Award-winning composer Jessica Curry talks about the music behind the games

composer tells us she was “dragged into it kicking and screaming” when her husband’s PhD research on immersion evolved into a game in its own right. That project was released to critical acclaim in 2008 as Dear Esther and Curry’s career in games began. As well as being one of the


founders of UK-based developer The Chinese Room (a company she’s since left), Curry won a Bafta for her work on Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and hosted High Score, Classic FM’s show devoted to videogame music. Who better, then, to help us explore the world of videogame music?

Dear Esther was the first game you wrote music for. How did you approach that project? I trained as a media composer and my ethos, in a way, was never to write wallpaper – music that just exists but doesn’t really engage or immerse the audience. So I wanted the music in Dear Esther to support the player and guide them, but there’s also a hell of a lot of silence, where it’s just the wind and the sound of the ocean, because we wanted the player to feel alone. And we trusted that the player could have their own emotional experiences. A lot of television is almost

wall-to-wall music and I shout at the telly. I can’t bear it. I say just leave me alone, I’m not stupid, I know what I’m supposed to be feeling.

Which other videogame composers do you enjoy? I think Nobuo Uematsu, the Final Fantasy composer is amazing at

essica Curry didn’t set out to write music for videogames. In fact, the award-winning

supporting that franchise. People are just wild for his music and he’s well deserving of that adoration. I also really enjoyed Jason Graves’ work on the Dead Space series, since that for me was more post-classical than traditional game music – he was pushing the genre again and trying to do something interesting. And Christopher Tin, the composer for the Civilization series, is fantastic at those massive, epic, huge choir compositions that make you feel so alive, so I think he’s really great. I always like people who do things I can’t do, which is basically writewrite happy music!

Should a good game score be able to exist in isolation, so you can listen to it away from the game? The great soundtracks, like Final Fantasy, those themes are just so amazing that they do stand alone, and I think the fact there are so many videogame music concerts out there – performed by the most extraordinarily talented orchestras – shows there is enough good game music to put those concerts on and push those soundtracks out.

Do you think people from beyond the industry are appreciating game music more now? Last year I presented a concert of Sony videogame music at the Royal Albert Hall in front of nearly 6,000 avid fans, many of whom hadn’t ever been to the Royal Albert Hall – and some of whom had never heard an orchestra perform live before. I’m not classically trained, and I hate musical snobbery, so one of the really

exciting things for me has been hearing the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra play “Nate’s Theme” from Uncharted, because I think a lot of us are taught those spaces aren’t for us.

So do you think games are starting to be appreciated on the same level as other media like films and TV? I’d like to say yes, but I think we’ve got a long way to go and to be honest I’m getting a little bit tired of asking permission to be allowed into those spaces. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was nominated for ten Baftas, which was the most

Baftas, wh nomi

nominations that any game had had at that time. As a tiny 11-person company we came away with three Baftas, but not one mainstream media outlet covered the story. I even rang some, and I said to them if this was a film this would be all over

the news. They said, “Well it’s videogames.” There’s a kind of wilful ignorance

about videogames, and a lot of journalists who interview me start out and they say “I don’t know anything about videogames”, and I just want to say would you be that happily ignorant about any other person you interviewed? Would you say “I haven’t read any books” to an author? It’s really shocking… But most people play games now

so maybe in another 20 years those journalists will know about games and won’t feel that kind of cultural snobbery about them.

Jessica Curry is currently composing for The Chinese Room’s next game, Little Orpheus, which is coming to Apple Arcade.


Curry’s Classic FM show has introduced thousands of people to a diverse range of videogame music

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