Posted

May 15, 2019 14:46:17

A Newcastle musician who once harboured dreams of stardom as a guitarist is now firmly entrenched in the United States gaming industry, writing music for titles that turn over $1 billion in revenue.

Key points:

  • A Graduate of the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music and Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Adam Burgess now composes for $1 billion gaming titles
  • According to APRA, Australia’s gaming industry alone was generating revenue of $3 billion in 2016
  • Other Australian composers are turning their hand to and seeing success in mobile gaming, VR and XR experiences

Since 2015, Adam Burgess has worked as a composer for Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine, California, creating music across gaming titles including World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, and most recently Overwatch.

Overwatch has become the eighth Activision Blizzard game to generate $1 billion in revenue, according to technology news outlet Venture Beat.

“It’s a multiplayer, competitive, first-person shooter game,” Mr Burgess said, describing the game by phone from California.

“It takes place in a futuristic version of Planet Earth, and we have this array of unique heroes with their special range of abilities.”

The objective of the game is to capture points on a map before the other team does, however Mr Burgess says Overwatch has “very different aesthetics to lots of shooter games”.

“It’s very uplifting, it’s very heroic, it’s very triumphant, and that allows us to tap into that when we write the music for the game,” he said.

Australian games industry turnover exceeds $3b

The manager of film, television and claims at APRA, Greg Morrow, said gaming is a sector of the Australian entertainment market that is enormous and growing.

Although APRA does not yet collect royalties on behalf of its members from developers, the organisation is keen to be involved in the industry.

“I read an article from 2016 quoting that the Australian gaming industry was worth $3 billion,” Mr Morrow said.

“It’s a really becoming a different way in which our writers can create amazing work.”

For the past two years, APRA has staged an event called High Score: Composition and Sound Art for Gaming during Melbourne International Games Week.

“We do our best to inform writers who are already composing for video games, and people that are interested in the medium as well, and how it works,” Mr Morrow said.

Although there are a handful of people composing music for video games in Australia, it is not on the same scale as abroad.

“Due to our population it’s a pretty limited number of domestic writers who are doing work on video games,” he said.

“But it’s certainly something that is growing and something that we hope to grow in the future.”

For example, London-based Australian composer and APRA member Kevin Penkin wrote the music for Florence, a BAFTA Mobile Game of the Year.

“That game is just absolutely beautiful, and the score really kind of carries it the whole way. So it’s pretty special,” Mr Morrow said.

Discovering his true passion

As a fresh graduate from the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music in 2011, Mr Burgess went on to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, before finding work in film and, later, gaming.

It was at Berklee that Mr Burgess put down the guitar and transitioned to the piano keyboard after discovering his true passion was composing.

“I was so enamoured of the guitar growing up that all I wanted to do was be the best guitarist I could possibly be,” he said.

“And then I got to Berklee and I realised that every single person was much better than me at what I really wanted to do (laughs).”

After taking a class in arranging he started experimenting with taking songs he loved and reinterpreting them for different ensembles.

“I started getting really good at that, and then I took away the arranging part of it and started writing my own melodies and my own harmonies. That’s kind of how I discovered it,” he said.

Now largely studio-based, Mr Burgess still gets to perform live for fans at the company’s Blizzcon convention in Anaheim each November.

“We get 20,000 or 30,000 fans to it,” he said.

“To see those people come along to see it performed live — it’s pretty overwhelming actually.

VR the latest tool to engage audiences

Melbourne-based composer Maize Wallin sees games and gaming as the latest tool for musicians looking to find and engage with audiences.

Mx Wallin — who identifies as neither male nor female and prefers non-binary courtesy titles — cites Bjork, Bonobo and Radiohead as artists now producing virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) experiences alongside traditional releases.

“It’s becoming quite a thing in VR technology, creating these music videos, creating new immersive experiences,” Mx Wallin said.

The composer, sound designer and audio programmer for video games and XR experiences said Australia’s relatively tiny indie games industry produced unique titles with great personality.

“When I think about Australian games I definitely think about our amazing experimental scene, and about our humour, and how that comes through our games,” Mx Wallin said.

“On PlayStation there’s games like Push Me Pull You, and also games on PC like Grace Buxner Frog Detective — which is this hilarious, very Australian humour game.”

In a market swamped by titles produced outside Australia, Mx Wallin encourages those interested in exploring Australian-made titles to visit the Australian Games Awards website.

“Look it up and you’ll see heaps of our award winning games. I think that’s one of the easiest ways to find games that are made in Australia,” Mx Wallin said.

Topics:

games-industry,

australian-composers,

composer,

games-industry-professional-gaming,

games,

arts-and-entertainment,

business-economics-and-finance,

human-interest,

newcastle-2300,

melbourne-3000,

united-states



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