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Winifred Phillips has built up a solid reputation as a composer comfortable in any media format, particularly interactive videogames, where she's been nominated for and won a number of awards for her work using orchestral, electronic and digital instruments and materials.

In our conversation, Phillips describes the demands of the interactive medium, as well as the creative rewards in scoring narratives with alternate dramatic possibilities.



Composer Winifred Phillips in her studio



Mark R. Hasan: You have one of the most diverse scoring backgrounds I've ever seen, and I wonder if your entry into multimedia scoring began via film and TV, or whether you found videogames offered a fresh new realm to work, explore, and gain vivid experience?


Winifred Phillips: I’ve always been a videogame fan, so the choice to pursue work as a videogame composer came easily.  Up until that point, I’d been working as a composer for Radio Tales, a radio drama series on National Public Radio that dramatized works like Beowulf and War of the Worlds, so transitioning from such grand subject matter to the equally grandiose world of videogames felt perfectly natural. 

Making the leap with my long-time music producer Winnie Waldron was wonderful: I didn’t have to go it alone.  We’d worked together at NPR, and had been looking for new opportunities to grow, so when Sony Computer Entertainment America approached us with the chance to join the music team of their mythological game God of War, we couldn’t have been happier. 

Personally, I’m always tremendously inspired by working with people who are experimenting and inventing new ways of creating an entertaining experience for their audience.  The videogame industry is full of that kind of creative energy. It’s an exciting environment in which to work.



MRH: When you're approached to score an interactive videogame, what are some of the key stages for the composer in writing, recording, and editing music, and are they all that different from film? (I'm thinking in particular of the formal spotting sessions, and whether cues are affected by editorial adjustments when scenes are cut or re-ordered in a movie.)


WF: Videogames differ sharply from film and television because of the fundamental interactivity that defines the videogaming experience.  Essentially, developers are creating a participatory work of art, which is not complete until the player enters into the collaboration.  The entire construct has to be built around the idea of branching possibilities and multiple outcomes, which has a profound effect on the creative process for everyone involved.  I typically write many cues for a single ‘scene’, in order to provide musical solutions to underscore the differing chains of events that might occur.  The cue requests I receive from developers will reflect these various gameplay possibilites. 

In terms of editorial adjustments, every project is different.  It really depends on whether the game itself is undergoing development changes, and whether that would impact the game’s musical needs.



MRH: Because there are numerous venues a player can take within a game, I gather it's no different than a character in a film moving through another scene in a long-form narrative, but is the work more complex for you because you have to provide musical alternatives for specific choices, which in turn can yield different endings in a game session?


WF: Videogame music has to be created to accommodate the unpredictability of the action in the game.  The way in which the music is created is different for every project, because there are always differing models of audio interactivity which have been implemented by the developers.  It can be exceedingly complex for some projects.  Other projects require less interactivity in the music.  Neither approach is superior to the other, in my opinion, as long as it serves the best interests of the game.  Sometimes a lot of interactivity is a great thing, but for other games that same amount of interactivity can be a distraction.  It has to be decided on a case by case basis.

Hop Frog radio drama

God of War PS2 videogame

SimAnimals Nintendo Wii videogame

The Maw PC videogame




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