Post-mortem: Writing Music at the 2012 Global Game Jam (Part 1)

So this is my first of hopefully many blog posts related to music, gaming, music for games get the idea.  My short term goal with this blog is twofold: 

  1.  research and present interesting content related to game music composition 
  2. do so in a somewhat coherent and engaging manner on at least a bi-weekly basis.  

If you know me, you also probably know that while I don't have a lot of composition experience, I have been studying music most of my life.  Since I began seriously writing music for game related projects in mid 2011, I have found it to be a completely thrilling experience.  It is an amazing feeling to draw upon half a lifetime of musical training and channel it into a new creative medium.  So, it seems fitting that my first post be a reflection on what may be the most challenging and validating experience I've had as a composer thus far - the 2012 Global Game Jam.  

If you are unfamiliar with this event, it is a 48 hour challenge for groups of game designers (writers, programmers, musicians, artists) at sites around the world to create games, either collaboratively or individually, based on a particular theme, such as a phrase or an image.  Each game's interpretation of the theme is completely different and range from the very literal, to the symbolic and abstract.  

If you've seen Sam's post-mortem on his game jam contribution, "Ossiphidia", you have seen this year's theme - the ouroborus, an ancient symbol representing eternity and rebirth.  I worked with four groups this year, and my job was to add a musical contribution to each game.  I will write about each game in the order of completion.  The challenging and fantastic part about my 48 hour task was that all of the games were wildlydifferent from one another.  Here is the a basic breakdown of each game:


1. A Short Tail: a text-based adventure with hand drawn illustrations set in a farmhouse.


2. Spectrum: A minimalist puzzle game that relies on color matching and quick refelxes. 


3. The Final Drive: A cartoony side scrolling race against the end of the world in a VW bus.


4. Orbrs: a side-scrolling platformer about a young girl searching for her mother in an ancient temple.

So yeah, these games are all waaaay different from one another.  However, the diversity of these projects is what made the challenge so unique and interesting.  Working with four very different teams on four very different games simultaneously was a great test of my creative and organizational skills.  In the end, I feel that the games were all very well executed, especially given the 48 hour time constraint.  

As part of each article on these games, I will describe the software and processes I used in composing and recording each piece and the various challenges associated with them.  I will also be including video and/or audio of each game and certain music tracks will be downloadable as ringtones.  

My next post will look at the first game on my list, the mysterious text adventure, "A Short Tail".  Stay tuned...

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