Do We look At Video Game Soundtracks As A Whole Or As Background Noise? Part 5 Jason Graves

Inside the Mind behind the Dead Space franchise

Dead Space has horrified audiences since it first started in 2008. You played as Isaac Clark, a ship systems engineer on titan station when all hell breaks lose. Setting the tone for the series is the soundtrack done by Jason Graves. Graves score in the series is chilling and often leaves players on the edge of their seat. In Dead Space 2, he used a wide range of instruments to horrify the player. Screeching violins, vibrant ambient noises and roaring electric guitars always kept the game fresh as you continued to fight against necromorphs. but do fans notice? Do people look at soundtracks as a whole or as background noise?

It’s often in movies and television that soundtracks are ignored and not given credit for their role in a project. In our fifth installment I had a chance to talk with Jason Graves and asked him how he thinks fans look at soundtracks.  

To start us off, what's the composing process for a video game, does inspiration come from visuals only or from written word?

A lot of times it all starts with a visit to the production studio. That would include getting to know the team, playing through the game, looking at the artwork and talking about the musical direction. From there the developer usually feeds me quicktime movies of the game levels, scripts, design docs and anything else they can find to help me get in the headspace of the game. For me, a lot of it is saturating myself in the world of the game and seeing what happens.

Besides scoring a soundtrack, how much behind the scenes work (sound effects) goes into a soundtrack?

More than you would ever know! Sound for a game is just like sound for an animated  film – everything is created from scratch. But for games, all the sound is interactive and constantly evolving. That takes a LOT of planning, organization and work.

Do you feel you get enough recognition for your work?

The art of music for games has come a long way in the last ten years, but it’s still evolving. That evolution is starting to pay off, though. Game music is definitely getting more attention now than ever before.  All that really matters to me is recognition within the gaming community, by both the players and programmers, who really love music for games.

Do you think people discount (not value) your work?

I know people can easily dismiss the music in any media. Games are actually the only medium where the consumer controls not only the level of the music, but quite often what music they listen to while they’re playing. It’s just the nature of the beast. And game music fans are wonderfully attentive, so they make up for it ten fold!