The Evolution Of Computer Games Audio by Matthew Slater

In the beginning God made Trackers, and He saw that they made simple, pattern based music that would fit well with computer games, and He saw that it was good. These are the earliest artefacts of computer games audio still around, and some are still in use today. They can create a wide variety of sounds and can be used in a modern context without sounding out of place, whereas 8-bit Gameboy synthesizers and other simple, proprietary, console based systems have since vanished, and no longer have a place in the modern world outside of nostalgic remakes of old franchises from the past. Trackers saw mainstream use as late as the nineties with games like Deus Ex, whereas most other game genres had already headed in the "let’s let one guy and his computer keyboard combo create all the music we need" MIDI direction. Although MIDI offered much of the same as trackers in terms of sound quality, it had its sample library attached to its nucleus as part of its core feature set. MIDI also offered a less artificial and more human feel than trackers in its slightly less math based structure (although implementing features such as quantisation and limiting velocity can undo this). Sound in computer games moved forward in a big way – as standards came into place regarding music and technology. We've now moved on from our embarrassing 8-bit days to games companies hiring composers and inviting full orchestras into their offices for days at a time to score new games. Hollywood crossovers have blurred the gap between computer games as entertainment, and computer games as a storytelling device. Proper actors now want to be involved with ambitious games looking to further push the boundaries of what we have available to us, in terms of technology, to create the best end product possible. Computer games, which were once seen as a childish way to pass the time, are now big business. More and more money is being pumped into creating these blockbusters, and as this technology becomes more common place, everyone benefits from the better quality of work on show. And as we see advancements in high definition visuals, and 3D presentations of the latest big-budget films – computer games will surely follow and continue to push the envelope of what's possible, as they've always done.