new people and talk about the current state of adaptive music in games.
When I heard that “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound” would be covering GameSoundCon, I started thinking about the nature of Brian Schmidt’s conference, not only as a great gathering place for creative audio folks, but as a historically-significant event. After all, one of the slogans of the “Beep” documentary is “Be a part of game sound history!”
The GameSoundCon conference will take place at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on October 7 – 8. GameSoundCon will be celebrating its 10th conference this year. Since its first event in 2009, GameSoundCon has been steadily growing as a resource to the game audio community. GameSoundCon concentrates its sessions solely on game audio, which separates it from other industry events that encompass the entire discipline of game development. Further, the GameSoundCon conference embraces both the music composition and sound design disciplines, differentiating it from other music-centric gatherings such as Game Music Connect, the Ludomusicology Conference and the North American Conference on Video Game Music. This particular combination of priorities seems to make GameSoundCon an ideal event for the “Beep” documentary team, and I wonder how their historical perspective will inform their coverage of the conference.
In my own speech at GameSoundCon, I’ll be approaching the topic of interactive music in games from both a modern and historical standpoint, and I imagine that other presentations will do likewise in regards to their topics. It’s nice that the GameSoundCon event will be documented with the intent to understand its historical significance, and I’m looking forward to meeting the documentary team of “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound.” There are still 6 more days to go before the kickstarter ends, so if you want to get involved, you can go here.