Fan favorite Conker composer Robin Beanland expressed sadness over an official Xbox music tweet poll. One subtly dismissing original video game music ‘as something to be listened to while playing’ by its noticeable exclusion.
The official Xbox Twitter account posed the following poll question to fans on May 23, 2021: “What’s playing while you’re playing?” These were the options given: ‘Music, Podcasts, YouTube, and Streams’.
Noticeably absent was a game’s original soundtrack, thus dismissing it as a viable or popular option through exclusion. A case of market testing gone wrong that hurt the feelings of acclaimed veteran Rare composer Robin Beanland.
The Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Killer Instinct, and most recently Sea of Thieves composer tweeted a gif of a youngster shedding tears as a reply. Understandably so… As it essentially renders Beanland’s tireless life’s work (and the work of game composers everywhere) as not being worthy in some way.
In the Nintendo 64 days, games like Jet Force Gemini didn’t have to compete for audio real estate on their own platform. But now we’ve entered a new technology-fueled dystopia where even a game’s audio experience is up for grabs to the most popular bidder.
Now, game composers like Robin Beanland are expected to compete against Billie Eilish and Joe Rogan for your ear-to-ear attention. It’s not luddite to believe we should preserve the original gaming music experience 1-to-1 like we do to the fidelity of the visual on-screen.
While just a one-off tweet, there’s actually implications for video game music’s future perception. It devalues gaming composers’ contributions to the art form by indicating third parties have a natural edge for your attention. Not to mention it will stagnate wages of future composers looking to enter the gaming music field exclusively.
Many traditionally trained voice actors for example have seen their jobs taken by mainstream celebrity actors. No matter their talent level, these voice actors could not compete with the name value of a red carpet A-Lister.
Who’s to say game music won’t eventually be fully replaced by mainstream music? As seen in the menus of sports games everywhere? Or that triple A games won’t exclusively hire film & TV soundtrack composers and forgo giving in-house gaming-only composers?
Listening to video game music like Mario & Sonic’s first stages immediatley evokes a fond image for gamers. Imagine playing that first stage of Super Mario Bros. with top 50 pop music in the background. It wouldn’t be the same experience.
How about Eric Brosius’ groundbreaking soundscapes and audio work in the Thief series? Or Jesper Kyd’s classy Hitman: Blood Money music in the Las Vegas chapter. David Wise’s underwater “Aquatic Ambience” music in Donkey Kong Country. And of course, Robin Beanland’s “Windy” in Conker’s Bad Fur Day/Live & Reloaded.
Can you imagine forgoing all that atmosphere for a podcast or stream? Yes, we can play games even muted but we are losing something major in the process.
There’s a reason why so many pre-ordered the deluxe edition of Resident Evil 2’s remake, the original soundtrack was vital. Fans wanted to relive the experience of Raccoon City’s police station with “The First Floor” original composition playing again. Not pop music. They wanted to relive a memento of a time passed.
If we want more original gaming music like Robin Beanland’s contributions… We must spotlight the gaming composer’s work rather than shun them to the background noise of podcasts in history.
– Be sure to read our interview with tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu on ‘The Strangers’ soundtrack (Interview).
– Watch our Japan Society interview with composer Reiko Yamada.
– Read more of The Natural Aristocrat®’s video game coverage in the Gaming section.