With Bethesda hosting its first-ever E3 conference this year and the accompanying chatter of a Fallout 4 announcement, I find myself thinking about why I decided to invest so many hours of my life in the Fallout universe and the worlds of so many other games.
There are many (almost reactionary) responses people would give: “The story is amazing,” “The acting is great,” “The gameplay is really fun,” “I love the freedom of the world.” All are perfectly suitable answers, and I have used them many times myself, but a less common answer might be the game’s musical wonder. With such incredible effort given to video game soundtracks, it seems a shame not to recognize wonderfully talented composers alongside your front-facing lead designers and voice actors. Without great composers, many of our favorite games would never have been able to capture our hearts and imaginations in the way they have.
The goal of this three-part series is to spotlight three video game music giants who played vital roles breathing life into some of the greatest worlds in video games. In no way are the three composers discussed in this series the only ones deserving of attention for their tremendous contributions to games—I aim merely to start a conversation in territory oft-ignored.
The final composer in this series energized, demonized, and dramatized the world of Rapture, and for that I can’t thank him enough.
Part 3: Garry Schyman
(Please enjoy some of the artist’s music as you read!)
Garry Schyman was born in Chicago but grew up in Southern California. Schyman found his passion for music when he was in elementary school. He started playing the drums and quickly lost interest, but when his brother began playing piano, he discovered his first love. Schyman urged his parents to let him take piano lessons and started practicing three hours a day. Pursuing a formal education in music, Schyman attended the University of Southern California.
After graduating in 1978 with a degree in music composition, Schyman immediately began looking for work scoring films and television. Through various connections, Schyman heard of a job opening on a Lutheran television show called Father Murphy, for which he applied to and was hired. During the same period of time, Schyman was also brought on as a ghost composer to assist in the productions of such shows as Magnum, P.I., The Greatest American Hero, and The A-Team. He continued to work on numerous television shows and films throughout the ‘80s. It wasn’t until the mid ‘90s that Schyman was brought into the world of video game composing, and, as he discussed in an interview with GameSpot, it was almost merely by happenstance:
“Funny thing is, I was not seeking it. The opportunities just sort of presented themselves. The first opportunity was in the mid 1990s when a friend of mine was an exec at Philips Interactive. I ended up scoring a few games for him. Because they used their proprietary CDI technology (now defunct), it permitted me to deliver stereo files; therefore I produced one of the first orchestral scores ever for a video game—‘Voyeur’ in 1994.
“Once Philips Interactive went out of business, I left the industry for a number of years as I was busy scoring films and television… Then in 2004 my agent at the time faxed my resume to THQ, and an executive there just happened to see it sitting on the fax machine–she was my girlfriend’s roommate in college. It was a lucky fluke that ended up with me scoring Destroy All Humans, which led to all of my current work.”
For the last decade, Schyman’s work has been dominated by scoring music for video games. He has feels that making soundtracks for video games allows a greater degree of freedom as a composer, but also provides a greater technical challenge, making it his preferred medium to work in. Some of Schyman’s most notable works include:
the Destroy All Humans! franchise,
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor,
and the BioShock franchise, just to name a few.
Schyman’s style is often inspired by some of his favorite composers, which include Gustav Mahler, Sergei Prokofiev, and Bela Bartok. He also enjoys much from the first half of the 20th century, which is apparent in many of his compositions, including his work for BioShock and Dante’s Inferno.
Schyman spoke of the original BioShock as being one of his most memorable projects to work on, saying:
“It really was one of my favorite projects to work on. I was asked to try something really different than people normally expected in a video game score, and I got to experiment and use some really interesting music techniques that I never guessed would find their way into a VG score. So to answer, it was fantastic. Ken Levine really wanted something different and permitted me to do it.”
Having had such a successful experience writing for BioShock led to Schyman returning to the franchise for its next two installments.
His score for the original BioShock alone received seven awards and two additional nominations. Over the course of his career, Schyman has won a total of nine awards and received an additional eight nominations for his work.
News of Schyman’s current projects is still under wraps, but it is fairly safe to say he will continue to make the worlds of video games come to life for years to come.
If you want to learn more about Schyman and experience more of his music, check out his website.