Composer Austin Wintory, whose soundtrack for Journey became the first video game score to be nominated for a Grammy Award. Photo by ESA.

Just as video gaming art scenes and character fashion designs are gaining a foothold in the art and fashion worlds, music for video game music has taken a great leap forward as a growing genre in pop culture for young musicians and a growing field of study in top music universities.

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), last year composer Austin Wintory’s soundtrack for the widely acclaimed title Journey became the first video game score to be nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media” category. Wintory’s album was honored alongside compositions by musical legends including John Williams, Howard Shore, and Hans Zimmer.

Academic institutions have also acknowledged this trend. In January, Youngstown State University’s (YSU) College of Creative Arts and Communication and Dana School of Music convened leading composers and academics to discuss the emerging genre for the inaugural North American Conference on Video Game Music. The event featured 19 presentations that analyzed video game scores, and examined interesting topics such as sounds, performance, melody, instrumentation and music technology.

“The study of video-game music is quickly emerging as a legitimate academic discipline,” said Steven Reale, assistant professor in YSU’s Dana School of Music and the lead organizer of the event. “Soundtracks for various video games serve to heighten the game’s story, amplify its interactivity, position it culturally, or serve as touchstones for music pedagogy.”

Additionally, renowned colleges and universities including New York University, Yale University, Berklee College of Music, and the New England Conservatory now offer classes that prepare students for careers in this field. Berklee College of Music, for example, offers minor degree concentrations in Video Game Scoring that includes classes about music techniques, orchestral mock-up production, and interactive scoring for video games.

From the Super Mario Brothers theme song to the 100-minute-long score for Medal of Honor: Warfighter, video game music has become increasingly sophisticated and emerged as a vibrant field for music students, composers, listeners, and gamers.

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