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I'll be the first to readily admit
that I'm a massive fanboy of the Spyro games created by Insomniac Games. My nostalgia
and love for the games make me wish that they were still in possession of the
franchise, but that is not meant to be, due to a little thing called "Skylanders."
Activision struck a rich vein in the video game market with this ingenious
re-imagination of the Spyro franchise by selling action figures that can be
transported into a digital world to fight bad guys. Sounds awesome, right?
Unfortunately, Skylanders is mostly marketed towards the 7-13 year old boy
demographic, so the majority of older Spyro fans like myself can't get over the
overall cheesy look and theme of the characters, story, and toys. Have you seen
the trailers? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
You may be wondering what in the
world this has to do with the title of my article. Since I'm naturally
disinterested in Skylanders, I'd automatically assume all of the aspects of the
games wouldn't appeal to me in any way. Well...I couldn't have been more wrong.
A piano? Resistance 3? Who could this be?
There's one thing I discovered that's shockingly great, and what I'm
alluding to is the music. For both Skylanders and its extension (called "Skylanders:
Giants"), the music is catchy, richly layered, and energizing to the point of
making me feel happy when I listen to it. Lorne Balfe, who happens to be the
composer for some of the Assassin's Creed games, truly outdid himself to bring
the world of Skylanders to life for those who play it, even if most players
probably don't recognize this. For example, this upbeat, lively Scottish-like
song named Cutthroat Carnival got me tapping my toes, and Shattered Island makes
excellent use of a guitar, various strings, and a xylophone (?) that unite to
invoke feelings of adventure. For discovering songs like these, I owe it to Emily
Reese of Minnesota Public Radio and her podcast, "Top Score." It's dedicated to
interviewing famous game composers like Jesper Kyd (Darksiders II), Inon Zur
(Dragon Age), and Austin Wintory (Journey) so listeners can learn about their
inspirations, insights into specific songs, and history of how they wound up in
the video game industry. In a nutshell, Emily Reese ends up putting video game
composers in the spotlight who are seldom recognized for their hard work,
creativity, and importance in providing the colorful, iconic, and varied music
we listen to whenever we pop in a game.
Even though the Gameinformer editors
put together a video interview with Emily Reese during the spring of 2012, that
doesn't diminish from what I'm going to attempt to do here. I don't want to
only tell and explain to you what Top Score is all about. I want to delve into
the importance of it and give you some reasons as to why you and all gamers
should check out and support this awesome podcast.
1. "Behind The
Scenes" Stories of Developers, Their Games, and Soundtracks
You gotta wonder what's going on here with the Supergiant Games crew...
It's not too often when gamers get
to hear interesting and obscure information about developers and what goes on
behind all the creative processes. This is a veil that is slightly opened by
Top Score because some of the composers often delve into the origin stories of
developers and describe other interesting events they've had with them. For
example, Darren Korb talked about how he was one of the only people that worked
on the soundtrack and sound effects
of Bastion! He also knew the lead designer of Supergiant Games (Bastion developer)
before he went off to college and coincidentally boarded with Logan Cunningham
(the legendary narrator of Bastion). Korb mentions how they got together, what
was used for and inspired the music in the game, and the overall humble
beginnings of Supergiant Games. I personally love hearing background tales like
this because it reveals some of the otherwise hidden origins, trials, oddities,
and successes of developers; it humanizes and places them into perspective.
However, if this isn't something that you would be intrigued by, there's
certainly more to gain from Top Score.
2. In-Depth Analysis of
Composers' Work and Music as a Whole
Music can get pretty complicated...trust me.
Since I amateurishly play the piano
and guitar as a hobby, I wouldn't consider myself to be an expert on music
theory, terms, or distinguishing between hundreds of instruments. But hearing
professionals like Emily Reese and the composers she interviews talk about
subjects like these is surprisingly educational and enlightening. It's safe to
say that anyone can learn more than a few things about music by listening to
Top Score as well as hear interesting facts about certain songs in all sorts of
games. But most importantly, I think it's fascinating to hear about the amount
of passion and sincere work composers put into games. Take Dark Void as an
example, which was a mediocre sci-fi game from Capcom. From listening to the
composer, Bear McCreary, he conveys the impression that he partook in the
creation of a legendary AAA project he put his heart and soul into. He digs
into his personal inspirations, how his past work on Battlestar Galactica
influenced him, and the deep process of how he came up with the feel and genre
of the music for Dark Void by only observing concept art and the story's
aspects (characters, direction, etc.).
Like I've already said, it's simply
stunning to realize what goes on behind closed doors. It's just a matter of
making the effort to open them to reveal the concealed, complex creativity that
3. Mundane Activities
Explode With New Music To Listen To (and Top Score Interviews)
A lot of video game music is covered on Top Score...a lot.
The obvious - but nevertheless
necessary to mention - goal of Top Score is to encourage listeners to check out
the wonder of video game soundtracks for themselves. This is something I find
useful because I have a hard time finding new songs to enjoy. I don't like to
randomly search for music I haven't heard before, so it's rare when I find a
band/composer that I absolutely love. Top Score remedies long droughts without
new music for me by providing a downpour of video game albums and even a few
movie/stand-alone projects. If I'm working on a school project, doing some
physical labor, or simply relaxing, I can effortlessly check out some music
I've never heard before, courtesy of Top Score. One composer, Penka Kouneva,
has an obscure, personal album called "The Warrior's Odyssey" that has some
explosive, sad, and beautiful tracks. I would've never even considered or
stumbled upon it on my own volition, but I listened to it while I was doing my
Spanish homework and honestly loved most of it.
4. Simply Top Notch,
Humorous, and Awesome Podcasts
The host behind Top Score.
The content of Top Score is
incredible; it's fun to listen to at any time. The audio equipment for
the show sounds great, with bits of enjoyable and fitting music scattered
throughout each podcast to break up the conversations. And the conversations
themselves can range from being seriously deep to warmheartedly candid and
funny. This isn't some weird lady who's awkward and inexperienced...she's a professional, lively, passionate gamer that
believes video game music will eventually stand alongside legendary, classical
songs. And when you get to hear the depth of video game music, the composers
behind it, and Emily Reese bringing these things to light, you will believe
that too (or more intensely than before). That's the power of Top Score.
I never thought I would end up
writing something off of a podcast I'm not affiliated with, but that goes to
show how much I promote its content and place in this time for the video game
industry. It has certainly given me an even deeper appreciation for video game
music these past couple of weeks (which would have seemed impossible before
then) as I've poured through all the past content of Top Score. So, I hope that
my unexpected support of it will motivate you to look it up. I did that more
than half a year ago and somehow forgot about it. I don't know how that even
happened now! In conclusion, if
you love video game music and want to learn a lot about it, there's a mighty
good chance you'll love Top Score. Head on over to the website through the picture
below to give it a go!
much do you love video game music? Do you listen to it (on its own) rarely or
daily? What are some of your favorite songs and composers? Do you believe video
game music will continually rise in importance, stay neutral in relevance, or
even decline in quality and prominence over time? Shout out with your answers
or anything else in the comments below. Thanks for reading!