The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Hello there! I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips, and it’s time once again for our yearly collection of top resources for game audio practitioners! The following article contains an expanded and updated collection of links on an assortment of subjects important to the game audio community. We kick things off with a list of concert tours and annual game music events. After that, we check out the online game audio communities that we can join for support and assistance. We’ll take a look at the software applications currently in use by game audio pros. Finally, we’ll look at what’s going on in the world of game audio conferences and academia.
Everybody ready to go? Let’s do this!
Concerts and Tours
If we want to get inspired and energized about our work as game composers, one of the best ways is by checking out an awesome game music performance. So let’s learn about current video game music concert events and tours. There’s lots of variety from which to choose, ranging from serious symphonic performances to rock events. Below, I’ve alphabetically listed the concert tours and events that are currently underway. I’ve also included video clips that show performances from past shows.
Assassin’s Creed Symphony World Tour
With its Paris premiere in June 2019, the Assassin’s Creed Symphony world tour features the most popular music selections from the entire Assassin’s Creed game franchise, including music from the score I composed for Assassin’s Creed Liberation. At the end of the Assassin’s Creed Symphony concert which took place last September in Montreal, the conductor Ivan Linn called me up from the audience to join the orchestra on stage for the standing ovation (pictured above). I’m honored that my music is featured in this great concert tour! Recently, the world tour added four new 2020 concert dates in the UK, bringing the total scheduled concerts to fifteen, with more concert date announcements promised. Here’s a video from the November 2019 performance in Berlin, which featured the performance of my music, “Society Suite in 4 Movements” from Assassin’s Creed Liberation.
Bit Gen Gamer Fest
The Bit Gen Gamer Fest throws a raucous rock-and-roll party every year to celebrate game soundtracks. It’s one day of gaming, head-banging nerdy goodness. The July 2019 edition of Bit Gen Gamer Fest included 17 musical acts performing video game cover songs at the Ottobar in Baltimore. Here’s a video of the Master Sword full set during Bit Gen XIII.
The Devil Awakens
Game composer Shoto Nakama has been busy lately on the live concert scene! In addition to his past work as the producer of the Video Game Orchestra tour, he has also lent his name and music to “The Devil Awakens — Official Devil May Cry Concert Tour.” Rather than a symphony orchestra, this tour features rock bands shredding to the music of the Devil May Cry franchise while accompanied by game footage on a giant screen. The tour had its world premiere in March 2019 at Brighton Music Hall in Boston. Future tour dates haven’t yet been announced, but the tour is coordinated by SOHO Live (the same concert promoter responsible for such tours as Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions and Distant Worlds), so we should stay tuned for future tour-date announcements. In the meantime, here’s more info about the Boston concert.
Distant Worlds: Music of Final Fantasy
Now in its thirteenth year, the Distant Worlds: Music of Final Fantasy concert tour continues to perform the music of Nobuo Uematsu in venues around the world. The Distant Worlds Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus performs under the direction of Grammy Award-winning conductor Arnie Roth. The next tour date will take the concert to the Place des arts in Montreal. Here’s a video of their performance of the “Battle Medley – Concert Finale” during a 2019 performance in Phoenix.
Game Music Festival
This relatively new game concert series just had its second yearly event in Wroclaw Poland. The concert took place this past October at the National Forum of Music in Wroclaw Poland. The Game Music Festival concert in 2019 featured musical selections from Shadow of the Colossus, Assassin’s Creed II, Journey, and many more. Since video isn’t yet available of the 2019 performance, here’s a preview video produced for the 2019 Game Music Festival:
GameON! is a touring concert series focusing on the music of blockbuster games from the modern era. Each concert is performed by a different world-renowned local symphony orchestra led by conductor Andy Brick. The concert tour recently descended on Washington D.C. for a performance at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall featuring the National Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 8 (pictured below).
Upcoming performances include the Oregon Symphony at Arlene Schnitzer Hall in Portland (Feb. 1, 2020) and the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall in Houston (May 21, 2020). More information can be found here.
Joystick with the Malmo Symphony Orchestra
Like the Game Music Festival in Poland, the Joystick concerts in Sweden are an annual event, now in its twelfth year of performances by the Malmo Symphony Orchestra. The program for Joystick 12.0 will focus exclusively on Japanese games, with performances featuring soprano Sabina Zweiacker, alongside presenter Orvar Säfström. Featured compositions will include music from Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog, among many others. More information can be found here. Here’s a performance of music from Metal Gear Solid V, as featured at Joystick 8.0:
Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Concert Series – World of Tres
Timed to coincide with the release of Kingdom Hearts III, this touring concert series features 22 performances in 17 cities around the world. The program focuses on well-loved music from the Kingdom Hearts series as well as brand new selections from Kingdom Hearts III. More information can be found here.
The “Music And Gaming Festival” (MAGFest) just finished another triumphant event in January 2020 at the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, MD. Part massive gaming tournament, part music festival, MAGFest is a four-day event unlike any other. Here’s the full set of the Triforce Quartet at MAGFest 2020:
A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy
The chamber ensemble concert tour of video game music from the Final Fantasy repertoire is still going strong, with twelve concert dates currently scheduled for 2020. Instead of the large scale orchestras and choirs we’ve come to expect, A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy uses small chamber ensembles and special arrangements designed for them. These concerts have taken place in small venues and university recital halls, and the most up-to-date touring schedule can be found here. Here is a performance of “One Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII that took place in Los Angeles in February 2019.
Video Games in Symphony
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra presents a yearly concert event dedicated to the music of video games. Conducted by preeminent video game orchestral conductor Eimear Noone, the Video Games in Symphony concert series celebrated its second annual performance on September 26th 2019 with a concert featuring music from such games as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Kingdom Hearts, Skyrim, and many more. More information about the concert series can be found here. Below is a video highlighting the work of conductor Eimear Noone:
Video Games Live
Last but not least we come to Video Games Live. Since 2005, Video Games Live has given hundreds of performances around the world. Concerts currently scheduled for 2020 include February 28th in Jacksonville Florida and May 15th in Tacoma Washington. Here is a clip of Video Games Live performing music from Skyrim during an April 2019 concert in El Paso, with help from the Franklin High School Choir:
Communities / Discussion Forums
The breadth and scope of the worldwide game audio community keeps getting bigger each year, which means that it can be difficult to keep up with the diversity and size of our community. Thankfully, the internet provides us with all the tools we need to reach out and develop local communities for inspiration, advice and support. First, I’ve gathered together a list of community groups listed alphabetically and organized by continent (they’re also available via this Google Map). Following the list of location-specific community groups I’ve appended a list of general game audio communities and bulletin boards.
Game Audio Groups – Americas
Game Audio Groups – Asia
Game Audio Groups – Europe
General Game Audio Communities and Forums
Software tools for game audio development and implementation have undergone some interesting transitions lately, as virtual reality has increased the demand for binaural soundscapes and truly three-dimensional sound.
Along with the usual middleware suspects, I’ve listed some additional sound tools designed to aid game audio folks in work for binaural and ambisonic projects (such as those destined for VR platforms).
Along with these tools are some software applications designed with video game composers in mind. These include Wwise, FMOD, Nuendo, and Elias.
Game Music Conferences and Academia
When we’re in the mood to broaden our minds and think about our discipline in a new way, there are lots of scholarly organizations and conferences ready to offer us some inspiration and enlightenment! First we’ll check out a list of academic and scholarly groups filled with expert knowledge on the history and practice of music creation for video games. After that, we’ll see a list of the yearly conferences that focus on audio and music creation. Most of the list consists of conferences exclusively dedicated to the video game industry, but one of the conferences (Music & the Moving Image) offers a more general “music for media” event that includes video games in its offered content.
So that’s the collection of links this year! Each year the lists grow and change, and it’s always interesting to see how the game audio field transforms from year to year. Here’s hoping that we all had a fantastic holiday season, and that we’ll jump into 2020 with renewed zest for our work as game composers!
Popular music from composer Winifred Phillips’ award-winning Assassin’s Creed Liberation score is currently being performed live by a top 80-piece orchestra and choir as part of the Assassin’s Creed Symphony World Tour, which kicked off in 2019 with its Paris premiere. As an accomplished video game composer, Phillips is best known for composing music for games in five of the most famous and popular franchises in gaming: Assassin’s Creed, God of War, Total War, The Sims, and LittleBigPlanet. Phillips’ other notable projects include music for the triple-A first person shooter Homefront: The Revolution (Deep Silver), and numerous virtual reality games from such accomplished developers as Supermassive Games, High Voltage Software, and Armature Studio. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the MIT Press. As the foremost authority on music for interactive entertainment, Winifred Phillips has given lectures at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Society of Composers and Lyricists, the Game Developers Conference, the Audio Engineering Society, and many more. Phillips’ enthusiastic fans showered her with questions during a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session that went viral, hit the Reddit front page, received 14.9 thousand upvotes, and became one of the most popular gaming AMAs ever hosted on Reddit.
Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.