Glad you're here! I'm video game composer Winifred Phillips, and welcome to the fourth installment of my five article series based on the presentation I gave this past March at the first-ever completely online Game Developers Conference! My talk was titled “From Assassin’s Creed to The Dark Eye: The Importance of Themes” (you'll find the official description of my talk at the end of this article). In my presentation, I explored the thematic content in music I composed for several top video game projects, including Assassin's Creed Liberation (Ubisoft), God of War (Sony Interactive America), LittleBigPlanet (Sony Interactive Europe), Homefront: The Revolution (Deep Silver), Speed Racer (Warner Bros Interactive), Spore Hero (Electronic Arts), and The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes (Wild River).
If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, you can find them here:
- Game Composers and the Importance of Themes: The Hook in Game Music (Pt. 1)
- Game Composers and the Importance of Themes: Repetition in Game Music (Pt. 2)
- Variation and Fragmentation in Game Music: Game Composers and the Importance of Themes (Pt. 3)
In the last article, we discussed theme fragmentation and variation. So now let’s consider how themes can best enhance different types of gameplay.
We typically see recurring musical themes used most frequently in story-driven games - especially during cinematics and cutscenes. For instance, when I composed the music for the Legend of the Guardians video game, I made sure that the main theme melody was prevalent during the game's start sequence and in the cinematic opening credits:
However, the role of thematic music goes beyond cinematic uses. While themes can propel a storyline, using themes more frequently can also reinforce the identity of the game we’re scoring, and serve as a musical signature for it. For instance, while the main theme was important during cinematic sequences, the main theme melody was also used during combat:
Themes can work during action, even in a game that isn’t driven by narrative. A good example is the music I composed for the Speed Racer video game based on the movie from the famous Wachowski siblings. It’s not a story-driven game, but nevertheless my main theme melody is all over the place – in the opening cinema, during the races, and even in the end credits: