Published on July 23rd, 2012 |
by Stephen O'Nion
Are Soundtracks “Helping” Video Games Into The Mainstream?
Recently, the likes of Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor and Beck have all been announced as signed to add their musical talents to a number of upcoming releases. The high profile nature of these appointments, and the nature of their promotion, coming well in advance of any release dates, suggests that maybe suitability has taken a backseat to publicity.
Bungie’s newest project, codenamed Destiny, will see the ex-Beatles star handling composition duties alongside Martin O’Donnell of Halo fame while Reznor has turned his abilities to another behemoth in the form of Call of Duty: Black Ops II. By contrast, Beck submitted three tracks for use in the rather less-hyped music game Sound Shapes, released August 7, a title which also counts Deadmau5 as a contributor.
Firstly, it’s worth bearing in mind that established artists working on video game scores are nothing new. Nine Inch Nails, one of Reznor’s bands, composed the 1996 Quake soundtrack, whilst he also began work on 2003′s Doom 3 before having to leave the project. Slash too, and Tom Morello also provided original material for Guitar Hero 3 as far back as ye olde 2007.
Crucially though, it’s becoming more and more common, and not just for music-based games like the Guitar Hero or Rockband franchises. Reznor, McCartney et al are just two of the higher profile figures to try and tap into the tradition of creating a beloved video game score. From a numbers standpoint there appears to be an increasing appreciation for video game soundtracks. In recent years we’ve had classic Legend of Zelda tunes performed via a global tour and a Civilization IV theme winning a Grammy. Hell, 2010 even saw the ‘Best Original Video Game Score’ category added to the Ivor Novello awards, with Joris de Man sweeping the inaugral honour for Killzone 2.
Look at all this Sound Shape sound! What do you mean a video would be more fitting?
Market size, consumer demographics, and a sizeable publicity machine can ensure it makes sense for artists to sign up to video games. McCartney’s said as much before, admitting the appeal of video game composition is undeniable: “These days a new computer game sells much better than a CD. And you reach an entirely different target group.”
For now, the recruitment of McCartney, if not so much Reznor, smacks of being at least as much about publicity as it is about suitability. Except for the announcement of McCartney’s appointment, details on Destiny are scarce. Is this just a way of drip-feeding interested parties some information and building hype? Additionally, when you’ve got Martin O’Donnell, the man responsible for Halo’s iconic score, tapped for a project, it seems a little odd and perhaps counter-intuitive to introduce a similarly strong-willed musician alongside him. Plus, if you’re going to go for a Beatle, why not Ringo?
At least Reznor’s appointment appears to make more sense. Critical acclaim for The Social Network’s score certified the Nine Inch Nails frontman as particularly able to tap into the tone of a project, and his often distorted, industrial style should be well suited to the concept of future warfare. Not that most war-set games all sound the same or anything…
Either way, suitability is probably something that should be judged from results. Even if publicity is the primary aim at this point, there’s no denying that with these appointments becoming more prevalent then it’s less a novelty act and more a mark of gaming’s shift into the mainstream. Everybody wins. Except Ringo.