Review: A Composer’s Guide to Game Music

If you’re reading this blog, then it’s likely you have more than a passing interest in game music. It’s therefore likely that you’ve heard of Winifred Phillips, who’s worked on projects ranging from God of War and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation to Speed Racer and SimAnimals.

Through this new book, Phillips walks aspiring composers through the many practical and technical considerations that go into everything from picking out gear and finding your first job to how to compose great themes and create interactive music. While the target audience is aspiring composers, anyone with an interest in videogames and/or game audio should give A Composer’s Guide to Game Music a look.

Read our review below.

While the topics covered within can be quite technical at times, Phillips adopts a writing style that is friendly and informative, never assuming too much as to what the reader already knows, and always adding interesting anecdotes to illustrate her points. As a game music enthusiast, I was constantly pleased when examples Phillips used to explain her points referenced obscure game scores that I personally love, making it obvious that she is not only a serious gamer, but also a hardcore game music enthusiast herself. That definitely added to my acceptance of Phillips as an expert in the field, and made for a much more enjoyable read.

The book’s 14 chapters cover a large range of topics, including attributes a game composer should possess, what types of education can lead to a career in writing game music, concepts of immersion (and techniques for enhancing it based on game-specific situations), melody (and composer considerations when developing them), genre selection (and how different genres target different gamer demographics), and the various functions of music in games. There’s also a lot of details about how games are developed and where the composer fits in with chapters on the types of development documents composers can request to help them in their endeavors, definitions of the many audio-related job titles that are encountered in the game industry, the development process (including teaser trailers, pitch trailers, and vertical slices), and how to find work and keep in touch with contacts. On the more technical side, there’s information on selecting gear for your studio, demonstrations for creating looped music versus interactive music, and lots of elaboration on music technology and software that a game composer might encounter.

I found the chapters flowed well, and were quite thorough. Phillips takes care to offer suggestions for the aspiring composer, but is never so bold as to suggest that the methods described within are the only way to be successful. The use of her own projects as examples were helpful in understanding some of the more technical portions.

As a gamer and game music enthusiast, I found A Composer’s Guide to Game Music to be enlightening, and as a hobbyist composer, I found it inspiring. While the aspiring composer will likely benefit most from its contents, I think anyone with an appreciation for games and how they’re made will be fascinated by what goes into making them from an audio perspective, and this should be required reading for anyone writing about games, as audio is so often overlooked. Phillips has done a fantastic job presenting this information in an entertaining and easily digestible format, so pick it up now if you haven’t already done so!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *