If I had to choose two things I love the most (and I couldn't pick cheese), my obvious two loves would be music and video games. As a gamer my whole life and a musician even longer (think "in utero"), I can only imagine how different my life would be with their absence. But an even crazier thought is combining the two.
The beginning: Pong. We cannot discuss music in games without first mentioning the first sounds! The first video game to ever feature sound was Pong, created by then-exclusive game developer Atari in 1972. The sounds are obviously limited - technology prevented anything more than two distinctive tones from appearing in the game (as a musician, I must tell you that they are both slightly-sharp B naturals... I'm a nerd). Take a listen for yourself!
The Golden Age - Koji Kondo and NintendoFast forward to the mid 1980s - technology has improved, and we start venturing into the coveted 8-bit world! With the addition of new graphics, developers toyed with adding more dynamic music to games. One of the most successful and well-known game composers of this age (and beyond) is Koji Kondo, sound designer and composer for Nintendo.
Koji Kondo posing near his sound equipment
Koji Kondo composed the scores for most of Nintendo's big-name games between the 1980s-2000s, including The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Star Fox, Donkey Kong, and worked on most/all of subsequent sequels as either the composer or sound supervisor. His work continues to serve as a template for success in the game music industry. Here are a few recognizable clips to get an idea for the technology of the time: notice the difference about 10 years of progress can make!
Super Mario Bros. - 1985 - Koji Kondo
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - 2002 - Koji Kondo
Modern Game MusicWith Koji Kondo's work as a model, so many new game composers have entered the mix- Jeremy Soule (Elder Scrolls), Danny Baronowsky (The Binding of Issac), Jasper Kyd (Assassin's Creed), Gary Schyman (Bioshock), and countless others. The best way to explore their work is to listen to the different styles and techniques used by each!
Game music also evolved into a more interconnected art - rather than having the music stand out, it became an essential part of gameplay. Sounds and music worked with the player to instruct and inform, rather than simply to sound pretty or menacing.
Now that the gaming industry has boomed and technology has come so far, many composers aim to use live orchestras rather than the constraints of computer software. If a live orchestra isn't available - boy, has the computerized music machine improved! Just