The Game Audio Explosion – A Guide to Great Game Sound Part II: Music, FMVs and Audio Planning

Until recently, you simply could not compare game music to film music. Every
aspect involved in their production, from budgets to performance, made it an
impractical comparison. Today, these two media have a working relationship.
Games are created to support movies and movies are made from successful
game franchises. Film composers are now writing for games, and some game
composers have made the transition to film. Hollywood orchestras and
orchestrators are now commonly used for game music scores. Why make this
comparison? Because even though the considerations involved in their creation
are different, their effect and function are relatively the same.


As the name suggests, the scores create original music to story-driven games must primarily tell a
story. To tell a story musically is a sublime art. A composer must be well
versed in the work of his predecessors in order to understand what constitutes
successful story telling using the language of music. Fortunately, centuries of
music have been written for this purpose, allowing today’s composer a
foundation for developing this art. We now associate certain sonorities and
rhythms with specific actions, emotions or locations. Compositions like
Rossini’s ‘William Tell’, Wagner’s ‘Tristan’ and Holst’s ‘Planets’ have laid the
groundwork for these non-verbal associations. Film and television composers
have since expanded on these motifs to help express the elements within a

A portion of story telling is to define the environment, both time and place.
Musically, we draw influence from folk traditions for such a purpose. Through
ethnomusicology we can effectively represent locations and time periods by
incorporating traditional instruments, modes and progressions into the score.
For instance, a tabla, tambour or sitar is appropriate for describing an Indian
location. If such instruments are not available, the music may be orchestrated
in such a way as to mimic these traditional sounds. A modern orchestra is
greatly enhanced by the addition of folk elements for the purpose of describing
a specific time and place.