A dire trend in today’s game music (& how you can fix it)

I’ve been listening to music in video games for over 20 years and have been an enthusiast all the way. I cherish everything from humming the catchy tunes of Mega Man 2 & 3 as I played as a child, to recording Secret of Mana’s score on cassette tape, to buying my first OST directly from Japan. However, I’ve noticed a distressing trend in recent years: Music is becoming more subdued, soulless, and sometimes silenced altogether. This often plays out as an imitation of cinema (no offense to film scores). I can think of multiple game series where early installments had excellent music, and recent entries had “appropriate” yet forgettable scores. How could this happen?

This trend is most true for big name titles, where it now seems to be taboo for music to sing and grab your attention. Perhaps the developers feel it will disrupt the immersion of the player in the game, or perhaps they just feel it’s not “serious” enough. I feel this is backwards thinking. Many of my favorite games earned their rank because the unique melodies and timbres were lovingly infused in my brain. These days I mostly resort to soundtracks for Japanese shmups and racing games that I may not even get around to playing. Meanwhile, the big titles continue to offer more of the cookie-cutter orchestral pomp.

I’ve decided to fix this. I’m currently in the Game Audio Production specialization of the Digital Audio Technology program here at Cogswell College. I’m learning everything from music theory to interactivity in game audio. It is my hope to help bring back the glory days of VGM. I want memorable music like we had back when game systems were measured in bits. While Indie games seem to be spearheading this movement (thankfully; and I plan to make my mark there as well), I would like to take the fight all the way up to the AAA games.

Agree with my stance and want to fix the problem? Have an opinion on the contrary? Join me in the pursuit of writing music for games. Let us hear your ideas!

-Kaleb G.

(Image provided by pressthebuttons.com)

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