Video game developers go to great lengths to build worlds that are detailed, immersive, and believable. In addition to non-diegetic score to support the player's journey, in-world music is sometimes created for the radios, performance spaces, and streets that the player will encounter. This essay attempts to explore the collaborative decision-making process that shaped songs for two recent games, Dishonored 2 and Wolfenstein: The New Order. As the lead composer on both projects, I provide a firsthand account of how the songs were conceived, how they were deployed within and beyond the game, and the unexpected cultural relevance they had beyond their function within the gameworld. In contrasting these projects, I reveal how songs can map musical attributes to narrative aspects of a game's world, often on multiple levels simultaneously. Some connections are primary motivations while others happen as part of the creative problem-solving that is inevitably part of the songwriting process. Finally, in reflecting on my experience as a practitioner, I use auto-ethnography to explore how I experienced a delightful blurriness of identity while “playing” a songwriter in an imagined world.
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Research Article| April 01 2020
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Ravi Krishnaswami; Playing Songwriter: Creating Songs for the Fictional Worlds of Video Games. Journal of Sound and Music in Games 1 April 2020; 1 (2): 68–83. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jsmg.2020.1.2.68
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