Talking to Gamasutra as part of an in-depth interview
, former Sega Europe lead composer Richard Jacques discussed the re-emergence of iconic soundtracks for video games after the popularity of massive, sweeping orchestral scores.
Speaking on iconic music in video games, Jacques notes that the ambitions of soundtracks have changed as video games have evolved from mostly level-based or goal-based stages to 30+ hour experiences such as Gears of War
or Mass Effect
. In those titles, players can't be bombarded with music:
“I think back in the day, with the Sonics and Marios, music played a different function, whereas today, it's to support characters and narrative, to create emotional rises and falls in the stories and arcs, etcetera.
I think we have gone through a certain..."renaissance" is the wrong word, but I think the whole orchestral thing has now peaked, because everyone wanted to do it, and they've done it, and blah blah blah. And now they're finding, "Right. We could go that route, or we could go a world-ethnic music route, or we could go a computer-electronica route."
So I think now, it's finding its place as a valid tool and a valid stylistic point of reference for game designers, producers, and composers alike. But it's not necessarily the be-all and end-all of it. I mean, I love composing in that genre, because that's what I was trained to do -- I was classically trained, etcetera -- but you could easily do a score with a completely different approach, which would make just as good a game score.”
Jacques believes that despite the current trend towards relying on representational scores for video game soundtracks, iconic music is making a comeback "in a small way":
“What we're seeing with things like the Wii and Xbox Live is that we're seeing this kind of resurgence of... let's call it "old school," for the moment. A lot of this kind of stuff, which is going back to the real root of video gaming. I think in terms of music, that is already starting to happen.
It's a two-tier system, really. You've got the Call of Dutys and stuff up here, with their massive, sweeping, orchestral scores, but then you've got stuff like... look at the latest Mario. They're doing amazing... I would still call that iconic music, on Galaxy, and that type of thing, and Super Stars Tennis, I've been going back to that traditional, iconic video game music as a genre, if you like.”
The full Gamasutra interview with Jacques
is now available, covering the importance of dynamic soundtracks, the concept of a composer-led game design, and even details on classic Sega projects that fans have debated the merits of for years.