11.08.12

Why is game music so unsophisticated?

Why has game music lagged behind other aspects of presentation so much? This the central question of a wonderful deep dive on Gamasutra about the state of cinematic scoring in games. The money graf:

As we dip into the uncanny valley and emerge on the other side at nearly photo-realistic visuals, it's no longer enough just to have "good graphics". Over the next decade it will not be good graphics that win recognition, but good and cohesive art design (in truth, this is already happening). The singular artistic vision, contributed to by many -- just like a movie -- is the future of growth in games. This should -- thismust -- include a much deeper understanding of visual-oriented music scoring and how it can enhance the gaming experience. We must create more immersive, more supportive scores, and the time is now for it to happen.

Andrew High, the writer, identifies some crucial areas that Hollywood has spent decades perfecting that many game composers seem to evince no awareness of, such as the use of texture in place of score, the use of music to represent onscreen action, the use of music that is in the same register as the voice actors, and the use of beats.

This is a great piece because it scratches an itch I could never identify. I've always noticed that game music of the past ten years or so badly overuse orchestral music, and strings in particular. Of course, this is a form that was limited to MIDI for many years, so all of the overwrought music may be adolescent oat-feeling before a real discovery of nuance and technique. What do you think, Kill Screeners?