Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hey! Listen!

A couple days ago I was honored to make a return appearance on Michael Abbott's Brainy Gamer Podcast. This time around the topic was "Videogame Music," so as you can imagine, when Michael if I would be interested in appearing I said, "OMFG YES." Michael's just posted it to his site, so I hope you'll go check it out.

The other guest was Harmonix's Dan Bruno (who also analyzes game music on his great blog Cruise Elroy), which was cool for a couple of reasons. I love Dan's game-theory-geek posts and have been reading his blog since back when Melodico was just an idea that sounded pretty fun. What's more, he's also a really nice dude and is on my short list of "Gaming Twitter Friends For Whom I'd Like To Buy A Beer." (A "short" list that seems to be getting longer by the week!)

Before we started recording the proper podcast, each of us picked a handful of samples to play throughout the show, the plan being that we'd talk about them one by one. Choosing my samples was fun, agonizing work—there are of course about ten other clips that I didn't have a chance to record or just knew we wouldn't have time for, particularly since Michael would have to edit in all the clips in post-production (and God bless him).

The podcast itself was just so much fun; our conversation ranged from the synthesis of sound design and musical score to the reinterpretation of classic tunes with new instrumentation, to chiptune bands, the 8-bit fad, and the difficulty of writing a melodic score for a game that has spoken dialogue. I just hope I didn't overtalk or ramble; I tend to get excited about this topic and can turn into a bit of a motormouth.

We didn't even get to listen to
my all-time favorite!
One of my favorite things was how different each of our tune-lists were. Dan analyzes a lot of classic tunes at his blog, and he's got a really deep knowledge regarding the various themes of the 16-bit era. Michael brought in some great Wii stuff, as well as a few of the pieces he's talked about before (Kirby's Epic Yarn, as well as "Nate's Theme" from Uncharted 2). My contributions leaned towards more recent stuff, with a lot of examples of interactive or experimental soundtracking, but I did manage to throw a couple of my all-time faves in as, well as give some love to the amazing Anamanaguchi.

We appear to be living in a bit of a golden age of game music at the moment, huh? Folks may bemoan the loss of the classic chiptune themes of the 80's and 90's, or say that game music has lost its soul, but I don't buy it. We've got music of every shape, size and color out there right now (accompanying games of every shape, size and color); the composers of the chiptune era are still going strong, and some great film and television composers have begun to work in games as well. The indie, mobile and downloadable scenes are opening the door to a lot of fresh blood, and it seems like every week I'm hearing a creative, interesting, or even groundbreaking game soundtrack.

Seriously. Golden age of game music. Tell your friends.

Obviously I have more to say about this topic; there were plenty of ideas and examples for which we simply didn't have time. So, expect to see some more from me about game music in the coming weeks! But this weekend, I suggest you take a load off, fire up your media player of choice and give the podcast a listen. And afterwards, maybe head over to Michael's comments section and share your own favorite game music. If there's one thing I know for certain, it's that all tastes are different.

Thanks once more to Michael for having me, and to Dan for being such a great co-guest. These days it can feel almost impossible to spare an hour to talk about games with anyone, let alone two of the smartest writers on the internet. It was a privilege, guys.
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