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Types of Game Music Part 5 – Credits/Ending Sequence

January 9, 2011

The credits for a video game serve the same purpose that they do for a film or any other form of media: it lists everyone who worked and contributed to the making of the project. But slightly differently from some films, the credits on video games can frequently be viewed at any time from the game’s main menu. So this means that the player doesn’t necessarily have to complete the game to see the credit sequence (all though in some games they do).

I think this is quite significant because, often the credit sequence of video games have good production values and things to keep and hold attention, like moving images, artwork and, of course, music.

Aaron Marks (The Complete Guide to Game Audio) gives a good insight into credit sequence music, which shows how it is viewed by the game developers and players, but also why a composer might want to take a bigger interest in scoring them:

“This particular music is sometimes called ‘throwaway’ music. A player will only hear it once or twice in the course of playing the game and is normally considered unimportant to the rest of the project. But you, as the composer, could also look at it in a different light. For pure vanity’s sake, or as brilliant marketing, a composer could create their best music cue to attract prospective clients (who also play these games) or to gain some extra name recognition.”
It was quite important for me to hear that, because originally I hadn’t paid video game credits (and their music) with much attention. I thought that it would only be heard once, so the music wasn’t that important compared to the rest of the game’s soundtrack.

But now, looking at it in a new light, the credits music is probably where the composer has the most creative freedom of the entire game project. Credit sequences for any medium to large games are pretty long, so the composer has a lot of creative space to work with, unlike menu music, which maybe be only a minute or less in length. The composer isn’t tied to a cinematic, so they don’t have to score to a narrative and bar the fact that it has to keep in with the rest of the game’s soundtrack, there are very little (compared to the rest of the game’s music) contextual constraints when it comes to writing music for a credit sequence.

Time for examples, so we can hear this music in context.

-Here are the credits from Street Fighter 4

Interestingly, the piece is actually called ‘Staff Roll’. The musical approach here can be considered fairly common in some credit sequences because themes and motifs from the rest of the game’s soundtrack have been used quite prominently, along with new, original elements. I think this a really effective way to score a credit sequence because it neatly condenses the entire game’s worth of music, reminding the player of the ‘journey’ and time they have spent with that particular game.

-The Credits for Halo 3

The composers have taken a similar approach to the composer of Street Fighter 4, in that the scoring for the credits features themes and elements from the entire soundtrack. I think this approach is popular because some game’s take a long time and a considerable amount of investment from the player to complete. Finishing the game, and reaching the credit sequence is a reward in itself and a musical approach that reminds the player of the long journey they have been on with the game can reinforce the sense of achievement they have.

Now for an example that takes a different approach to the cinematic sequence.

-The Credits from Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Here the composer has had a lot of freedom to create a beautiful piece of original music. At around 1:56 the ‘Zelda theme’ does come in, and is used as a triumphant acknowledgment that the player has completed the game. The rest of the piece is made up of original elements. I think this is also an affective way to score credits: by completing the game the player has been rewarded by hearing a new piece of music to mark the occasion.

In my personal experience with video game credits sequences, one of the main things that kept me watching them was the music that accompanies them. Hearing a wonderful new piece of music, or a piece sprinkled with themes from throughout the game really  helped in holding my attention on the credits, and the fact that some credits sequences are also accompanied by art etc also helped.

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