Sunday, October 21, 2012

Video Game Music Composers: Results and Analysis

First off, sorry this post is two days late.  That's what happens when you, meaning "I," work in the social services industry and stay up late playing video games or general internet putzing, only to wake up around noon and have to leave for work before 2pm.  It's called poor time management.

So now on with the results and analysis and not make it sound like a college freshman's term paper.

As I stated in the previous post, I was a little surprised that people generally didn't know the composers of some of the more famous video games, albeit, older video games, but maybe that was a problem with the questions that I posted: were the games too old?  Or is it that people are not as interested in the composers of video game music.  

For the survey questions, I had to be game and not series specific, as in "Do you know who wrote the music to Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II in the US) (1991)?"  I couldn't say "... who wrote the music for the Final Fantasy series" because there've been a number of composers besides Nobuo Uematsu, over the years who've helped from about Final Fantasy X on.


21 People took the quiz
21 People answered the first question
20 People answered the first two questions
19 People answered questions 1 - 9
17 People answered questions 1 - 10

With just this information, you could say that some people became frustrated with the questions and quit.  With the two extra "skipped questions" on question 10, I think that people gave their answer but may not have pressed the final "submit" button.  Maybe.  That's just my guess.

Now the questions portion.  For this, I will just list the game, the system and years they were released, rather than type out the question in its entirety.

1)  Super Mario Bros. NES (1985):  14.3% knew that it was Koji Kondo.
2)  Mega Man 2  NES (1988):  5% (or one person) knew that Takeshi Tateishi & Manami Matsumae.
3)  Dragon Warrior/Quest  NES (1986):  0% knew that it was Koichi Sugiyama
4)  Zelda II: The Adventure of Link  NES (1987):  0% knew that it was Akito Nakatsuka
5)  Final Fantasy IV / II  SNES  (1991):  26.3% knew that it was Nobuo Uematsu
6)  Castlevania: Symphony of the Night  PS1  (1997):  0% knew that it was Michiru Yamane
7)  Donkey Kong  Arcade Game  (1981):  0% knew that it was Hirokazu Tanaka
8)  Killer Instinct  Arcade/SNES  (1994):  0% knew that it was Robin Beanland
9)  Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness  PC  (1995):  0% knew that it was Glenn Stafford
10)  Metroid  NES  (1986):  0% knew that it was Hirokazu Tanaka.  (5% or 1 person guessed that it was Koji Kondo).

Looking at this list, you can easily see that I grew up playing on Nintendo consoles.  I didn't realize I didn't have any Sega games on there until just now.  However, I feel that even if I were to have put Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) or Golden Axe (1989), that I still would have similar results.  And the answers would have been Masato Nakamura and Tohru Nakabayashi respectively.

With the games/music that I chose, I felt that they are very representative of popular music from video games.  Music from these games are frequently covered by video game cover bands (Nintendocore is a thing).  And whenever "the best Castlevania" game comes up, Symphony of the Night is right up there in being one of the most popular in the series.  It would be like asking someone, "Who wrote the music to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back?" and getting the response, "Oh yeah, I love that movie.  The best one in the series.  Oh um, yeah, I don't know who wrote the music.  John Williams?  Yeah, I think I've heard of him."

This leads me to four possible conclusions.  

1)  That some/most people who play video games do not pay attention during the credit sequence to who wrote the music for the game.  This could stem from these same people either not finishing the game to get to the credit sequence, or just being the type of people who do not sit through film/TV credits.

2)  In a number of games released (I'll just say on the NES since that's where most of my early gaming background is rooted), game composers' names were misspelled/mistranslated, a pseudonym was used, they were lumped in with "Programmers" or their names were not included at all.  In the case of Castlevania, Satoe Terashima was listed as "James Banana."  To find out real names and identities takes a bit of detective work, which could just be too much work.

3)  Video game soundtracks before the internet became standard in every house/phone/car/bathroom, were fairly difficult to obtain if you lived outside of Japan.  I first saw them at Star Trek conventions lumped in with the anime soundtracks, and even then, their prices would be astronomical.  Well, $70 for 45 minutes of music is astronomical to a 13 year old.

4)  The majority of the video games that I've listed are by Japanese composers and a lot of the times I have trouble either remembering their names or how to spell them.  I am sure there is a "thing" in our brains that makes it difficult to recognize and remember names and words that we do no recognize, especially if they are not in our native language.  If this is an actual thing, then I am sure that it would apply to not remembering/recognizing the above names as well.

One possible explanation though for why people knew Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu is that they are more known in the United States market than possibly any other Japanese video game composer.  Nobuo Uematsu has toured the United States on multiple occasions with Final Fantasy: Dear Friends.  Koji Kondo has also been states-side with Play!

The question basically comes down to: "Why don't people know x?"  For that, I have no definitive answer.

The Truth Is Out There

1 comment:

  1. So *that's* why you wait until the end credits at movies! I always thought it was to show dedication and appreciation to the makers, but (and I realize how dumb this sounds) I never really thought to learn any of the people's names (apart from principal actors).
    It's very strange, but very much of the time, through the years, I've felt like I lack the ability to appreciate the contributions of different people into a production. Like, I have a hard time recognizing that the cinematography in a movie was really good, and I should learn the cinematographers name. Same for Editing and composer and other such things.
    I mean, I've known about these things, but often when I watch a movie or play a game, I just lose myself in the whole of the production, and don't think about the details. I know I may sound like a bloody liar saying this, since I have, on this very site, nitpicked a bunch of details out of games. I'm not sure how, but both things are true. I nitpick details, and I don't recognize individual contributions to a big production. Stand-up guy, really.